Top 5 Agile change tips #5 - Used visualized data to improve

Posted by Marcus Hammarberg on October 12, 2012
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This is the last post on my top 5 ways of making sure that your agile change initiative succeeds. Here's the list - in order of importance:
  1. Get a great "Or else"-reason for doing this change
  2. Sit together
  3. Let them change how they work
  4. Support the initiative
  5. Use visualised data to improve (this post)

This is the last post on my top 5 ways of making sure that your agile change initiative succeeds. Here's the list - in order of importance:
  1. Get a great "Or else"-reason for doing this change
  2. Sit together
  3. Let them change how they work
  4. Support the initiative
  5. Use visualised data to improve (this post)

#5 Use visualized data to improve

If there's one thing that I've seen team really get an aha-experience from it's visualising  Simple stuff - just putting your work items on a board, having to talk about how your process actually is laid out or putting a little picture of yourself on every item you're currently work on. Things like that. 

But lately I've also been addicted to having data as the basis of changes. Quite often we seem to change based on what we feel is the right thing to do. If you search out data you can see if those changes actually made an improvement or not. 

Combining the data tracking and the visualisation is then a natural progression I think. This doesn't have to be something complicated and really hard to track. My two favorite, dead simple metrics to track are:
  • Lead time - how long does it take from that we put an item on the board until we take it out. To track this simply write the date on the sticky as you put it on the board. When it reach the Done-state you note the date and track it's lead time with a spreadsheet.  
  • Throughput - how many items/points/what have you do we crunch each week/day/month. Check the number of items that have been pulled into Done in a week.
There's probably people objecting and talking about variations in size and complexity. And yes - but by all means add that dimension then; track the lead time for each size-group (S/M/L) or the lead time / story points or something. You are probably much more inventive than me in this area.

But, don't track this in a spreadsheet and keep it there. Put it on the board! In big bold letters. For starters don't even use a spreadsheet and just not the lead time right there on the board. It's not that hard to note down. Or just track a list of the number of items done in a week. 

We can now simply see if our changes are doing anything to improve the lead time and throughput. If they are not improving we may try something else instead. 

Yes, there was more protests? What did you say? Ah - if lead time and throughput is not important to you? Well find a way to track that data visually, then. Key words; data and visual. Show the data for your improvement to the team. The transparency and openness will serve you well. I promise. 

Summary


This was the last post in my series of top 5 things to think about to succeed with agile transformation projects.
  1. Get a great "Or else"-reason for doing this change
  2. Sit together
  3. Let them change how they work
  4. Support the initiative
  5. Use visualised data to improve (this post)
    And before somebody thinks it; yes - with these in place the change will go a lot smoother and easier. Without them you'll end up convincing people to change that don't want to or see the use. It will be harder and much more work. And in the end it will fail and revert to the old way of working. 

    All of these are from my experiences doing this... and failed... for years. But I think it can work, you just need a great reason. This is the key to the rest.    



    Published by Marcus Hammarberg on Last updated