Thursday, December 4, 2008

Trickle Effect and Project Publicity

I have to be a little worried about the trickle effect, as it was described to me by my Andrew Cohen (boss and mentor) today. Since moving to Agile, the group produces small increments of functionality every single week. The Customer has more opportunities to decide that a feature is "good enough for now" and move on to more urgent work.

That sounds like a good situation. Sure the team is as responsive as it can be to market needs, and sure the most important work is what gets done, and sure it's in measured weekly bits. But this isn't what people come to expect from a software team.

Since there are no large quarterly or monthly releases, it seems like nothing big ever gets done.
If we release every month instead of every quarter, we get 1/3 sized releases. If we release every 2 weeks instead of every 6 months, we get 1/13th sized releases. They're "less" though "more often."

Where is the PR event, the release party? Is last week the point of reference from which productivity is measured? Does it seem underwhelming that we do 1/4 as much in a week as we did in a month? Do we forget the sample size and see only the functionality delta shrinking? The increasing smoothness and predictability of the team works against it.

Releasing less often would stockpile enough work to be appreciated, but would delay value to customers. It would be a PR success but at the expense of the people the team exists to serve. Maybe this is the problem inherent with trying to please spectators and commentators in addition to customers. Withholding a finished feature feels obscene. Releasing sooner seems

Maybe it would help to have some kind of publicist to report progress since the last month, quarter, half-year, and/or year. There must be some way to create some degree of appreciation for the real progress the team is making. We're instituting big visible burn-ups for new features. That should help some.

Suggestions are welcome.


  1. In my group, we have a lot of stories or items each week. We also have a "top5" concept. These are the things which everyone is aware of and are really important to all (across scrum teams). I have a Kanban board for the top5 (we use Versionone to manage everything else).

    I keep a record of the top5 for bi-monthly board meetings. It's important to have the positive PR in those meetings.

    Why only 5? It seems to be the sweet spot.

    So... yeah, compile the list based on the PR "iteration cycle" and let them leverage it each month while you add value each development iteration.

  2. Yes I noticed this today at the end of iteration demo for the first iteration of our present product release schedule. It seemed that we did not do much but we tried to put that in perspective for those attending.

    At our end of iteration demos (15 minutes or less) we stress that we do "seven working-day" iterations and in one of the four brief slides we use then we try list off the goal of each iteration for the product release done to the present demo. Also we try to keep a one sentence summary of the Vision or Mission statement topic out front too.

    This way it puts what we did for the iteration in perspective for stakeholders and customers. I am not sure, yet, that it is worth it in the demo. But I try to keep doing this since Agile (XP and Scrum) is new to our company.

    Since I have not seen other demos executed then I had to go with this in hopes it keep the stakeholders/customers informed and not left with the wrong impression.

    Tim, your observation and post is most timely.