Monday, November 5, 2018

Q and A on Velocity, part VII

In Part VI we discussed faux bottlenecks and blaming. These are often the result of having expectations that cannot be met, a phenomenon that was discussed in the last installment.

Let's pick up the conversation from that point:

A: I want a velocity of 30. Quit distracting me and tell me how to get that.
B: You know that a 19-point sprint means that one point is 1/19th of a sprint?
A: This I remember very well.
B: If you want features to be 1/30th of a sprint, make them 1/30th of a sprint in size and scope.

Our person A is becoming increasingly impatient. Whereas they have asked what seems to be a very simple question (how to raise the velocity) person B seems to be deflecting by discussing systems and human dynamics and methods of estimation, and the futility of improving speed by changing estimation units.

Rather than helping A make the plan and schedule successful, B seems to be hand-waving and declaring the plans and schedules unimportant and unreal. In short, B is not being helpful at all (as far as A can see).

On the other hand, B is quite aware that A has been asking the wrong questions. A is very much focused on the utilization of workers, on causing reality to fit early expectations, and on the disconnection of the workers from the need to fulfill promises. The right questions are just now starting to emerge.

B suggests to A that every week, pretty much the same amount of work is going to be done. If you want to count more things as done, you need to do many small things. If you want larger accomplishments, you must have fewer of them. The area of the rectangle stays roughly the same whether it is 1x6 or 2x3.

In part II, B wanted to talk about ways of increasing the area of the productivity rectangle, by making it easier to accomplish the work. This, however, was deflected by A in Part IV, as A wanted to increase the amount of effort rather supplied than decrease the amount required.

A is still looking for a way of cranking up the intensity for immediate impact, while B is still discussing working with greater consistency for sustainably better impact.

As such, B suggests working in Walking Skeletons, AKA Thin Vertical Slices. This provides a way of being done more often, on more things, and giving the managers the power to decide when a feature is "done enough."

Here is the agile way of working, in tiny pieces that are individually shippable (if such a thing is desired) and which will, together, ultimately be useful to the end-users.

Any feature might reach the 20% Pareto balance point -- the 20% that provides 80% of the value of the feature, at which time it is no longer that important to continue development. It may be that some other feature has become more important to work on, so that the last 80% may never be done.

This is what is meant by the agile manifesto principle "Simplicity -- the art of maximizing the amount of work not done -- is essential."  By doing less of each feature, we get more features 'done'. By doing less, we accomplish more.  By taking on smaller units of work, we complete more units of work.

The assumption that things will be done in entirety because they were visualized and designed in entirety? A non-agile idea. Likely there is a very satisfactory 'less' that could be provided. Not only is that true, but also having a satisfactory 'less' may give the users clarity about what the feature should really entail -- a clarity that they did not have at the fat end of the cone of uncertainty.

Software tends to work in wicked problems, where providing a solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem and problems bleed over into each other. As such, getting fast feedback helps steer products in a way that working hard does not.
A: They would be very tiny features.
B: Yes.
Here we see a light beginning to dawn, we hope, but here A recognizes that B is not increasing the rate at which the team is burning through the backlog, but is again trying to cope with the rate things are being done. A rejects this deflection once again.
A: But I want to do big things.
B: Then you will get fewer of them done for a given period.
A: Why can't I get more big things done per iteration?
B: How many gallons fit in a 5-gallon bucket?
Join A, B, and me for Part VIII.

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