Visual Management: Leading with what you can see


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Produced and presented by Craig Smith and Renee Troughton at the Agile Australia 2013 20 June.

Using task boards or story walls is a key Agile practice, but are you making the most of it? Visual Management is more than just putting cards on a wall, it is a growing style of management that focuses on managing work only by what you can see rather than reports or paper being shuffled around. Visual Management allows you to understand the constraints in the system, mitigate risks before they become issues, report on progress from the micro to the macro. Visual Management can also be used to demonstrate to customers and clients where the work they care about is at. This presentation is all about taking the management of your work to the next stage of transparency.

How to identify when your story wall isn't telling you everything and how to adjust it
* What the three different types of story walls are and which one is more suitable to certain circumstances
* Different ways to visualise your product backlog
Why queue columns and limiting work in progress is so important regardless of whether you are using Scrum or Kanban
* How symbols and tokens can be used to give more information
* What else can you use other than story walls to visualise information
* How to ingrain Visual Management into both the team and management structures of your organisation
* Visualising Your Quality, Testing and Team
* What is systemic flow mapping and why is it important

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  • Image:
  • Q&A 5 minsIntro – 2 minsFlow Management – 8 minsThe Zone – 8 mins Usability – 5 minsComplexity thinking – 5 minsGamification – 3 minsOther – 4 mins
  • Moststorywalls look like this...
  • Which is really this
  • HorizonQueue columns - why
  • Feature Map one too?Craigs story map
  • A real example of a Value Tree at play. In this particular instance it is representing just a single feature. The bottom of the tree is the foundation and it needs to be worked on bottom up. Parallel processing or lack of time dependencies are the branches going out from the sides. The feature is shippable when the saw point is reached.
  • Employed in situations where a team has multiple Product Owners, a flow for managing and organising priority is critical. How do you go about this?New items (from anyone in the organisation) gets added to the new column. The card colour represents the type of work. Owners are designated for the types of work – if anyone wants their work to be made higher in priority they know who they need to appeal to. The type of work owners prioritise their own queue. Before the team’s stand-up there is a Product Owner Standup where collectively the Product Owners agree to what the next top 5 items are to be done. This means that the team doesn’t need to worry about competing priorities and that the risk of one person holding up priority across the whole organisation is also mitigated. It also has the additional benefit of a shared understanding across the Product Owners about what is occurring within the organisation and enables greater tolerance.
  • In some ways this is a Gantt chart wall, but length of task is not represented visually. When cards are done they are crossed off. The line represents “now”. Elements near the line are discussed if they are not done.
  • Normal done column
  • First will likely finish, second will not. Note that there is also more variability when things get “done” in the second example – this makes it more difficult to be able to accurately predict whether all the work will be finished by the end of the Sprint.
  • Winner ofThoughtworks Studio’s 2013 Best Card Wall, this visual management flow zone, created by @CraigStrongBacklog up the top, then task ready, task work in progress, task done and user story done. Note there is no distinction between ‘developer’ and ‘tester’ roles within this model. And Craig Strong’s actual board in play based on a four developers and 2/3 tester team. Note that because they had only three hourglass lanes it meant that the fourth developer was forced to help out where needed within the whole flow. This resulted in getting work done quicker and enabling knowledge sharing.
  • Another Craig Strong, this was a predecessor to the Hourglass board. Potentially a little less functional in implementation based on your team size (there is quite a bit of wall space waste in it), but this particular configuration allows for eight items to be in progress in the flow at any point in time. And it in action. Note the backlog to the left and it looks like deployment flow to the right (confirmation in progress atm).
  • Inspired by Rodrigo Yoshima’s work overflow demonstration where for each task you have on you blow up a balloon, this trades cards for balloons. There are two great upsides and one bad downside to this approach: you can use the size of the balloon to represent a element of the work – such as its value, you also have the added fun of being able to blow up the balloon when done. The downside is being able to attach them to a wall 
  • Kenny and Pawel never addressed the problem ofBig systems (>100+ systems)Services (eg networking, telephony, etc)Risk by resource visibilityHow much do big organisations spend on tooling?Why not spend it on Lego?Skill type example – red could be business analysts, blue are developers, white are quality assurance and yellow is infrastructure support. This doesn’t mean that t-shaped skills are not desirable. If you had well balanced teams then it would just be one colour.
  • What we can see here:Low value work is still on the boardDependencies can be visualised as a single line of workThe biggest set of work has the first project under resourced – this should be the most important focus of the organisation as the whole program provides the greatest value and has the highest risk. Idle people are displayed at the bottom, why aren’t they helping out in the top high value project in delivery. Overall there are too few Developers and Infrastructure people (compared to the levels of other roles)Easy to visually see weaknesses in resourcing – both incorrect allocations based on risk and in not enough people on deck. Easy to see risk areas by dependenciesEasy to see low value work that should be stopped
  • Visual Management zone is not just about a task board, in fact the terms “task board”, “story wall”, “kanban board” may be counter productive to vismgmt as work items may not be called tasks or user stories or cards… could be called ticketsIf you are going to call it anything – call it a Flow Board.Additional elements may include metrics, environmental availability, design elements eg state transition diagramsReally wonder whether it should be called “Visual Management System” of which the Flow Board is one element in the system.Leader: But what is in a Visual Management Zone?
  • But who is this transparency for?Where are “stakeholders” – they could be in any of these three areas.
  • Flow Status = the work the team is doingMetrics = the work, the people, the environmentPeople status = Niko-niko board or mood chart, capability plans, leave plans, rainbow slider (confidence)Environment status = status of the area where work is being done – eg traffic light environments, could be the latest health inspection resultsKnowledge artifacts = information that is important to be transparent – eg design thinking, statusWant to flash through a series of slides here of examplesLeader:Its all about transparency.
  • Stress charts, capability and development plan, leave calendars and important date events.
  • Client mood chart. Environment status chart (manually done vs automatec CRAIG).
  • Knowledge artifacts = information that is important to be transparent – eg design thinking, status
  • Or corflute or shower curtain card wall.
  • Let’s go through some Visual Management Heuristics associated with complexity thinking…
  • Leader: so what about our Complicated example?
  • Leader: So what about our complex example?
  • In a very literal sense this is what happens within a café.Here is Kelsey. Kelsey works at one of the busiest and most prestigous coffee brew bars in Brisbane – Dandelion and Driftwood.
  • Could also need to visualise dates, blockersNotice that the example has been limited to only one or two people involved. Do you think if a larger team was using Visual Management that it would impact their Cynefin category?
  • Plug Matthew.As a community we are realising the benefit of good usability design. Visual Management is just an extention of this – lets ensure that the way in which we visualise our work is designed well.
  • To ease pattern recognition* The brain will automatically attempt to cluster shapes that are similar and intuit the rationale for the differences, even if there is none.Lip Service Contrast to good design
  • It is not just size but also consistency. The key lesson is, we probably all write user stories in haste, but there is value in ensuring you take the time to write neatly or re-write later when time is less imperative.
  • It is not just size but also consistency. The key lesson is, we probably all write user stories in haste, but there is value in ensuring you take the time to write neatly or re-write later when time is less imperitive. Size matters because the cards will be read at about a meter away, not 30cm (book reading distance).
  • We are hard wired to recognise faces. By using a photo over a symbolic image we are allowing for faster recognition of card ownership and potentially easier Daily Standups.But the difficulty here can be balancing this with “fun”. Self appointed avatars are fun, Coach afflicted photos can potentially not be.
  • We look for patterns.
  • Your eye is immediately drawn to the visual disparity of the blue line. As most system cards are light pastel in colour this means that blue painters tape isn’t ideal. Join the bandwagon for better Visual Management tape other than what is available at hardware stores.
  • Colour can also create relatedness just as proximity does.Passive vs active zones - In this example, the shading/colour creates hot zones for the eye so that will create a specific visual flow (shading spots first then other colours) that is counterintuitive to the visual hierarchy (left to right).
  • Balance time spent vs value delived – you can waste a lot of time on this for not much gain
  • Don’t forget, we are here to deliver valuable outcomes
  • Image:
  • Visual Management: Leading with what you can see

    1. 1. Craig SmithRenee Troughton
    2. 2. Welcome…Image: @ HBO – The NewsroomC
    3. 3. WARNING!Much ofthis mayseemobviousImage:
    4. 4. But…We seeCrimeSceneWallseveryday!Image: © Jerry Bruckheimer Television
    5. 5. …information iscommunicated byusing visual signalsinstead of texts orother writteninstructions.The design isdeliberate in allowingquick recognition ofthe information beingcommunicated, inorder to increaseefficiency and clarity.What Is Visual Management?“Image: © Charles M. Schulz / Universal UClick
    6. 6. Why It Is ImportantEffectiveretention3 days aftera meetingSpoken word onlyVisual + OralVisualHearingSmell Taste TouchHuman Learning RetentionC
    7. 7. FinalThoughtsFlowManagementUsabilityComplexityThinkingGamificationThe ZoneOur flow todayR
    8. 8. Visual Management:Flow ManagementImage: © Thunderbox Films
    9. 9. To Do Analysis Develop Test DoneThe Basic FlowAgile101 tellsus tobuild awall likethisC
    10. 10. Clear InstructionsDevelopment Done:• Code complete & reviewed• Unit Tests pass & complete• Acceptance Tests pass &complete• Checked in & build success• Documentation updatedInstructionsfor adding acardInstructionsfor pushinga card tonext queueR
    11. 11. Multi-Sprint BacklogCan see a littlefurther down theroad…C
    12. 12. Horizon & QueuesGroomyourbacklogas you goWorkswell forKanban(butiterativeas well)Manageyour workvia WIPR
    13. 13. Story Map BacklogMap out featureson a wallMap out thefeatures anddependenciesrequiredC
    14. 14. Value Tree BacklogSingleFeature, bottomup growthR
    15. 15. Multiple P/O BacklogVisualising thepriorities formultiple productownersR
    16. 16. Timeline BoardTo DoDoingDoneR
    17. 17. Lean Startup BoardRepeatBuild / Measure / LearnCC/R
    18. 18. Done By…Done byCycleTimeDone byTimeC
    19. 19. vsDone Burn…versusAre we ontrack for endof iteration?C
    20. 20. HourglassLimited WIPof 3Tracksstories &tasksR
    21. 21. Scrum HeroLimited WIPof 8As part of alarger zoneR
    22. 22. To DoDoingDone!RepresentativesizeBalloon BoardC
    23. 23. LEGO Portfolio BoardDUPLO colour = BusinessdomainDUPLO holes = Expected size(people)LEGOcolour =SkilltypeLower level =Number ofpeopleneededUpper level =Number ofpeopleallocatedDividerheight =controllevel forgateDUPLO height = Expectedvalue/ROIR/C
    24. 24. Lego Portfolio ManagementLEGO Portfolio BoardWhyAreDoingThis?WhyAreDoingThis?IdlePeopleHighDepend,High RiskUnderResourceR
    25. 25. Back AtWork?Build boards tovisualise problemsthat you haveImage: © Thunderbox Films it simple, butvisualKeepexperimenting (orrefine yourawesomeness)C
    26. 26. Visual Management:The ZoneImage: © Paramount Pictures
    27. 27. TaskBoardStoryWallKanbanBoardWhich means workitems should not becalled tasks, userstories orkanbans…They are things ona wall.What’s In A Name?C
    28. 28. The TeamThe CustomerManagementWhat do I need towork on now?Where is my work at?Which teams need mysupport to removeblockers and waste?Who Cares AboutTransparency?R
    29. 29. VisualManagementZoneMetricsPeopleEnvironmentKnowledgeArtefactsFlow ZoneWhat’s Makes upthe Zone?RC
    30. 30. The Zone:Metrics0 11 731 43.5 42 36.563 58.536.58 1144 56 48658555 55 50 50 50050100150200250300350400450500#01, 03-Dec#02, 21-Dec #03, 15-Jan #04, 25-Jan #05, 08-Feb #06, 22-Feb #07, 08-Mar#08, 22-Mar#09, 05-Apr #10, 19-Apr #11, 03-May#12, 17-MayScope (points)CumulativeFlowDiagramBurn UpChartR
    31. 31. The Zone:MetricsNowTargetingLobsterLunchRisk HeatMapR/C
    32. 32. The Zone:MetricsCodeClimateSonarC
    33. 33. The Zone:MetricsQualitative &QuantitativeMaturityAssessmentC
    34. 34. The Zone:PeopleMoodChartLeaveCalendarsCapability /Dev PlanRR
    35. 35. The Zone:EnvironmentEnvironmentStatusBuildStatusClientMoodC
    36. 36. The Zone:Knowledge ArtefactsStateDiagramsDatabaseDiagramsRR
    37. 37. The Zone:Flow ZoneBlackboardWhiteboardC
    38. 38. Back AtWork?Seekforgiveness, rather than permissionImage: © Paramount Pictures isn’tjust a flow boardYour key artefactsshould be visiblein the zoneR
    39. 39. Visual Management:Complexity ThinkingImage: © Warner Bros. Pictures
    40. 40. No VisualManagement?So What Flow To Use?Basic Flow?ProcessFlow?R
    41. 41. At HomeLa Marzocco• Predictable• No ExpertRequiredSimple• Predictable• ExpertRequiredComplicated• Unpredictable• ExpertRequiredComplexWorld BaristaChampionshipsComplex CoffeeRR
    42. 42. At Home• Predictable• No ExpertRequiredSimpleIs VisualManagementneeded?Coffee At HomeC
    43. 43. La Marzocco• Predictable• ExpertRequiredComplicatedIs Visual Management needed?To Do Doing DoneLarge Latte2 sugarsMacchiato1 SugarFlat WhiteLarge Latte2 sugarsCappuccino2 SugarsExpressoCoffee At A Coffee ShopVariabilityis SmallR
    44. 44. To Do Doing DoneLarge Latte2 sugarsMacchiato1 SugarFlat WhiteLarge Latte2 sugarsCappuccino2 SugarsExpressoCoffee At A Coffee ShopVariabilityis SmallR
    45. 45. Is Visual Management needed?To Do Doing DoneGettableclothOrdercupsTest newroast (day7)TestKenyanRoastTest newroast (day8)Test newroast (day9)DiffuserdeliveryWaitingWorld BaristaChampionships• Unpredictable• ExpertRequiredComplexStopChampionship CoffeeDependencyManagementEvents BlockFlowSignificantVariabilityExtendedFlowR
    46. 46. Systemic Flow MappingSystemicMapping(Organisation)Net Mapping(Stakeholders)Image:
    47. 47. Back AtWork?Choose thecomplexity of yourwork to determinethe complexity ofyour boardImage: © Warner Bros. Pictures work maycross overcomplexityboundariesR
    48. 48. Visual Management:UsabilityImage: © 20th Century Fox
    49. 49. Visual Management:UsabilityWhy do wecare aboutusability forsoftware?Why don’t wecare aboutusability invisualmanagement?Image: © 20th Century Fox
    50. 50. Index CardsHave a lowvariability in sizesand shapes ofcardsRR
    51. 51. As a creator of user storiesI want to use the right colouredpenSo that it is quicker for thebrain to readAs a creator of user storiesI want to use the right colouredpenSo that it is quicker for thebrain to readColour ContrastUse a strongcontrast of pen toindex colourUse a pen thatworks!C
    52. 52. As a creator of user storiesI want to write neatlySo that it is quicker for thebrain to read and recognise theworkAsa creatorofuser storiesIwant towrite neatlySothat it is quickerfor thebraintoreadandrecognise theworkWriting StyleWrite neatly or printcards.Size does matter!Although…Research showshard to read fontspromote betterrecall.Go figure…R
    53. 53. AvatarsUse real photos notcharacters orimagesAlthough, balancethis with fun orteam theme.Renee TTokens todetermine statusR
    54. 54. As CraigI want my picture used for my personaSo that it is quicker to recognise all thework for meIn order for it to be quicker to recogniseall the work for meAs CraigI want my picture used for my personaUser Story TemplatesUse pictures / graphicsfor personasUse bold / underline toemphasise quick searchingBe consistent with layoutand templateThink differentPut the value firstDon’t write two words orthe solution!C
    55. 55. Board SizeCan you stand back andsee the whole flow?Can you zoom in on anarea of interest?Continuous Deliveryis looking left andright!Avoid Water-Scrum-FallC
    56. 56. Board ContrastEnsure that flow linesare not higher incontrast than the workitemsHave a strong contrastbetween the workitems and the surfacebehind themPainters tapeR
    57. 57. Board RelatednessCreaterelatedness ofsections throughcoloursCreaterelatedness ofqueues throughshadingPaint orCardboardR
    58. 58. Back AtWork?Think aboutdesign wheninitiating a teamFind solutions thatare quick buteffectiveImage: © 20th Century Fox design ==faster response ==faster deliveryC
    59. 59. Visual Management:GamificationC
    60. 60. Shouldworkbefun?Image:
    61. 61. Achievements Wall..I don’t mind a good gameof blackjack tooAll cards on the team’s flowboard have estimatesagainst themThe only way is up!The Cumulative FlowDiagram has beenconsistently updatedeach day for four weeksRR
    62. 62. Gaming DevelopmentIDE BrokenBuild MessagesBrokenBuildHatGet Out…Free CardsC
    63. 63. Back AtWork?Make work fun!Image: yourgaming to theenvironment andthe peopleIntrinsicmotivation trumpsextrinsic drivengoalsR
    64. 64. Final ThoughtsImage:
    65. 65. Is mywalltellingme thewholestory?Probably not!Start by mapping theflowKeep adjustingImage:
    66. 66. ReinforcethezoneAlways go back to thezone for discussionsabout workLead others byexample and take allmeetings or statusupdates to the wallImage:
    67. 67. But my team is distributed…Like distributedAgile, it takesmore work!You need anelectronic zoneThe default tooldashboards areaverageImage:
    68. 68. Spend your effort wisely…Image: © Bays & Thomas Productions
    69. 69. Ourultimategoal is todelivervalue &goodquality!Image: © Miller-Milkis Productions
    70. 70. SmithRenee Troughtonunbounddna.comtheagilerevolution.comWe are grateful toassistance from:@craigstrongleanpub.comAgileForest