The Corrello Blog

Thoughts on Scrum and Agile with Trello

Month: September 2016

Communicating team performance to your boss

Measuring the performance of a development team is notoriously difficult. People have tried using lines of code, function points and other more complex measures. Some still rely on tracking the hours developers spend in the office as the key measure of value produced :). Even when you trust everyone is working their best it is still a struggle to see if a team is more or less productive one month to the next, because they never produce the same thing twice. Yet we’d still like to know, and so would those we report to.

Today we will look at two pieces of data and how to explain those to your boss so they can see the improving (or consistently high) performance your team is achieving.

Using cycle time to explain improvements to your boss

Take a look at these figures from the previous post about removing bottlenecks in our process.


The total time in progress here shows that if your boss asks how long a random card will take you can tell them with 50% certainty that it will be done in a week. Maybe they want to be more certain than a coin toss that you will deliver on time? In that case you will need to estimate 1 ½ months to get to 95% certainty!

Now imagine in 6 months time if after a lot of work and improvement our numbers look like this


Now we can tell our boss that if they pick a random card and ask how long it will take to complete you can be 95% certain it will be completed in 2 weeks or less. On top of that, half of the cards worked on get completed in under 2 days.

Now your boss may think they can get work done this fast already, the point here is that these times are delivered by the team without any disruption to their process. It is possible now that boss requests are expedited at the cost of other tasks. No one really wants that.

Explaining things like this is something people outside of development teams can often appreciate. Knowing they can ask for something to be done and have a high level of certainty it can be delivered 2 weeks later without it disrupting the teams work is good to know. I am sure your boss would agree that going from nearly 7 weeks to deliver something to 2 weeks would make a huge difference to the businesses ability to deliver work on time and react to changes. That might be a good time to bring up your team’s next bonus :)

Obviously there could questions around relative card size or complexity. While it could be that the team is working on smaller tasks (no bad thing in itself) there is a limit to how far those improvements can go. This is where the CFD comes in, to help show how we got these improvements.

Using the CFD to show your process improvements

Let’s look at two CFDs. This first one which suggests a few things we should look to improve in our process.


What we can see here are frequent buildups of work in various parts of our process. A few questions spring to mind here, e.g. does code review always need to take so long? The same could be asked of the ‘Ready for deploy’ list.

Now if we take that as the before picture you can show your boss, here is the after picture some months down the line.


Here we have done three things:

1. Reduced the number of cards in the code review and ready for deploy lists.

This is probably one of the most impactful changes in this CFD. If you tell people that you now get work done 3x as fast as before they may not believe it. Yet if you show them that time spent on these cards previously was mostly spent waiting in these lists, and that you have reduced that time down they can see how it was achieved. By getting cards out of those lists faster you have sped up the whole process end to end.

2. Dramatically reduced the scale of the buildups of work in all of the lists

Reducing the scale of buildups should be understood as a good thing since it means people are not getting overloaded with too much work as those lumps work their way through the system. This has an impact both on quality and the ability for cards to get quickly through the process.

3. Reduced the amount of work in progress in total

Finally, by reducing the total amount of work in progress you let the team focus on delivering a smaller amount of work all at once. Rather than context switching and trying to focus on too many things at the same time. This again allows them to get cards completed faster.

To summarise, showing improved performance with Corrello comes down to

  1. Showing that the average time from starting work on a card to completing it has been reduced. And that you can now say with 95% certainty for some randomly selected card that it will be done in X days.
  2. Showing how those changes came about with the change in the CFD chart.

It’s still a little technical, but it’s backed up with actual data about your team. Hopefully it gets the message across that these improvements are real. And, once you have the performance you want it is still useful to be able to show these numbers and charts as evidence things continue to work well.

If you’ve read this far and you’ve not got a Corrello account you should try out our 14 day FREE trial.

 

Using cycle time and a cumulative flow diagram to get more work done by eliminating the bottlenecks in your process

Today I want to share something successful teams do to improve their process and get more work done, delivering projects on time and making their clients and bosses happier :). You don’t need to be using Corrello to benefit from this post but you will need to know your cycle times and have a CFD for your process. If you’re using Trello why not get a 14 day free trial of Corrello and check out your numbers.

We will be looking at two things in Corrello, the cumulative flow diagram and the cycle time numbers. What we are looking for is bottlenecks in your process. Once you have a good idea of where they are I will show you how to communicate them to your team so they can see and fix them.

First stop – Cycle time stats

Here we see the cycle time stats for a pretty typical development team where tasks are coded, code reviewed, tested and then moved to done.

email-bottlenecks-cycletime-lists

The numbers we are interested in here are in the second table showing the time spent in each list. If you don’t currently split your in progress lists up for each step in your process you may want to make the change so you can get this information.

We will focus on the code review column here which shows that

  • 50% of the time we code review a card in 2 days or less
  • 85% of the time it takes 3 days or less
  • 95% of the time it takes up to 16 days!

The question to ask is when we spend 2 days or more in code review, is that because we’re being super careful about code quality and making sure everything is perfect? Or, is it because cards are waiting to be code reviewed for 2 days before someone finally takes the time to check it over? I think we all know the answer. Asking your team will likely elicit the same response. We are all in the business of delivering working code to our customers, so something which has been started already should be pushed through the system before we start something new. Task your team with getting this number down and you will see your whole process improve as cards a delivered sooner.

Obviously the list or lists you will choose to focus on will be unique to you. I would only suggest picking one and tasking your team with improving that before tackling the next one. Rather than risk weighing them down with multiple improvements all at once.

Second place to look – the Cumulative Flow Diagram

Here we have the cumulative flow diagram for the same team, currently only showing the work in progress lists.

email-bottlenecks-cfd-wip

What we can see here are the same details we have above but without the specifics about how long cards are spending in these lists. We can see that the code review list generally has 3 to 5 cards in it each day. That means 3 to 5 cards were in the list for at least one day. If we were to drive down the amount of time cards spent in code review we should see that green segment shrink down and quite likely disappear altogether.

This is often the best way to show the data to your team. The aim for them then is to reduce the size of the green line. Which simply means reducing the amount of cards in the code review list. Those are simpler steps to take than ‘trying to do code review faster’ although they have the same effect. It is also easy to see the improvement day by day on the CFD. If you use Slack you can install the Corrello Slack app to show your team the improving CFD chart each day.

Next steps

Hopefully you have another minute or two? If so, you should…

  • Log in to Corrello and open your dashboard (or start a free trial if you aren’t already using Corrello)
  • Take a look at the history tab to see if you can identify a list you want your team to focus on
  • Take screenshots of the CFD and jot down the cycle times to show to your team
  • Decide when you will talk to your team about the improvements you would like to see

That’s it for today. Next week we will look at what a healthy CFD and cycle time chart look like. After that we will tackle the tricky issue of communicating team performance to your boss.

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