In this issue:
Do you have interdependencies in your projects and programs? People on one team need something or someone from another team. Part of the problem is that we use the same word (interdependency) to describe two different problems. Teams can solve sequencing interdependencies. Teams need managers to solve specialist interdependencies.
In Sequencing Interdependencies, your team needs another team to deliver functionality before you can either start or complete your functionality. Let’s imagine you have a product with three levels of security: new people, regular people, and super-duper administration people.
Each level can see different data. If you’re part of the search team, you can create the different queries to find and display different data. However, you can’t complete and deliver your work until the login team finishes its work on the levels of security. Both teams need to sequence their deliveries.
Here’s how you can address the sequencing problem:
1. Expose it. I like to use roadmaps to expose these problems.
2. Discuss it. Ask the teams to discuss when they will deliver what. I use rolling-wave deliverable-based planning to frame the discussion. I ask: “How small can you make the deliverables?” and “How often can your team deliver?”
3. Track it. I happen to like a kanban board, but you can use any approach to track who has finished what and when who needs the next piece.
4. Look for wait states. No one likes wait states. When you create an environment where people look for wait states, the more the teams will collaborate to resolve them.
In my experience, once the Product Owner makes the stories small enough, the teams can manage sequencing interdependencies. They see the deliverables and discuss and solve the potential problems.
In contrast, teams have trouble solving the problems of scarce specialists who cause interdependencies because they–as humans–do not scale.
When you have Specialist Interdependencies, your team needs someone over there, in another part of the organization to complete the work your team is supposed to deliver. I see all kinds of specialists: UI, testing, DBAs to name just three.
If your team doesn’t have the people you need to finish the work, the team waits until that specialist is available. Often, that specialist attempts to multitask, or provide “just enough” time—which in my experience is not enough time—to “service” the team(s). That person—through no fault of their own—is a bottleneck. The specialist has an impossible job. The specialist does the best job they know how to do.
What can you do?
1. Expose it. Consider a kanban board to see the flow of work.
2. Discuss it. Ask the project portfolio decision team to explain the rank order of the projects. Make sure the experts work on the highest-ranked project.
3. Track it. Measure the cycle time that the teams wait for the specialist to become available. Those are the wait states. When experts work on the highest ranked projects, the cycle time for the other projects increases.
4. Consider measuring Cost of Delay or the value of hiring more people with this specialty and integrating those people into cross-functional teams.
Teams can manage and fix the sequencing interdependencies. Only managers can manage and fix the specialist problem. Which kind of interdependencies do you have?
Gil Broza and I are offering the Influential Agile Leader in Toronto May 9-10, 2017. We are already half full. Sign up now and reserve your spot. Let me know if you would like to discuss anything about this workshop.
I just opened registration for these workshops. See
- Writing Workshop 1: Write Non-Fiction to Enhance Your Business and Reputation
- Writing Workshop 2: Secrets of Successful Non-Fiction Writers
- Practical Product Owner workshop
If you’re not sure about any of them, let’s talk.
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues.
If you like the idea of romance between smart technical women and just-as-interesting men, I’m starting to write romance in my spare (!) time. See Johanna’s Fiction.
Till next time,
© 2017 Johanna Rothman
Tags: agile, agile in the large, agile program management, agile project management, kanban, lean