About 2 months ago I started my “Who Is” serie. The idea was to ask a a bunch of diverse people some questions and publish one set of answer every week.
The first mail I send out, I did not got any answer for a few days. I was not sure if it was a good idea or not, so I send the questions out to a few more people. Then I thought it is almost holiday. I will be gone for a few weeks, and I wants to be sure I can schedule answers while I am gone. (And I don’t want to take the risk that I don’t get any answers for the rest of the holiday period.) So I started to send out my questions to some more people.
When people replied, I started looking at the last answer (who should I ask next) and send out questions to these people. When people told me, I need some time to think about these people I asked hem, could you already give me new name(s).
I published the first set of answers from Lisa Crispin 10 days before my holiday. During my holiday I started to get lots and lots of answers. I needed a tool to keep track of who I invited and who accepted. I created a spreadsheet to write down all the names of people I invited. When I started to record them, I quickly realized I had already invited lots of people.
By the time my holiday was over, I had 76 people invited, 52 people had said yes (2 said no) and + 30 had written an answer. I started to add a publication date to my spreadsheet.
Somewhere along the way I had decided that I would schedule answers “in a first answer, first published” order. I communicated that to the next people I invited. (I did not do that to the first people I invited.)
When I received a new set of answers, I read the answers (I just love what people are doing with the questions.) Then I thank the person for his time (as I know that answering these questions takes a lot of time for most people.) And I tell them when their answers will be scheduled. More and more I started to feel guilty, as I had to tell people in July that they would be published in October, November etc…
Last week I received an answer from a person I admire a lot. I invited her before my holiday. I had told that person it was ok to answer after my holiday as I already had answers for the next weeks. I forgot to tell her about my “first come first serve policy”. By the time she answered, I had people scheduled until February 2012. I told her, the probably publication date. She was mad. Really mad. She had spend part of her holidays writing the answers, rewriting it a few times. The result was one of the most touching answers I received, very personal. She was mad because she found my release schedule ridiculous for an agile coach. She was right.
Lets look at this project:
- I had a weekly release schedule.
- A large project backlog of people (76)
- A velocity of one
I realized I treated my project backlog all the same way: from the moment a name got added to my backlog I started to work on it: that is I send an e-mail asking that person to start working on it. In my defense I had an almost unlimited team for working on the backlog (one person a story feels unlimited for me.)
Start to see some links with agile projects? Wait it get’s better.
Not only did I have an unlimited team, they also started to deliver very fast. (That’s is why I now have 39 answers.)
I said I had a velocity of one, but I have 39 answers in a couple of weeks, shouldn’t my velocity be 39/nr of weeks? Aha great question mr Watson. To answer this question we have to look at my definition of done. When is a story done? It’s done when it is delivered to the customer. When is it delivered to my customer. Well the customers of this blog are my readers, yes I ‘m talking about you. The stories are delivered when they are published on my blog. Aha that shows a a glitch in my explanation. I don’t have an unlimited team. I actually have a bottleneck. Remember TOC, there always is a bottleneck. Find it. And eliminate… Oh wait I am the bottleneck.
I’m publishing only once a week. That is a choice I made. Publishing more would be lot of work for me. Mmm when I coach teams I tell them, when it’s hard do it more often. Ok maybe I should publish more often. So I asked my agile friends on twitter (and in person)
Turns out that my customers liked my publishing limit and actually asked me to keep it.
Ok. That is a dead end. What else can I do to solve this problem?
Let’s see what is the problem again? The time between the receiving of the answers and the publication is too big.
Let’s have a visual look at the work:
I wrote this table as in Kanban. Every column represents the Work In Progress.
(Except that I added the total at the end)
Aha Visual Management helps again. Clearly the biggest block is in publishing.(Tell me something I did not know.) I already know that publishing faster is not an option.
I can’t stop people from saying yes.
I can’t stop people from being added to the TODO list (really I can’t because it is part of how the answer that I expect people to give.)
The only place where I can limit the work in progress is Stop asking people to answer questions. (For clarity I did not write: ask people to stop answering questions.)
As you can see I have already 46 more stories ready on my backlog (they are ready when I have a name and an e-mail adres.)
For all the people that have answered the questions, I’m sorry the time between your answers and my publication is so long. This was in no way my intention to disrespect the work you did to answer the questions.
If I already asked you, and you haven’t answered, what should you do?
Today (2011/08/18) I have a publishing schedule until 2012/04/10. This means I ‘m not urgently waiting on your answers.
You can answer at your own pace, write the answers when you have time.(I do keep my scheduling based on first come first served.)
A big thank you for the person being mad at me at pushing me to blog about it.
(You know who you are)