Flow. Discover Problems and Waste in Kanban – 2 Years Later

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Almost 2 years ago I published the Flow. Discover Problems and Waste in Kanban post. The idea was quite simple: visualize the flow of a single user story or bug, and track their life cycle to Done:

You can spot such problems like delays and re-work very fast this way:

Now we’ve brought this idea to life. The Flow chart for every user story, bug and feature will be available shortly in TargetProcess v2.22.9.

The chart gives answers to a whole lot of hands-on questions:

  • For how many days has this User Story been in this particular state?
  • Were there any delays?
  • Was there any re-work?
  • Who was responsible for the User Story?
  • When were Bugs and Tasks added and closed?
  • How much time was spent each day?
  • Were there any impediments?

Let’s look at some examples. The user story on the chart below has been  in Open state for 25 days (it means, in the Backlog). Then it jumped right into In Progress state. Two developers (Alla and Vladimir) started working on it (so it was pair programming). They’d been working for 3 days and then the story was moved into Re-open state. This is quite surprising, most likely they had to switch to something else (no good). Then they got back and spent 15 days working on this user story. That’s way too long. Most likely there were switches as well,  so this should be investigated.

Starting from Oct-18 the progress was very good: development went smooth, tester found several bugs and they were fixed in 2-3 days. Finally, the user story was released to production with no more delays.

You immediately get a high-level overview: delays and up/down state transitions. It is a clear sign of some problems, the systematic ones or not known so far, but we already have some background info to start an investigation).

Let’s check another example. It looks like the user story on the chart below was taken to development right as it was added. That’s true in fact, since it was a customer request to which we reacted immediately. It was implemented in a single day, and there was a small delay before tester took it to the  testing phase. We found quite many bugs and fixed them in 2 days, everything is fine. But then the completed user story was hanging in Release Branch state for 11 days, and that’s no good.

We’re planning to extend this Flow Chart and put more information there (comments, attachments, etc.) The goal is to provide the complete production timeline uncovering hidden malignant patterns and problems. You should be able to get a high-level overview in an instant and dig into as many details as possible.

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