Agile Planning

Beyond Cycle Time: Introducing Flow Style and Mileage for Agile Teams

Agile teams continually evolve. Metrics have been pivotal in this journey, offering a lens to scrutinize progress and identify areas of improvement. Among these, Cycle Time stands out as a principal barometer of team performance. Today, however, we’re about to delve deeper with two innovative metrics: Flow Style and Mileage. These insights promise to illuminate the intricacies of team dynamics, offering new perspectives for efficiency and collaboration.

Setting the Stage: The Essence of Cycle Time

First, a brief refresher on Cycle Time. It captures the duration a work item (e.g., a user story or a bug) takes from entering the “In Progress” phase to its culmination in the “Done” status. An optimal cycle time signifies a streamlined process, while inconsistencies or prolonged durations can hint at bottlenecks or inefficiencies.

However, as valuable as Cycle Time is, it’s a high-level metric. To discern the subtleties and nuances of workflow, we introduce Flow Style and Mileage.

Flow Style: Decoding Work Behavior

Flow Style categorises the trajectory of work items as they meander through the various statuses in the workflow:

  1. Sequential: This denotes a work item that seamlessly transitions from “To Do”, to “In Progress”, and finally to “Done”. It’s the benchmark for an efficient workflow.
  2. Tigger: Inspired by the bouncy character from the world of Pooh, the “Tigger” style captures a work item’s erratic movement. A task might jump from “To Do” to “In Progress”, revert to “To Do”, and then bounce back to “In Progress”. Interestingly, Tiggering can also occur at the tail-end of the workflow, where a task shifts from “Done” back to “In Progress”, perhaps multiple times. This behavior complicates Cycle Time calculations and is a clear signal of potential inefficiencies, rework, or ambiguity in task definitions.
  3. Houdini: Named after the master escape artist, a “Houdini” work item makes the mysterious leap from “To Do” straight to “Done”, bypassing the “In Progress” stage. This could point to tasks being executed without transparency or maybe the tasks are too broadly defined.

Mileage: Mapping the Journey

Mileage quantifies the steps a work item undergoes. Imagine tracking a task’s journey by counting its transitions between statuses. A high mileage indicates frequent revisits or reconsiderations. While sometimes this might stem from a task’s inherent complexity, consistently high mileage might spotlight underlying process challenges.

The Impact of These Metrics

  1. Actionable Feedback: Flow Style and Mileage emerge as potent coaching signals. A prevalent “Tigger” or “Houdini” pattern, or observing an unusually high mileage, can prompt deeper investigations and corrective discussions between Agile coaches and their teams.
  2. Data-Driven Retrospectives: Grounding retrospective discussions in tangible metrics ensures they’re focused and actionable. Teams can aim to refine their Flow Style patterns or set milestones to reduce their average Mileage.
  3. Transparency in Motion: These metrics not only identify areas for improvement but also promote a culture of openness and mutual trust.

In Conclusion

While Cycle Time offers a bird’s eye view of efficiency, Flow Style and Mileage provide a microscopic look into the very DNA of team workflows. Used judiciously, these metrics can guide Agile teams towards introspection, adaptability, and improved efficiency.

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About Ian Carroll

Ian consults, coaches, trains and speaks on all topics related to Lean, Kanban and Agile software development.

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