This is a transcript of episode 236 of the Troubleshooting Agile podcast with Jeffrey Fredrick and Douglas Squirrel.
Taking iterative development to heart, Squirrel and Jeffrey discuss a learning loop topic, Summer Shorts and Learning Loops: Weekly planning, in five minutes or fewer. Take just a few minutes with us to improve your team’s learning and speed!
Squirrel: Welcome back to Troubleshooting Agile. Hi there, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: Thanks, Squirrel.
Squirrel: So there are our theme for the summer is learning loops. And Jeffrey, when is a learning loop better.
Jeffrey: When they’re faster?
Squirrel: Exactly. So that’s what we’re going to do this summer is summer shorts. So this week we’re going to talk about a learning loop topic. And Jeffrey, we only have 5 minutes. Do you think we can do it?
Jeffrey: Oh, I think we can.
Squirrel: Great. Then here we go.
Walking the Board
Jeffrey: So Squirrel, tell us about “walking the board.”
Squirrel: So this is a technique that builds on something we talked about in an earlier short: this is a method that you use in your standup, and it’s a way of really making sure that there’s learning happening in your standup. I don’t know if you’ve been in this kind of standup, Jeffrey, where the first person says, “What I worked on yesterday was-“ and finishes the sentence and the next person says, “What I worked on yesterday was-“ and finishes, and everyone else is going to sleep or staring at their shoes. If you’re having a standup like that, you’re bored in that standup, there’s no learning happening. What’s happening is outbound information, with no inbound information. “walking the board” is one of many ways that you can break that up. If you want to create a learning loop in your standup, try this: Have the board attend the standup. What do I mean by “the board?” I hate to say the word JIRA, there are many other options. I don’t know what every tool is called, but whatever it is, if it’s a spreadsheet, if it’s a-
Jeffrey: A wall?
Squirrel: -gosh yeah, a revolutionary idea, you might put cards on a wall. That would be a crazy idea. Whatever form it is in, you take that list of tasks and it’s the attendee and it drives. So we start with the first item, ideally that would be the most important item and we’d have them ranked, so we can start with the most important in-progress task. “Who’s working on this? What’s happening with it? What’s stopping us? What’s happening? What’s going to keep us moving on this particular task?” Jeffrey says, “Well, actually, I’m stuck on the front end. I don’t know what the API is for the back end.” The back end person says, “Well, I don’t have an information about how this field should be formatted.” And the product manager says, “I can get that for you.”
Jeffrey: But wait a minute, you had lots of different people talking here! It’s not just one person talking about what they did?
Squirrel: Welcome to the chaos! That’s an interactive process. We’re going to learn things by having more discussion, going back and forth. What we won’t have is everybody staring at their shoes.
Jeffrey: So you’re letting the board drive is what it sounds like. The board attends and the board drives, it sets the pace, and then we have the chance to learn from each other.
Squirrel: Exactly. Because when you’re done with the first one, and you’ve finished learning from the first one, you go to the second one, and the third one, and the fourth, whatever is currently being worked on. If you have 100 things being worked on at the same time, that’s a different problem. We should talk about that another time. But if you have a reasonable number-
Jeffrey: This might be a good way to learn that you have that many things in progress!
Squirrel: It would! “Hey, wait, we’re out of time for the stand-up, but we’re only on number five,” so that would be a very useful thing to learn about in your stand-up from the board. The key thing is the board is an attendee. The board is part of your stand-up. The board is where you learn.
Jeffrey: All right, love it.
Squirrel: Thanks, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: Thanks, Squirrel.