Agile Notes (No. 11)

Every Friday, I send out an email highlighting a concept relating to Agile/Scrum/Continuous Improvement. Lets get to it….

This week, we are closing out the notes from The ART of Avoiding a Train Wreck by Em Campbell-Pretty and Adrienne L. Wilson. ART is short for Agile Release Train and is a concept from Scaled Agile. I wrote last week that I’m a little sad because one thing these Notes have highlighted for me is that ART is an EXCELLENT resource.

We close with Average Weighted Velocity. When you plan your Sprints, it is CRITICAL to make accurate and realistic predictions about how many points you should include in the Sprint. I go even further than the authors show in the shot above. Many times, I work with teams that have responsibilities for supporting the systems they deploy. They are on call. They field escalations during the day. What is their capacity?

First, we have to agree on the Definition of One (Point). For us, today, one point equals what each team member can accomplish in one day of work. We generally assume that they are available for 50% of a day - once you factor in breaks, lunch, interruptions, escalations. We work in 2 week/10 business day Sprints. Each team member is on call 1 day each week - so 2 days are lost to being on call for every team member on every Sprint. 10 days less 2 days for on call work = 8 days available = 8 points. It is NOT an exact science. So we aim for somewhere between 6 and 7 points of work per sprint. The first question we ask when planning is - who is out and for how many days in the next Sprint. We subtract points based on the answers.

We track the Average Weighted Velocity and Planned Capacity over each Sprint. Are we improving? Is velocity increasing, decreasing, or remaining static? This approach really helps with capacity planning. It presents a realistic picture of what the team can accomplish. It eliminates wishful thinking - which ALWAYS errs on the side of “I can take on more work.”

Ultimately, it helps eliminate a lot of the Variance. We know what the baseline is for planning Sprint to Sprint. We check that in the Retrospectives against what we completed. We want to keep Planned Capacity and Completed Work as tight as possible. Waggle is bad. Variance is bad. Variance is stuff that you did not plan for and that is not the way to Agile Happiness.

Thanks for reading. Please, leave a comment. Let me know anything you find helpful when planning Sprint Capacity. And, if you think about it, maybe forward this on to someone you know.

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