I’m embarrassed to admit that, as a long time Agile coach, I hadn’t appreciated the benefits of burn-up charts over burn-downs, merely seeing it as a mirror image - I was wrong.
However it has brought me to this metaphor of landing the project in a zone where two joysticks, held by different stakeholders, guide in the project (or MVP or ‘next release’). The PO (business) holds the scope ‘joystick’ whilst the team adjusts the ‘throughput rate’.
Being co-pilots in this joint endeavour helps foster collaboration between the two ‘sides’.
i find that the most insight-generating metaphors are simple and incorporate a familiar aspect of our physical world.
Make the most of the historical data we have
Our historical data of ‘completed work’ shows the rate of delivery (velocity). Which we can extrapolate into the future using pessimistic and optimistic rates.
A vertical line down from where these cross the scope line, gives us a date range that this project will finish. In this case I’ve assumed the scope doesn’t change after today.
The angle of those pessimistic and optimistic throughput rates is largely determined by the team and overall system effectiveness.
Note: We currently use simple calculations to decide the angle, e.g. optimistic (median +25%) and pessimistic (median – 25%). Alternatively a moving weighted average works well too.
Not forgetting the ‘S curve’ that David Anderson writes about here
This shows there is often lowering of the throughput rate in the last 20% of a project – assuming that the definition of done was not quite perfect – which is common!
We are also developing projections based on ‘probabilistic forecasting’ and Monte Carlo simulations to provide more clarity on the likely outcomes. Troy Magennis has been leading this approach in the Agile world – this video is a great introduction
Step 2 – Scope evolves
We know the scope line will probably continue to drift upwards, in fact there are probably two future scope lines:
- The desired scope that was in the business plan and stakeholders thought was necessary when the project was first conceived.
- The minimal scope, or MVP, that would deliver value to users, generate learning and is a viable delivery.
We need to develop better ways to model this change in scope, however we’ve all seen this in projects, even if the root causes vary.
There are two possible date ranges within which this project will go live.
- Minimal scope = mid-June to early-August
- Desired scope = mid-July to mid-Sept
The Landing Zone
It’s easier to visualise and to say, with a fair degree of confidence, that the project is going to land somewhere in this green zone.
Representing the truth in this comprehensible, palatable way stimulates many more possible interventions, for the team and business, than a RAG status ever could!!
Options to hit an immovable date
To be confident that we can launch at that conference in mid-August, we can see what options we have to reduce scope to come within the pessimistic line.
It’s also clear that we will at least have the MVP by the conference and possibly a little more.