When Defining Done, Visualize Delayed Value Stream Activities

In the “Are We There Yet? Doneness Criteria” chapter of the Seapine Agile Expedition eBook, I gave some tips on how teams could define their “Definition of Done” for their project. As shown below, I also provided an example of how to identify impediments during the defining of done.

  Definition of done with impeded value stream activity ("QA Tested")

Definition of done with impeded value stream activity ("QA Tested")

I discussed how to use the Five Whys to determine the root cause of the identified impediment, but did not provide details on what to do beyond that. Your response to the chapter might have been, “great, I’ve identified an impediment and have an idea about root cause, but I’ve still got to continue the project.” So now what?

If you’re using a visual tracking board, at minimum your board looks something like this:

  Basic visual tracking board

Basic visual tracking board

Teams that are not meeting their definition of done by the end of a Sprints or Release, should make impediments visible as soon as possible. Therefore, I recommend breaking out the portion of the value stream that is the bottle neck. At the point of the bottleneck, your cards will continue to queue in the swim lane and further highlight the problem. A board with an impediment in the workflow will look something like this:

  Visual tracking board with enhanced swim lane tracking

Visual tracking board with enhanced swim lane tracking

Notice how the problem area within the value stream has been separated out from the rest of the work in process (WIP).  You can see how easily a visual tracking board can be updated to reflect impediments. Anyone passing by this board can see that a story must make a pit stop at “Ready for QA” on its way to “Done”. This gives the team the opportunity to make the impediment visible and increases the likelihood of an expedited resolution time.  By the way, you don’t need to wait for an impediment to break out your team’s workflow into multiple swim lanes.  Many teams do this from the beginning, which gives them a better overall view of their workflow and value stream.