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A World without Burndowns: the Unified Taskboard

by on September 11, 2012

The classical Scrum team uses a taskboard, a burndown chart, and a list of impediments as their standard information radiators. However, it is possible to get rid of both the latter, leaving you with only a lean, unified taskboard without losing information or visualization.

A Replacement for the Burndown Chart

Burndown charts represent the change of the taskboard over time, namely the remaining work for each day of the sprint. Variants include the burnup chart (additionally displaying discovered and descoped work) and the cumulative flow diagram.

Burndowns tend to be clumsy to handle. This is due to their nature of visual data derived from other visual data, violating DRY. They lead to questions of update frequency and time, they over-aggregate data until they are meaningless, and they need additional effort to maintain.

So here is what we did in one of our teams: We redesigned the “Done” column” in ten rows, one for each working day of our two-week sprint. You fill the first row with finished tasks until the Daily Scrum occurs. Every task that is completed now is added to the second row until the next Daily Scrum, and so on until you reach the last row, which is the last day of the sprint.

This is what we got out of the new “Done” column:

  • At every Daily Scrum, you know what to talk about, because the change since yesterday is directly visible.
  • You can see if you are meeting the required daily velocity to complete all tasks. A vertical line drawn at the start of the sprint helps to designate the desired average of completed tasks per day.
  • You get a visualization of productive and unproductive days for free, as input for your retrospective.
  • In our example, we can even review and discuss how we allocated resources for story-work, maintenance, and reactive test fixing during the sprint, as we use different colors for those task types (not as if we discussed that in every retrospective).

We quickly switched to a board-oriented standup along with this “Done” column, because it felt natural to first talk about the recently completed tasks, then about the issues in the “Verify”, “Progress”, and “To do” columns.

No More Separate Lists of Impediments

Now that we got rid of the burndown chart, let’s move on to the impediment list. That’s easy and has been done before.

You could visualize the impediment on the taskboard

  • with signal-colored post-its on the blocked tasks,
  • by rotating the blocked task by 90 degrees,
  • by color-coding the task if using an electronic taskboard,
  • by introducing an improvement board (aka. action board) with all existing impediments like described here by Stefan Roock and in this article by Bernd Schiffer – and then merging the improvement board into the taskboard as a swimlane or as a set of differently colored tasks.

With this last suggestion you do not have to maintain a separate list of the impediments owned by the Scrum Master. All the impediments are automatically the duty of the whole team and are not omitted in the Daily Scrum.

The same goes for any kind of improvement task you discovered in retrospectives, obviously.

Here we go: in a world without burndown charts, separate lists of impediments, and shrimp, you are no worse off than in the world we know. All information is still there and directly visible to the untrained eye.

From → Agile

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