Kanban for a small team ?

We’re a small scrum team. Very small. Temporarily down to 2 developers, one of whom is part-time scrummaster, plus one product owner. The developers are responsible for not only new development, but also function as 2nd-level production support and helping stakeholders develop their user stories into a do-able form (acceptance criteria, etc).

This leads to conflicts of priorities. 2nd-level support can be hugely disruptive, taking out one developer from a half-day to 2 full days for some issues, which has the effect of stopping the sprint if one developer is on holiday. Partially complete sprints are a too-regular ocurrence therefore.

We’ve attempted to ring-fence the two non-sprint activities. Support work goes to the ‘duty developer’ (a role that rotates between the two developers) and should be time-boxed to no more than 2/3 of a working day in total. And story development should take place only in ‘jog week‘ (a week between two week sprints).

In practice, both non-sprint activities break out of their respective constraints. E.g. when the business decides an unhappy customer needs placating NOW, the team has to do it, and the scheduled sprint work suffers, and of course some user stories are therefore delayed by a full sprint cycle.

Essentially, it’s a combination of

  • a team with a responsibility for both development and an unpredictable support workload
  • a team too small to absorb workload fluctuations easily

that means that scrum is not working well for us.

So Kanban looks like a solution for two reasons.

Firstly, no timeboxed iterations should mean that if there’s a change in priorities (insertion of an urgent workitem), then less urgent items move back one place in the queue, not a full 3 weeks.

Secondly, the business will need to weigh priorities between regular development and must-do items arriving via production support. I think the whole process will become much more transparent, in contrast to the current situation.

The details of our implementation need still need sorting out, but the idea is building momentum and it seems likely we’ll go for it.

Looking forward to it.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 at 11:40 pm and is filed under Coding. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.


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