Leaning into SAFe with Feature Flow

Last year I wrote about the communication cadence and in particular the daily feature wall stand up that was the heartbeat of the EDW Agile Release Train.  Recently I received an email from someone who had read this post and wanted to know more. As he quite rightly pointed out the “post lacked the details to effectively implement a similar event but it sounded really worthwhile.”

When I sat down to reply to this e-mail, I found myself thinking about the power of the visualisations more than the event.  The inwards facing Release Train Engineer+Wayne Palmer, had been determined since the birth of the EDW Release Train to create a physical dashboard that represented the performance of the system.

The first incarnation of this was captured in my colleague +Mark Richards‘s blog back in 2013. This version of the “feature wall” provided a 10 iteration view of what each feature team planned to work on. At first it was +Wayne‘s hope that the ScrumMasters would self organise a consistent approach to visualising the work, but it was not long before his OCD kicked and he prescribed a legend. Large white cards for features in play, large green cards for features in discovery, small pink cards for defects and small blue cards for innovation work. Teams would visualise their plan for each feature by placing cards and an effort estimate in the relevant iterations. Each team showed the capacity they had available (based on historical velocity and planned leave) and the amount of work they planned to complete each sprint. This 10 iteration view also helped us plan our involvement in the enterprise release integration testing for those occasions when we could not decouple our deployments from an enterprise release.

+Mark always says you can tell a good wall by the conversations that are had at it and there was always plenty of conversation at this wall, mainly about capacity and forward planning.  After a while +Wayne reached the conclusion that while these discussions might be interesting to theProject Management / Pipeline folk, they were not the right conversations. The conversations taking place were predominantly how to get more work onto the train. It was a view of capacity management which didn’t truly take into account what people were actually doing and how full the train was.

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