Thursday, August 7, 2014

WSJF - What to do in a tie?

Todd Kromann and I facilitated a workshop at Agile2014 on the subjects of Dude's Law and Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF). We helped the group understand how to apply relative estimation not only to Cost of Implementation (size, expense, complexity, etc.) but also Cost of Delay (urgency, risk, dependency, compliance, etc.). We used the modified Fibonacci sequence most often used for Story Points to quantify both of these numbers, which was done by table teams. Each feature's Value Index, used to prioritize, was determined by its Cost of Delay number divided by its Cost of Implementation number. (You can get a soft copy of the handout we used here).

At the end of the workshop we had, as we usually do, a team whose features included a tie. This sometimes happens because they have the exact same Cost of Delay and Cost of Implementation numbers. More often, this happens because the numbers used in the equation are different, but the division comes out the same. One of the questions that invariable arises is: which feature should be prioritized first?

In theory, it doesn't matter - the ratio of urgency to expense is the same. Once both are implemented the ROI is equal. The decision of which to do first should be determined by the organization. In reality, I believe that the smaller feature should be implemented first. I've drawn up an example to illustrate.

In this scenario, we have two features, A and B. Feature B is 20 times more expensive than A, but also 20 times as valuable. Let's look at what would happen if we implemented Feature A first.

As you can see, we get a little value very quickly and significantly more after a delay. If we say that the y-axis represents millions of dollars and the x-axis represents quarters of the year, then we get $2MM/quarter after our first three months with no increase until five years later, when our quarterly revenue jumps to $42MM. By the end of our 22nd quarter, we will have earned $82MM.

Now let's see what it would look like if we did Feature B first.

Using the same axis values as before, we're basically going five years without any revenue. However, after five years of development, our revenue jumps to $40MM/quarter, with a $2MM/quarter bump immediately after. Just like before, we will have earned $82MM by the end of our 22nd quarter and will be earning $42MM/quarter thereafter.

So which one's better?

Do you really want to go five years without bringing in any revenue? Of course not! You'd much rather start capitalizing on your work after only one quarter's worth of work. Not only do you now have some money in to fund yourself, you're learning from the market based on how they use what you've released. This new-found knowledge will improve the quality of subsequent releases.

The reality is that, although the former option is better than the latter, neither are great. What you should do is, while you implement Feature A, break down Feature B into smaller components. It is highly unlikely that all of these components will have a 2:1 ratio of CoD:CoI. You'll identify which sub-Features provide the highest relative ROI and implement them as soon as you finish with Feature A. There may be sub-Features that you never get around to implementing because the value doesn't justify the expense. You can instead move on to a new Feature and begin decomposing and prioritizing its pieces. By the end of your 22nd quarter, you'll end up bringing in much more than the $82MM/quarter number that the two options above afforded.

That's my take on what to do in the event of a WSJF tie. What would you do?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Personal WIP

As my faithful subscribers (all both of you) may have noticed, I haven't posted anything in a while. Despite my commitment at the beginning of the year to blog at least weekly, I found myself recently with too much Personal WIP (Work In Progress). Let me catch you up on what's been going on.

New Baby!

We recently welcomed our third child into the world! His older brother and sister are both very excited, as you can see. He's been a joy, one that's kept us quite busy! He came in at 10 and a half pounds, which means that I spent more and more time helping at home to alleviate the burden on my already overburdened wife. This was a no-brainer - as my WIP increased, the priority went to my family.


Last week I had two firsts: I attended my first Agile Alliance conference and presented at my first Agile conference! I made sure that I had family and friends in place to assist my wife with our 2-week-old and flew to Orlando to co-present with fellow Agile Coach, Todd Kromann. We didn't use any slides, just a hand-written handout (available here), some index cards, markers, and tape. We played a game and had a great discussion. We even had the Dude himself, David Hussman, show up and commend us on our use of his Intellectual Property. We had a blast! Of course, in order for it to go as smoothly as it did, I had to spend some time before the baby came tweaking the handout and rehearsing the workshop.

Walmart Agile Summit

Prior to Agile2014, I participated in a 3-day Walmart Agile Summit in June. While I wasn't as involved as I'd have liked (again, that pesky WIP), I was on the core team and got to present a dry-run of my Dude's Law workshop. I got to meet Al Shalloway and Don Reinertsen, and I got to see Pat Reed and Rich Sheridan again. It was a fantastic experience made possible through the hard work and dedication of many people. I may not have had a lot of bandwidth, but I wanted to make sure I dedicated at least some of my WIP went to the Summit.

Walmart Agile Transformation

Of course, as the Agile Summit might have indicated, we're taking the Agile effort at Walmart quite seriously. I'm not going to disclose a lot of information or details - this isn't going to be a case study - but Todd and I were the first 2 Agile Coaches in Walmart's Bentonville office, and we wanted to make sure the Agile Transformation was done by invitation, not edict. We've had fantastic support from senior leadership, and the success of our Agile teams has accelerated the grassroots momentum that's been building. The Agile Summit served as gasoline to the proverbial fire, and interest in Agile began to rise sharply, even before the first day of the Summit. My time at work has been exciting, challenging, and incredibly rewarding. As much as I wanted to keep sharing my thoughts with the blogosphere, I owe my professional efforts first and foremost to my fellow Associates.

So that's what I've been up to. I can't promise I'll resume blogging on a weekly basis, but I am cautiously optimistic that I'll be posting more regularly that I have the past few months!