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Full Visibility: I See You

Merriam-Webster definition of "Visible": Capable of being seen; Exposed to view

Interestingly, I started the title for this blog topic as "Full Transparency". After looking up the definition of "transparency" I realized this did not fit the bill. People often use the term "transparent" when identifying an agile benefit. But are we really looking to detect or uncover something that is hidden? Do we need to "see through" for more information? In the spirit of positive intent - I do not think so. What do we need?

Visibility! Agile makes all work, progress, issues, etc. visible. This visibility occurs in many ways. One of the main tools providing visibility of work and progress is the Kanban board. The Kanban typically shows stories or features in different states, such as "Not Started", "In Progress", "Testing", "Done". These are some core example states. Sometimes teams add a few more to provide more clarity and better flow. Here's an example:

As you can see, the kanban board brings clear visibility of work and progress. In agile, each team usually has a kanban board and if scaling agile, there may be additional boards depicting features and epics.

Some other tools that bring visibility to the forefront are sprint planning, sprint reviews, demo's, and program increment planning (PI Planning). We will cover the details of each of these events in future blogs, but focus on how each of these brings the aspect of visibility to the table.

PI Planning takes place on a regular cadence (usually quarterly) where the business and development groups come together to plan and align on upcoming work. The outcome of this event is alignment and visibility of value to be delivered over the next time period (usually quarterly). Everyone from team members to executives have the opportunity to participate, see, hear, and agree to what is planned to be delivered. No Surprises.

Bringing confirmation and visibility on execution of agreed upon plan are the Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, and Demo's. During Sprint Planning, the team should evaluate if they are still on track with the overall deliverables. Has anything changed? Are they still able to meet the original commitment for the overall increment? Evaluate the work planned and make adjustments as needed. This will be reflected on the Kanban board and if there are any issues or changes to meeting the outcomes, they should be raised and discussed with stakeholders immediately.

Sprint Planning addresses the assessment and our evaluation at the start of the sprint and the Sprint Review provides an end of sprint appraisal. Did we accomplish our sprint goals? If not, what is the impact to the overall deliverables? We also provide a demo to our stakeholders of the accomplishments during the sprint and receive input and feedback on the sprint review demo. We continue to provide visibility not just through updates and status, but via actual product demo for feedback. Essentially, "the proof is in the pudding" and stakeholders do not just take our word at face value but actually see the progress on the product.

Finally, the demo. This is slightly different from the Sprint Review demo as it is a full program demo and not just an individual team's accomplishment. We are demonstrating the "current state" of the product / software every two weeks - fully integrated and functional. Again, bringing the shiny spotlight to progress made over the past sprint (usually two weeks). The primary purpose is to show the product, receive feedback, making sure expectations are met, and everyone is aligned on state of the product and progress towards achieving planned outcomes.

While there are other tools, artifacts, and cadences providing visibility, these are a few examples demonstrating how organizations are able to move from "a status update" or "project plan update" to an interactive, visible demonstration of progress on the actual product deliverable. Most organizations I have helped implement or mature agile practices are amazed at the visibility agile provides. It is truly amazing and brings discussion early in the delivery process. By the way, a side benefit of this visibility and cadence based activities, is increased quality - but that's a blog for another time.

If you are not interested in "seeing" everything like a bright sun shining down upon the work, highlighting deliverables and progress, do not move to agile.

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