Getting Down With The Biz Funk Burndown

We now have six business and functional teams that have adopted some agile / lean practices, and only one of them uses a sprint or release burndown.  Why is this number so low?  Should our agile coaches be pushing harder for biz funk burndowns?

Well, when you roll out agile / lean practices using the “take out menu” approach, which gives more power to the team to select what practices they see value in, you’ll find that not many of them chose the burndown to start.  To put some numbers to this sentiment, of our six biz funk agile teams, here are the most commonly selected ceremonies / artifacts / roles:

  1. Daily (or 3x / wk) Standup (6)
  2. Product Backlog (6)
  3. User Stories (6)
  4. Digital Task Board (6)
  5. Demo (4)
  6. Clear Product Owner role (2)
  7. Retrospective (2)
  8. Sprint Planning (2)
  9. Burndown (1)
  10. Effective WIP limits (1)
  11. Release Planning (0)
  12. Story Mapping (0)
A few thoughts about why this might be:
  • Not always having a clear Product Owner (allowing the PO role to be handled RACI matrix style)
  • Comfort with the status quo of scrambling towards dates also has folks comfortable with not really knowing on / off track
  • Continuous flow lean teams don’t need a sprint burndown
That said, our content dev teams, when writing 1,200 page books like this, can certainly use a “Book Burndown” to show if they are on / off track.
To me, burndowns are most useful to two people: 1. the Product Owner who wants to sleep better at night knowing her team is on track and 2. the sponsor who wants to sleep better at night knowing her investment is on track.
My hypothesis is that the low-burndown demand is a maturity thing: going from no burndown to having POs and teams and sponsors demand a burndown takes time.  The impact of a standup is immediate and mostly obvious (although I’d argue one big benefit of a standup — that it is easier for new team members to get up to speed in a team that has a standup — is not so obvious).  A burndown’s value is less obvious to the team and might even feel punitive (we’re working as fast we can, so why do we need a burndown!).  But if a key sponsor is consistently asking if the, say, content for the book is on track, the burndown will be very helpful.  So I just need to find the right sponsor and coach them to ask the right questions to the the biz funk content team that is mature enough to get a burndown working.
No data to back this up (yet), but I’m starting to believe that there are two leading indicators that a team is mature: 1. consistent use of video for ceremonies with remote participants, and 2.  use of a release burndown (or cycle time).
Non-Required Reading:


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2 responses to “Getting Down With The Biz Funk Burndown

  1. Chris

    I find burndowns are just as useful as a team member. Seeing that line approach an ideal slope motivates me to complete work, or to investigate what is holding it up. Significant deviation from the ideal burndown line can mean either work is completed too slowly or the estimation of points should be revised.

    I think it’s a good idea for teams to maintain a burndown from the start, even if they feel they won’t use it straight away. An early deterrent for new teams is seeing a “poor” burndown chart. But having it available as an additional information meter, as opposed to a strict “this is how we monitor progress” indicator, teams can use it initially as a calibration tool, and later use it to chart progress.

  2. bizfunk

    I like it. Perhaps my role as a coach is to create a “good” burndown and keep showing it as an additional information meter / calibration tool until the team is mentally ready to grab it and make it a “monitor progress” thing.

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