What shall I work on next? If you facilitate Daily Scrums (or whatever you call your daily meeting), this is never a straightforward question and it can be difficult helping guide teams to the right answer. As a team member, it is never as simple as picking the lowest hanging fruit or the most important work item.
Using a work item ageing chart can help the team steer this conversation in the right direction. A work item ageing chart shows you all the work currently in progress and highlights how long each work item has been active on the workflow. This is usually measured by the number of days between the work item start date and today’s date.
What Should I Work on Next?
Let’s have a look at asking the question “what shall I work on next?” using a work item ageing chart. Looking at the chart: The Y axis highlights the age of a work item, and the X axis shows its current state through the workflow. Every dot in the chart represents work items that are currently being worked on.
The traffic light system of colours in the above example is produced using Actionable Agile. Each coloured area is auto-generated based on the pace of historical work items as they moved through the workflow. If the dots are in the green area their pace is good and you probably don't need to worry too much. If they are in the red area, then they are progressing too slowly and require your attention.
At a glance, I can see the red and amber areas are where the most aged work items sit. These are the work items the team needs to focus on. Following the Kanban mantra of ‘stop starting and start finishing’ we usually focus on the right side of the graph which highlights the work items closest to completion.
Looking at the graph, I can see there are no work items in red anywhere and two work items in the ‘Testing’ column that are in the amber zone. This tells us these two work items have been in the workflow for the longest period of time in comparison to the other work items. They are also the work items progressing at the slowest pace. This looks like a good area where the conversation should be focused on.
As you can see, simply by observing the work item ageing chart, we have narrowed down the conversation to two work items that need the most attention. Now this can now trigger a deeper conversation within the team to decide what is the the best course of action.
This is a simple and effective example of using real-time metrics to help guide good decision-making and enable self-management. A game-changer for many Agile teams.
Want to Learn More?
Answering this question and others like: “When will it be done?” “How many items will I get in the next release?” “When will all of the items in the backlog be completed?” are covered in depth in our new Applying Metrics for Predictability (AMP) class certified by ProKanban.org.