Agile PM Process Grid-4.9 Task Board/Burn Down Chart Updates

In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

I am now covering processes that are performed during the Control process group of an agile project.   Remember, after the Planning process group, an agile project does not go in a linear fashion from Iterate to Control to Close; rather, it cycles from Iteration to Iteration with periodic checkpoints (many times at the end of an iteration cycle) where you Control or make changes to a project to make sure it gets back on track.   Or sometimes, you even change the track itself if there is a change in the requirements.

In any case, I have covered those processes in the Control process group that relate to the first three knowledge areas of External Stakeholders Engagement, Value-Driven Delivery, and Adaptive Planning.   Now I am covering the two processes that relate to the fourth knowledge area of Team Performance, namely 4.9 Task Board/Burn Down Chart Updates, and 4.10 Velocity.

Task Board or alternatively Kanban Boards were set up in process 3.16 Task/Kanban Boards and Burn Down Charts were set up in process 3.15 Burn Down Charts.   This process is where you periodically monitor and, if necessary, take action based on the information in those charts.

What is the primary duty of the task board or burn-down chart?    According to John Stenbeck, it is to enable team synchronization.   It must have the following characteristics:

  • visible–the information must be able to be understood in sixty seconds or less
  • flexible–the information must be able to be used by ALL team members
  • accurate–the information must reflect as closely as possible the current state of the project

The visible characteristic is important because it is more visual than verbal–more information can be processed this way.   This is especially important for teams which have international members and for whom English is not their first language.   The “sixty second” rule is not John Stenbeck’s, but one I learned from a previous boss.   However, I have followed it through my career and it has served me in good stead.

Every team member needs to be able to gain something from the task board or kanban chart; that’s where the flexible part comes in.   And finally, accurate information in the sense of reflecting the current state of the project, is important so any action that is taken in response to that information will be effective.

As opposed to some control processes that are done at the END of an iteration cycle, this process is one that should occur on a DAILY basis, no matter the length of the cycle.   It should answer two basic questions:

  1. where are we NOW?
  2. where are we going in the near future?

There are other charts, such as burn-up charts, which can tell where the team is going in the medium and long term; the burn-down chart is for what’s happening NOW.

The next control process that affects Team Performance is 4.10 Velocity, and that is the subject of the next post.



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