Improving Team Performance with a Clothespin!

Photo of a task card with a clothespin attached, both affixed to a scrum board.

I’m never short of amazed when I discover how simple solutions can solve complex issues. One of the main goals on Geonetric’s software engineering team, day in and day out, is to deliver value to our clients. That’s accomplished by creating really cool and useful features to enhance our software.

Too often, we’re so eager to add all those really cool and useful features that we take on too much work. It’s a good problem to have – but still a problem.

So as the team’s Scrum master I decided to fix this issue. I gave each member of the software engineering team two clothespins with their name on them. Each member was told to find two tasks on the board that they wanted to work on and attach their clothespin to it. They could not start on something new until one task was done – or in other words, they couldn’t move their clothespin until the first task was finished. The goal: limiting our work-in-progress.  And the result: it worked. The clothespin helped us put a physical and tangible constraint on the process to encourage a desired behavior.

The approach is a bit of a hybrid, bringing in Kanban philosophy and practice to Scrum. By focusing on a reduced set of tasks, in our Behavior Driven Development system, we can know quickly if what we built works, and others can see it, rather than stock piling large sets of tasks that aren’t viewable or usable.

The clothespin can really be anything. It’s a symbol for the shift in thinking we really want: continually developing deliverable software. In a system where small parts are continually added, with instant feedback, this is possible.

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This entry was posted in Agile, Geonetric Culture, SCRUM, VitalSite by Kevin Reiter. Bookmark the permalink.
Kevin Reiter

About Kevin Reiter

Kevin speaks two languages. English. And developer. As our Scrum Master he is in charge of continuously improving our development process. He is the force behind sprint planning and retrospectives and can skillfully balance when to say no and when to push for more results. And since we have the best healthcare-specific content management software on the market, he’s doing a pretty good job. When he’s not organizing cross-team collaboration, he’s thinking about fantasy football and how to apply Agile principles to his home life.

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