Monday, July 29, 2019

Hey Little Hen

How about if it wasn't Venn diagram, but instead it was a When diagram? Would we know when things were going to get done if we had one of them?

I'm sure I'm not the first person to make that phonetic connection, but perhaps I'm the first who has  sufficiently little shame to mention it publicly on Twitter:
If I asked you to produce a "When diagram" for the project you're running, what would you think I was after? What kind of picture/chart/diagram would you draw for me?
A handful of kind folk responded, each with something different:
  • @joelmonte: When, in the project perspective, sounds like a milestones diagram.  It can be interconnected, and showing the dependencies of events...  But this is only my sunday-morning-wild-guess.  Do we also have "Why", "How" and most importantly "Who is to blame" diagrams?
  • @always_fearful: Gant chart
  • @hairyhatfield: A venn diagram with sets 'sooner'  'later' 'essential' 'nonessential'
  • @SheyMouse: A scrum master used to use a burn up chart snapshot to show likelihood of success. There were three projections "sooner" if velocity increased, "current" rate, "later" if velocity decreased. C-level understood this. Quite effective in explaining score crop too.
  • @zaphodikus: A line graph of time versus likelihood that I have a real live customer and that they will be so happy they pay a million dollars for the output

I thought it'd be fun to sketch how I thought their ideas might look, so I imagined a little project with a handful of features and dependencies and drew this:

We're probably all familiar with the Gantt chart to some extent and those of us who've had the misfortune to have to maintain one for a project of any complexity or a changing context probably hate them with a passion. 

The Gantt chart's focus on visualising dependencies is something that I like a lot and I've sometimes put effort into a Kanban-plus-dependencies visualisation. The milestones diagram here feels somewhat like that, although a forecast rather than a current status. This may be due to my interpretation of the milestones as lanes rather than dates.

I find the burn up chart a compelling representation of progress through a task list, with the added benefit of showing the changing size of the task list. The projections, based on rate of completion of tasks so far, are interesting and a useful way to represent the uncertainty around estimated completion dates.

I interpreted the time vs likelihood chart as representing potential value creation, with some line at which sufficient potential value has been implemented to take some action, such as deploying or moving out of beta. On the assumption that tasks are prioritised based on business value this feels like it would track the burn up. 

The When diagram that's most like a Venn diagram is interesting to me because, the way I drew it, there are two pairs of partitioned spaces which make it essentially into quadrants. If the assumption I made here — that nothing can be both sooner and later, and nothing can be both essential and non-essential — isn't right, then a more traditional-looking Venn diagram might be generated. I feel that there's some connection to the important/urgent distinction  trying to get out of this picture too.

OK, that's me done but why did I bother? Because ideas are interesting to me in their own right: because a trigger like two words that sound the same provoking a thought I hadn't had before and which might lead to some insight I haven't had before is something that I covet. 

In this exercise, the things I liked thinking about the most were the projected Kanban lanes, the notion of pooling tasks into sooner and later visually, and the graphical representation of error bars around estimates.

Thank you to everyone who responded. I really appreciate it.

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