Port’flow’io backlog

Last week I mentioned about how seeing a lack of throughput lead to a rather heated discussion in our weekly portfolio meeting. I was pleased to see this week that our throughput is getting a lot better, with eight more items flowing through to done in the past week.
A new item of discussion was raised in the weekly meeting around breaking work down. I highlighted that we needed to be careful that we don’t want to fall into the trap of horizontal slicing at portfolio level, where you end up have a card for analysis, a card for build, a card for testing and a card for deployment, mainly as that masks the actual flow of value to users.
Whilst this isn’t ‘easy’ I do think a lot of it just requires a bit of unlearning around jumping straight to solutions, and again starting with why.
In our context I feel that we could/should be utilising more of a design sprint concept from Mark and his innovation team to aid the flow upstream and/or reducing batch sizes of work flowing through our portfolio.
Our portfolio kanban board has a flow of:
Ideas | Refinement | Ready | In Progress | Validate | Done
I provided some guidance as to questions to ask upstream:

Interested to know if you think anything else is worth adding.


This week we got together as a team to review our OKRs, grading ourselves against how we had performed. We’ve been using OKRs for the past 9 months, and finally it feels like we’re getting the hang of them.
The first ones we put together didn’t come close to the target 0.6–0.7 grade range, which alluded to them being too ambitious. The second ones we put together ended up being too “easy”, as four out of the five achieved a score of 1.0 — so looks like we set the bar too low!
Finally, with our latest grading, it looks like we’ve achieved the right amount of balance of ambition/reality in our objectives:

As a team, we’re going to carry on using them as we think they are really useful as an alignment tool. We’ve agreed to regularly check them at the end of each 4-week sprint just to make sure we aren’t losing site of things. Our leadership team have expressed an interest in applying the same concepts which could hopefully bring some portfolio and team alignment to the work it is we are undertaking. A side project may be some AzDO (yes I am going with that abbreviation) customisation to trace PBIs -> OKRs — similar to what Microsoft talk about here.

Escaping The Build Trap

At the beginning of the week our TV at home was broken, which gave me a much needed push to pick up a new book to read.
I’ve started reading Escaping the Build Trap by Melissa Perri, which is already edging into the ‘must reads for practitioners’ category of my Agile library.
Such is the quality of the content/learning that I’ve found myself taking screenshots (reading on iPad, ebooks FTW) of most pages, as highlighting a whole section seems to defeat the purpose of what highlighting is for! Hopefully I’ll finish it over the next week and can give it a full review, in particular if it’s pushed its way into my all time favourites.

Next week

Next week I’ll be taking the Scaled Agile Framework – Leading SAFe course with a number of other PwC colleagues. I’m looking forward to the learning outcomes, in particular being able to make a more balanced assessment of SAFe.
I hear both good and bad (more the latter) things about it, so it should be interesting. I view all methods/frameworks as tools in the toolbox, which should be used when relevant to context, so will be good to add this to the list and I’m sure it will be a fun few days of learning.
A number of our leadership team/senior managers will also be attending a G2G3 DevOps simulation. I hear nothing but great things so hopefully it sparks a lot of discussion and challenge!

Senior Ways of Working Enablement Specialist @ Nationwide Building Society | https://www.nicolasbrown.co.uk