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How to Optimize Value Delivery by Controlling Work in Progress and Work Item Age

August 7, 2023

Boost Efficiency with Scrum

Agile Practices

In today's digital age, enterprises must respond swiftly to market changes to maintain competitiveness. To retain a competitive edge, businesses must consistently deliver high-value products to their customers in the shortest possible lead times. This requirement translates into improving the flow of value through Scrum—a process framework popular in Agile product development.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about how controlling work in progress (WIP) and managing work item age are pivotal in optimizing value delivery.

The Importance of Controlling Work in Progress (WIP)

According to the Kanban Guide for Scrum Teamswork in progress (WIP) refers to the work items that a Scrum team has started but not yet completed. By effectively limiting WIP, Scrum teams can ensure a smooth, linear, and fast movement of work products, thereby enhancing value delivery. It's akin to implementing a "pull system" where the team commences work on an item only when there's a clear signal.

The concept of limiting WIP is not alien to Scrum. A Sprint, which controls the volume of work a development team will attempt during a given period, is a form of WIP limitation. Incorporating more explicit and granular WIP limits proposed in Kanban helps optimize workflow and enhances the Scrum team's focus, commitment, and collaboration.

The Balance Between Work in Progress and Scrum Product Backlog

In ensuring optimal value delivery, balancing the work in progress and the Scrum Product Backlog is vital. The backlog is a dynamic entity requiring continuous refinement, prioritization, and adjustment based on the changing needs of the business. With effective WIP management, Scrum teams can ensure that the most important items from the backlog are selected for development and that these items are promptly delivered, thus providing continuous value to customers.

Tracking Work Item Age

Work item age, another crucial metric in a Scrum environment, is the elapsed time between when a work item starts and the current time. Monitoring work item age allows the Scrum team to identify potential bottlenecks and workflow improvement areas. It provides crucial insights into the efficiency of the value delivery process and contributes to optimizing the overall product development cycle.

4 Key Metrics for Scrum Teams Using Kanban

Here are the four essential flow metrics Scrum teams using Kanban practices need to monitor:

1.  Work in Progress (WIP)

The number of work items started but not yet finished.

2.  Cycle Time

The time taken from when a work item starts to when it finishes.

3.  Work Item Age

The elapsed time from when a work item started and the current time.

4.  Throughput

The number of work items finished per unit of time.

These metrics should be closely monitored throughout the Sprint, specifically during the Scrum events. They provide invaluable insights into the efficiency of the workflow and can be the key to improving value delivery.

Scrum Values: A Key to Effective Delivery

A crucial aspect of value delivery in Scrum is understanding and adhering to the five values of Scrum: commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect. When teams commit to their work, display courage in the face of challenges, focus on their goals, maintain transparency, and respect each other's contributions, they create an environment that enhances value delivery. These values form the core of Scrum and are integral in creating a system that facilitates continuous, valuable delivery to the customer.

Driving Efficiency in Scrum with Kanban Practices

Adding Kanban practices to your Scrum framework could dramatically improve your team's performance. One of the critical elements of this process is setting appropriate WIP limits. It helps reduce cycle time by eliminating "wait time" and "task switching" time, thus creating a stronger correlation between cycle time and estimated effort. 

Remember, while setting WIP limits, ensuring that work in progress doesn't age is vital. Allowing work items to age can lead to decreased predictability and hampers the flow of value delivery.

However, setting a WIP limit that's too low could also be counterproductive. It's crucial to find a balance that works best for your team, continually monitoring statistical performance and gauging how it feels for the team.

A Scrum Product Owner’s Role in Value Delivery

A Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) has a significant role in value delivery. The PSPO is responsible for optimizing the value of the product and the work of the Development team. They effectively manage the Scrum Product Backlog and confirm it is refined, prioritized, and visible to all stakeholders.

The Scrum Product Owner brings a value-driven approach to the team's work, reinforcing the importance of delivering products with value for the end customer. The PSPO certification reflects a comprehensive understanding of Scrum principles, including effective value delivery.

Boost Your Proficiency with Our Professional Scrum Product Owner Course

Efficiently controlling work in progress and managing work item age is an art that requires practice and an in-depth understanding of Scrum and Kanban methodologies. Agile-ity Inc. offers comprehensive certified Professional Scrum Product Owner training to enhance your knowledge and skills in these areas.

Our course can help you understand the Scrum Product Backlog, the significance of value-driven delivery in Scrum, and how to optimize value delivery using Kanban practices. Don't wait to boost your proficiency in Scrum. Contact us today and embark on a journey to become more competent and efficient with a Scrum Product Owner certification.



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