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How to Overlap Work in Agile

Structure provides reliability, so it is no wonder why people are attracted to the idea of working in phases. But agile explicitly draws a line in the sand and insists that teams can do better than that. In a post at Mountain Goat Software, Mike Cohn explains how to forego phases and overlap work in agile.

Deft Application

Overlapping work reduces time to market because it ensures that no available resources are ever left twiddling their thumbs. But to achieve overlapping work requires strong team coordination, and in particular, it requires that the team be okay with the presence of uncertainty. Having “enough” information to begin now is actually more important than having “all the information to finish” up front.

About when precisely team members should begin work on a backlog item, Cohn shares this:

It doesn’t so much matter when team members start work on a product backlog item. What matters is that all should finish together, or as close to it as practical. In a ten-day sprint, a programmer may start work on a user story on day six and a tester on day eight. Their goal is then to finish together on day ten.

I like to equate this to running a race around a 400-meter track as in the Olympics. Because outside lanes are progressively longer, runners in those lanes begin the race further ahead physically on the track. This ensures that each person runs the same distance and that they finish at the same place, making it possible to judge the winner.

Analysts and designers will likely start a bit ahead of everyone else though, for the sake of facilitating everyone else’s work. Some roles inherently need to be more future-focused than others. But as long as your team is conscious of these differences, you should be fine.

For further thoughts, you can view the original post here: https://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/blog/the-importance-of-overlapping-work-in-agile

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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