Visualizing spikes

One of the key elements of working with agile frameworks is the ability to create transparency by visualizing the work taken on by the team. In well-known settings the team refines work to a state where it is ready to be worked on. This is typically done by taking a reasonable sized improvement request to the product and demystifying the scope while figuring out what work needs to be done in the team to deliver value to the customer. Being able to deliver an increment of value iteratively and incremental is essential. If we lose the transparency in the team it will be impossible to collaborate when progress stagnates and impossible to identify and resolve impediments.

Not all teams are in a situation where requests can be quantified and broken down into specific tasks the eventually leads to closing the request. Examples of such requests could be bug fixing, experiments with new technology and migration. This type of work is labelled as spikes. The concept of spikes originates from Extreme Programming (XP) by Kent Beck back in 1996. In XP a spike is a very simple program to explore potential solutions and reduce risk of a technical problem. A spike is often defined by a hypothesis, e.g. “Using augmented reality glasses to visualize 3D models will reduce time spent on maintenance” or “Migrating our code base to python will enable automated testing”.

The problem with spikes is that the work needed to prove or disprove the hypothesis is unknown and therefore refinement and planning is difficult. Many teams often resolve to the “easy” solution of not breaking down the work and voiding desirable transparency and visualization of progress. The comments made during Scrum meetings echoes: “We are still working on the augmented reality glasses” or “We still have some work to do before completing the migration.

To exemplify how I approach such an issue; I will resolve to something common and hopefully relatable: a shopping list.

What do you understand by a shopping list?

A shopping list can sometimes be referred to as a grocery list. It can be defined as a list where materials or items that are normally used and gotten during shopping periods are written. Shopping, most especially grocery kind of shopping among many other varieties, is a very essential, normal, regular, essential and demanding part of our way of life.

What are the uses of a shopping list?

Shopping lists have many uses. They can be used for a variety of things which could be: 

  • Making adequate preparations to make sure necessary items that need to be gotten are not left out.
  • Trying to avoid a waste of money and resources on items that are not really necessary to buy.
  • Keeping a tab on the amount of money being spent on shopping sessions to prevent wastage and excessive spending.
  • Remembering to get items that you rarely buy, not familiar with or buy once in a while.

Shopping lists are very useful when it comes to shopping at marts, grocery stores, markets, pharmacies, other trading stores and various places where they put into sale, bulk and huge quantities of items which people get on a daily or regular basis. For people who want to go on shopping, it is not uncommon for them to put into usage, shopping lists so as to write everything they want to get down before they make moves towards the designated or preferred stores. After which they get to where they want to shop, they will start ticking the items off as they put them into the shopping used to collate or bags that will be used to transport them. These same shopping lists can be used during some routine trips made once in a while in a bid to shop for items that are used on certain special occasions. As these items are not the types that are sought after during regular shopping, the probability of you forgetting to add some items to the list is very high. Examples of items gotten during such sessions are clothes, jewelries, shoes, accessories amongst many others. The kinds of occasions prepared for during these sessions are birthday party, anniversary, wedding ceremony, funeral ceremony, naming ceremony, housewarming ceremony among many others.

Problems associated with ineffective shopping list keeping

  • If you try to start writing your shopping list just before you make a move to visit the store, marts or market, the possibility of you missing some vital items you need to get is very high and this may warranty you to go on shopping again in a very short frame of time, in the process wasting precious time.
  • If members of your household are used to telling you what to shop in a randomly manner, it will be very difficult to keep effective track of them.
  • If you are used to writing short notes of what you want to get all the time, which leaves you with many papers, it is very possible for some of those notes to get lost and this may lead to missing out on some things.

All these problems can be solved and time, energy and money can be saved if you stick to creating a master shopping list that will be adhered to from time to time.

Requirements for writing a shopping list

For writing a shopping list, you do not need to make use of any special operation tool as all you need primarily is a piece of paper and pen or pencil. You could also make use of a notepad that can help you create a shopping list on a mobile phone. You can also create a shopping template and use it to set your shopping list.

Organize your list in a step by step method: In majority of supermarkets and shopping stores, it has been discovered that they display what they sell in an organized manner based on the different types. Whenever you are trying to write items for your shopping list down, make sure you channel an energy to group the items by joining different but similar items into a particular group to ease out stress of purchasing. An example is collating all frozen food items together, accessories together, household items together amongst many others. This strategy will help you reduce the stress of moving around looking for different items when you could just get them together at a section before moving to another. You could also make them categorized based on the different places you want to get them from.

Always create an extra space at each category: Make sure you always leave little space whenever you finish a category because you may want to add some things you might have forgotten at the last minute or some things you feel should be added before you go for shopping.

Take note of quantity: It is necessary you know the quantity of the items you want to get in advance. Note these quantities down in your shopping list because it will ease you the stress of indecision while trying to shop.

Ensure your list is kept balanced: Before you go on a shopping session, especially when you’re shopping for food, it is a very nice idea to make your grocery purchases as balanced as you can attain. Even if you want to go shopping with some particular essential items in mind, the priority should be making sure the shopping session is successful and worth it.

Emphasize healthy choices: Having a shopping list before going to the shop is a determining factor that assists you in making the healthiest choices. There are some who go on shopping without using shopping lists and flaw makes them more prone and susceptible to making impulse purchases. Whenever you plan on filling your list, try to reflect on how each and every item will affect your life in the long run.

Figure out everything you need beforehand:  Improvising your list once you’re out shopping will result in hasty buys and unhealthy choices. You should have a well-thought out list before you head out the door.

Take note of the rate of your shopping trips: While in the process of compiling your list, make sure to dedicate a period of time to think about how often you go to the supermarket. The frequency of your shopping trips may actually depend on your location, as well as your mode of transport. For some people, going to the supermarket can mean a big time investment. If your trips are not constant, it’s all the more important to come prepared with a list. On the other hand, if you’re going several times a week, it won’t usually be an issue if you forget some things as you have a back up to go another time.

Wrapping up on shopping lists

Using many of these methods, your shopping list could be part of the most important documents you regularly use on a daily basis. During shopping, there is a particular process you get involved in despite its varying difference due to individual circumstances. Taking grocery shopping as a sample, this is how the process will look like.

First of all, you will start thinking about the choices of food you want to make for the following week. After the thought, you go to scan through the items available in your household storage facilities such as fridges, store, bags, freezers, cupboards amongst others. After that, you take a note of the items you need to get for the planned week in your shopping list. When you are done with that, you make a move for the mart, stores, or market alongside your shopping list to help you remember what you need to get. As you are shopping, it is necessary to cross the items you have put or inserted into your shopping carts and bags. To monitor the amount you spend, you can also write down the price of each item beside it in the shopping list. After then, you are good to go as you pack your bought items and convey them home to store in preparation for your proposed plan for the following week. It is necessary to have this shopping list a constant part of your daily life so as to keep yourself on track when it comes to getting the basic necessities of life. Planning well before going on shopping is a very important task. Preparing your shopping list whatever items you want to get, ranging from planning your meal schedule to taking stock of what you already have on ground, it is very critical to create a shopping list that will effectively help you arrest all issues that may arise. It will help you avoid wastage of food, items, money as well as resources. You can tag this list somewhere you can not do without checking on a daily basis. Places such as a kitchen cabinet, a refrigerator. You are good to go.

Back to spikes

The line of thought on shopping lists can be transferred directly to working with spikes. The team doesn’t specify up front the details of what is needed to complete the shopping and allows for some experimentation. However, having a list of dishes that needs to be shopped for before leaving the store gives a brief list where each item can be ticked off as the shopping progresses. So, in essence: when working with spikes: Write a hypothesis of what should be examined and outline the areas that you want to investigate. In addition, if new areas are discovered they should be visualized to illustrate that the spike is not completed to enable the team to discuss the progress and way forward.

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