Grawlixes, Slurm and the Dead Zone

Grawlixes, Slurm and the Dead Zone

Last week’s Kanban for Devops training class in Portland produced some notably creative ideas towards visualization. Grawlixes, Slurm and the Dead Zone are three ideas worth spreading.

Capturing interrupts using grawlixes (series of typographical symbols representing profanity in comic strips) shows work impacts in an amusing manner.

Here’s how it works. Each time work is interrupted, add one grawlix to the ticket on the board. The longer the grawlix series on the ticket, the longer the lead time and (presumably) the more irritated the engineer.

It would be interesting to compare the grawlix count on work considered fun and interesting versus work that is no fun.   I can imagine a ticket with work that no one wants to do (legacy system with fun factor of zero, or some tedious maintenance job) having a long grawlix string.

Not all work fits neatly into an existing category. Random work that just doesn’t conform to a standard work item type can flow across the board as “slurm”.

Slurm is defined as work that falls into the “everything else” bucket. An example might be filling in for someone during an interview or a one-off request from a vendor.

I wondered if slurm might be a lane of its own, but the team’s priority was to bring attention to unplanned vs. planned work – inspired perhaps by Futurama episode 113.

The “Dead Zone” found its way into a permanent corner of the board to show work started and then abandoned. Work that began at one point because some functionality was desired, but later re-considered and eventually rejected altogether.

I’d seen similar areas before (in the form of garbage cans drawn on a side board), but they were used to demonstrate the hit on morale due to waste. In this case, the Dead Zone (originally referred to as dead space) acknowledges that not all work will be delivered – that some work is expected to fall by the wayside.

Mike Burrows says it beautifully, “Systems resilient to variety (in the type and urgency of request) and variation (in size, for example) are not only more effective but easier to deal with.”

It will be interesting to see more examples of teams implementing visualizations similar to Grawlix, Slurm and the Dead Zone before drawing any conclusions, but these ideas appear to have some validity and utility.

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