Xanpan — a team centric agile method story

What is it?

As you have probably already guessed by its name, Xanpan is a mix of Kanban, XP (eXtreme Programming), Lean, Scrum and Product Management.

  • Work in iterations
  • Team-centric
  • Work to improve Flow
  • Quality is free (invest in quality)
  • Visualize

Work in iterations

Just like in Scrum, you will use iterations in Xanpan. An iteration is a 2 weeks period from mid-week to mid-week.

Why use iterations?

Well, with the iterations the team defines small deadlines that help to focus, it avoids multi-tasking and so limits the work in progress naturally and improve efficiency.

Planning

3 roles

There are 3 roles in the planning:

  • Product Owner: this role is usually played by a product manager, or a business analyst acting as a proxy for the real customer
  • Creators: software engineers and testers mainly, although sometimes others, such as user interface designers are involved
  • Facilitator: sometimes there is a dedicated facilitator who is not the Product Owner or a member of the building team. They may be, for example, a project manager, Scrum master or Agile coach.
3 roles in the planning

Product ownership is considered a practice rather than a role.

Planning artefacts

The outcome of the planning is cards that will be fixed onto the team board (it’s the iteration backlog), like in Lean cards are Blue, White and Red:

  • Blue cards: vertical slices of business functionality from multiple projects or products
  • White cards: Tasks related to blue cards. Those are written during the planning meeting, and there are usually multiple white task cards for each blue card.
  • Red cards: those are bugs, defects that need to be handled

Planning meeting

This is how it is suggested to run the end of each iteration:

Retrospective

Retrospective could be formal or not (simple dialogue). It could be held at the end of the iteration routine or not. It could happen or not… At the end it’s a team decision.

“Teams may also hold a retrospective as part of the iteration end routine, although not all teams hold retrospectives, and even those who do may not hold them at every iteration.” — Allan Kelly

Work in routine

Here is the recommended routine:

Plan beyond the iteration

Quaterly plan is a plan for the 12 next weeks, filled to approximately the capacity of each iteration (consider it as the WIP limit of the iterations). Quaterly plan is a rolling plan; it is in a constant — perhaps daily — state of flux.

Where is the Kanban part in it?

  • It allows both planned and unplanned work
  • Work can flow from iteration to iteration

What about commitment?

Teams are encouraged to try and do more work than they expect to do. Everyone needs to accept that not all work taken into the iteration will get done.

Statements about what will be delivered at the end of the iteration are statements of probability.

Team centric

Visualise

To organize our work in Xanpan we use a big board that represent the state of the team, not the state of a particular project or product.

  • Planned: stock of cards for the current iteration
  • Unplanned: stock of unplanned work
  • Priority: work for today. Defined the morning of the day during the stand-up.
  • Work in progress
  • Test: cards under test
  • Done: work has been done & respect the Definition of Done

Unplanned work

Unplanned work does not mean there is no value to do it. That’s why the unplanned work is stocked on the board and will be prioritized by BA or Product manager a few minutes before the stand-ups.

What about technical practices?

For Allan Kelly teams that deliver software should really embrace XP practices. It enables to inject quality for free.

Low quality makes rework harder, and therefore slower. High quality makes rework easier, and therefore faster.

How to define quality of a software product?

  • Measure defects: quality is inversely proportional to the number of defects seen in a system
  • Measure the maintainability: software needs to be easy to change so measure cost of changes and its evolution in time.

Practices

To inject quality in, Allan recommends those technical practices:

Experiment

Xanpan is a hybrid method built from pieces of other Agile processes and elsewhere. Do the same and create your own “xanpan”.

“Create your own process, don’t follow someone else’s prescription.” — Allan Kelly

Just do it: action over words

  • Identify a practice, tool, technique, whatever from somewhere else
  • Decide what it would mean to your team: what would you do differently
  • Set a time frame
  • Make the change
  • At the end of the frame: check
  • Decide to keep or drop

Wrap up

Xanpan is not a prescription.

Xanpan is the kind of stuff that should emerge from every agile teams when not constrained by some “agile” dogms.

Discover slides of my talk about it here:

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