The workflow on the wall

Below is the figure representing the snapshot for the workflow previously introduced: ordering coffee at Starbucks.

Ordering coffee at Starbucks  - Snapshot 

At Starbucks, typically you will get your order within minutes. Also you can see what is happening at a given moment. You can see how many people are in line, you can see how many orders have piled up for the barista, and you can even smell your coffee as it is being poured into the cup. This is not the case with SW development!

In SW development, typically a small requirement will take from hours to days to complete. Also, you can not see how many requirements are currently in analysis; or how many requirements are currently being coded or tested. As a matter of fact, it is not easy to “see” the work as it is moving along the work stages. Here is where the magic happens: the card wall makes things more visible! 

The basic idea of the card wall is to have the workflow on the wall itself. Below is a photo taken of an Agile team card wall.

Cards attached to the wall. This is the card wall. A quick description of the card wall snapshot in this figure would be: one card is at the In Analysis stage, five cards are at the Ready for Dev stage, three cards card are at the In Dev stage, another card is at the Ready for BA acceptance stage, three cards are at the Ready for QA stage, five cards are at the In QA stage, and eight cards are at the Ready for SAT stage. Also it looks like the team uses photos to represent people working on the cards. The cards have color coding (there are three different card colors in this photo); the cards also have various notes on them, a numeric identifier, and stickies attached to them.

As the wall is a two dimensional surface, the card wall is presented in a tabular format, where the work stages are the columns, and the work cards, people cards, and other work related marks fill up the space in the wall. These cards might be organized in a row or not. It all depends on the team and how they represent and organize their work in the wall. You will find a few Agile card wall variations and a few Agile team card wall photos in this book. However, you should visit the website for viewing and sharing many flavors of Agile card walls.

The card wall can be viewed as a communication tool for rapidly acquiring and disseminating knowledge among members of a workflow team. The main goal is to give all team members a shared view of the current workflow process status. To this end, the card wall has visual representations for work stages, people, work, and work related attributes such as size, complexity, order, groups, priority, limit, and feedback.

The card wall helps scheduling and planning readjustment.  By looking at the wall you know which stage a card is in. This simple visual inspection enables you to identify early enough any cards deviating from plan, and do something about it.