This is the fourth in a series of posts about “Managing” Software Development. If you missed the first three, you can find them here, here, and here.
Time to come clean. I am a kleptomaniac. I have been trying to cope with it all of my professional life. I can’t seem to help myself. I see a video, talk to someone, or read a blogpost and I immediately jump to a mode of “how can I use this in my work life”. All the tools in my virtual tool box have been stolen from someone else.
One of my most effective heists is the concept of a backlog. A backlog is also know as a todo list, a priority list, or even a honey-do list. Most folks are familiar with the concept of a backlog, yet it seems they disappear right before I start at a company. Rather than go into a long discussion about scrum, user stories, and backlogs, I am going to focus on an example that is closer to home for most of us. I am sure the concept of a honey-do lists have been around as long as the institution of marriage. Let’s take a look at that.
What is a honey-do list? With married couples and committed partners, a honey-do list is comprised of items/tasks/activities and is created for the purpose of prioritization and execution. Typical items on a honey-do list include things like paint the bedroom, clean the garage, fix the dishwasher, etc. The honey-do list itself doesn’t provide much value, but the resulting conversation between partners can create a common understanding of what should be done and what the priority is. A backlog in business is essentially the same thing. It is a list of things to that someone wants done, and the resulting conversation about the items on the list creates a similar common understanding between stakeholders and the team that actually does the work.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Agile thinking can stop right here. You have a tool that you can use. For those of you who are open to Agile concepts, what follows is critical. The tool in this post is the idea of a backlog (honey-do list). The real value comes not from the tool itself, but from the conversation that occurs as a result of the management and prioritization of the items on the list. That conversation doesn’t happen very often in most companies. Employees are told to get to work, without a clear understanding what needs to be done. Without an understanding of why the work needs to be done, employees lacking passion produce mediocre results at best. The creation of a backlog helps address both issues by encouraging the conversations that need to happen.
Common sense should tell you that a prioritized list will help an organization, yet backlogs often don’t exist or aren’t maintained. Take advantage and create backlogs. You won’t be sorry.
Thanks for coming in today.
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