July 21, 2012

Burn down charts @Home are the best thing ever!

In one of my latest posts, Sandra commented about helping a teacher grading exams using the burn chart.
Now, I know that you are wondering two things.
1. How do you use a burn down chart to manage our tasks?
2. What on earth is a burn down chart?
Luckily, I’m here to answer both questions.

What is a burn down chart?

 burn down chart is used by a Scrum team to track their progress. They have specific amount of tasks they need to complete in a specific amount of time, or a specific amount of content. The burn down chart allows the team to visualize the progress they made, over the work they have left.
Our burn down chart is used to gain visibility into our own tasks - meaning, what is the amount of work we have left to do, before the chart burns down to nothing.
You can manage the burn down chart on your whiteboard, or on Excel - it’s up to you.

1. How do you use a burn down chart to manage your tasks?
First, draw two axis.
Y : days of expected work
X: for the effort we need to complete
Lets take the example I told you about - a teacher who needs to grade exams. For sake of the example, she has 150 exams to grade over 10 days.
So the X axis is 150 (the number of exams she has to grade) and the Y axis schedules each day’s progress.
We start off with 150 exams.



On the first day, we graded 30 exams, leaving 120. After two days, we’ve graded 40 exams (we slacked off on the second day), so there are 110 left. And so on.

Date
work left
Work today
0
150
30
1
120
10
2
110
13
3
97

4


5


6


7


8


9


10




As we’re using a whiteboard, at the end of each day we mark a small dot with the number of exams left each day. per that day. As you can see, at the end of the second day, we put a dot in the 120 and 2 junction.

But we aren’t done yet. We also want to see if we are behind or ahead of schedule. I mean, we’ve only got 10 days to grade 150 exams - how can we tell if we’re ahead or falling behind?
Simple. Draw a straight line from start to finish, to show the average progress rate required.



In our case, we need to grade 15 exams a day to reach our goal. Now all it takes is one quick look at the chart to see - if we’re below the line, we’re ahead of schedule. If we’re above the line, we’d better get cracking.
As we enjoy making life difficult for our exam-grading imaginary selves lets say we were sick for two days, and only got 2 exams graded.
You can see the effects immediately.


We need to get back on track. Maybe we need to put in some extra effort, and grade a whole lot more than 15 exams a day, or we should say that we’re returning the exams three days later - whatever we do, we know exactly where we stand.


This is, of course, a very simple burn down chart. There are a lot we can do with these charts, adding more levels of understanding and elaboration. But for the sake of  “keep it simple” we’ll stop here.
To Sum Up

Our burn down chart is used to gain visibility into our own tasks. We can see the amount of work left to do, before the chart burns down to nothing.
It  helps us make decisions and changes based on what’s really happening.
      X axis for days of expected work
      Y axis for effort we need to complete
      Ideal  for  expected progress
      Real line for the current progress



References:
Scrum and XP from the Trenches;how we do Scrum;Version 2.2;2007-04-21;st 
Henrik Kniberg;henrik.kniberg crisp.se

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