Wheel of Technical Debt

So we have loads of stuff still in our office from http://buildstuff.lt. I was just sitting with some of the people in the office and one thing may prove to be quite useful.

Technical debt is always an issue on teams. We always say we will work on it and don’t. There are other ugly tasks we deal with at well like writing that pesky documentation or a simple example that people can use. It is easy to get too caught up on getting new stuff out to deal with such tasks and they build up over time to the point they are overwhelming.

I have an idea that may help with this.

We have this in our office now:

spinner

The idea is to not put technical debt/documentation/etc cards in the backlog. Instead put them on the spinner, you can always put them directly in the backlog if you want to explicitly prioritize them. If you try to add a card and there is not space you must make space for it.

When you finish a task you spin the wheel. If it lands on a card you take it and do it, if not go to the backlog.

This has what I believe to be a few benefits. The first is that you end up with a fixed size buffer for these types of tasks. The second is that the wheel reaches an equilibrium on when things should be scheduled (the more things there are, the more likely you are to land on one).

And of course its a bit of fun!

Some of the guys are hopefully going to be able to give it a try or if you try it please let me know any feedback you have on it.

3 Comments

  1. Joshua Lewis
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink | Reply

    I see one caveat here. If the technical debt is not impacting on the team’s ability to produce backlog work, ie the technical debt isn’t making it harder to understand and change the parts of the system that need to be changed, then there is no economic incentive to change the ‘bad’ part of the system. In this case, its just developers wanting to feel good about themselves, there is no business case.

    • Posted December 15, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

      “the technical debt isn’t making it harder to understand and change the parts of the system that need to be changed”

      not sure that is really technical debt if there is no economic incentive to change the “bad” part of the system; you might say that those parts are out of fashion maybe

  2. Posted December 7, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Love the creative approach to something that deserves a seat at the table IMO.

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