The path of least resistance towards one backlog

How could we create a path of least resistance towards one backlog?

A collection of multiple backlogs is NOT one backlog

Assuming that multiple teams are working on the same product, the below is a typical conversation between me and my fellow, who may be a friend in the community, a client in the organization or a student in the class.

[me] do you have one product backlog?

[fellow] yes, we do.

[me] how do you create this one backlog?

[fellow] we collect every team's backlog to make one backlog.

This is NOT one product backlog, but a collection of multiple product backlogs. They are not the same thing, as one product backlog means to prioritize as a whole, while a collection means to prioritize separately.

Accommodate constraint in actual backlog

[fellow] but, if we prioritize as a whole, we will find that some teams may need to work on domains that they are not familiar with. Though we desire for one backlog, we currently still have constraint.

[me] so then?

[fellow] we have to take our constraint into account when creating the actual backlog.

That way, the collection becomes the actual one backlog. In this solution, we accommodate the constraint in creating actual backlog, and further regard it as desired. It is illustrated by B1-loop in the below diagram. 

the path of least resistance towards one backlog - 1.jpg

Meanwhile, as the tension caused by the gap between desired backlog and actual backlog goes away, the fundamental solution of removing the constraint, illustrated by B2-loop, does not move forward. Thus, the constraint will stay forever. This creates the dynamic of "eroding goals".

Maintain desired backlog to keep tension

[fellow] what to do instead?

[me] maintain the desired backlog, so as to keep the tension

Let's maintain two backlogs - desired backlog and actual backlog, so that the tension is kept. This avoids "eroding goals" and creates the path of least resistance towards one backlog.

the path of least resistance towards one backlog - 2.jpg

One backlog for one team

The same dynamic may exist in one-team context too, though rarer than in multi-team context.

Sometimes, we may accommodate the constraint from team members in creating actual backlog, and mistake it as desired backlog.

In that case, maintaining the unconstrained desired backlog keeps the tension, thus creates the path of least resistance towards the real one backlog for one team.

The path of least resistance

Here are some further thoughts on the path of least resistance.

1. Personal vision

In fact, the path of least resistance is the name of a book about personal mastery, which is one of the five disciplines for organizational learning.

What do you want to create? That is your personal vision. The gap between the personal vision and the current reality provides creative tension, thus creates the path of least resistance.

2. Organizational vision

Not surprisingly, another discipline for organizational learning is shared vision. What does organization want to create? The resulting creative tension creates the path of least resistance too.

This is also similar to what I wrote in the article of "from change resistance to limits to growth" - create the common goal to be higher than status quo, in order to avoid the change resistance.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lv Yi published on October 3, 2019 9:45 AM.

Number of backlogs and multi-learning: 4) specialized feature team was the previous entry in this blog.

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