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In Progress vs. Dev, QA

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When we build the team’s board for the first time there are many times the question of how to represent work in progress, how to show what’s going on between “Ready/Committed” (The backlog of the sprint, items ready to be developed) and “Done”.

There are usually two main options.

The first option is to have the below four columns:

  • Dev – WIP (Work On Progress)
  • Dev – Done
  • QA – WIP
  • QA – Done

For teams moving from the waterfall or practicing a variance of Scrum-But (we do scrum but …) this pattern is not too frightening and preserves a respectful barrier between Dev and QA.

The second option is to have just one column between “Committed” and “Done”: “In progress”.

As I’ve written before in another post, if stories are small enough we shouldn’t need to have the four columns. That’s a trick here, though.

The issue is similar to the chicken and egg question: what came first? If we move to just one column prematurely, while dev and QA work is quite separate, we will not see where things stand. Cards will be stuck for a long time in the “in progress” column, waiting for someone to do something.

On the other hand, not moving to one column preserves the separation between QA and Dev.

The solution I found for this is having an open discussion with the team (the entire team), laying out the options, and trying to get them to make a decision. My experience shows that in most cases the team will opt for one column. This will usually come near the end of a workshop in which we talk agile, scrum, etc. I explain that moving to one column will require a change in the way they work.

As long as the decision is made by the team it usually works. I’ve seen teams go through this change, starting to work closely together. There’s a lot of energy at the beginning and after some days issues start to surface and the team handles them.

If the team opts to stay in Dev, QA separation that’s fine. We can raise the issue again some weeks later, in a retrospective session, opening the issue for another discussion.

So, what is it for you? In Progress or Dev, QA?

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