This is part of a series of posts I would like to write regarding practical techniques I have learnt, read about and used in Agile Software Development.

waste snake head

I would like to start with the Waste Snake. I heard about it while at a Scrum Master user group meeting in Glasgow and I introduced it in a recent project I worked on.

Goal

The main goal of this practice is to keep the snake small.

Rules

The Waste Snake feeds on tasks that are not relevant to the current agreed Iteration Goal. He is just delighted when people get interrupted and forced to enbark on another 3 hours unscheduled meeting or an apparently vital tasks that need to be done immediately because the world starvation depends on them!

Jokes apart, the rules are very simple:

  • Get a deck of blank 3' x 5' index cards and make it accessible to the team.
  • Everytime a team member gets interrupted, he/she will write on an index card the motive of the interruption and the time spent on it.
  • He/She will add the index card to the waste snake on the wall.

Outcome

I found it to be a very powerful tool especially in Retrospective meetings as it is a way to record interruptions that de-focused the team from the goal of the iteration.
It is also a really good way to find out if there are repetitive tasks that continuously interrupt the team during iterations.

An example would be:

waste snake head

Dave, a developer in the team, gets asked to join long unscheduled sales call every Tuesday when John, the sales man, is in the office. Dave notes each call on an index card and places it on the waste snake. At the retrospective meeting, after analysing the waste snake cards, the team asks John in to ask him about the importance of these calls and arrange an agreed time for them. For planning future iterations the team will need to consider the time spent on those calls.

This is a simplistic example, there are others which could include unexpected things like a Dev machine blowing up, the CI server getting stuck, an online tool your teams relies on being down.

Freebies

This is what a waste snake would look like:

waste snake head
waste snake head
snake body

Feel free to download the snake head and tail and use it on your wall!

Here's the link to a PDF file with the images: Waste Snake

About Author

Simone Vicentini

Simone Vicentini

Creative Agilist, Scrum Master, Tinker, Developer.