short link: http://goo.gl/emFytP
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Motivation: Misunderstandings can arise as to who is currently responsible for work that is in progress. A means is needed for showing that work is actively being done and by whom. Queries about that work can then be directed to the appropriate team member. Conversely, work that is no longer clearly represented can be actioned and completed before additional work is drawn from a backlog.
Structure: Enqueued items are taken off the backlog by developers, at which point they become work in progress. A developer will immediately attach his or her avatar to the item to indicate that they are progressing it. Once the item is complete, they will remove their avatar from it, and are free at that point to progress another item from the backlog assuming that the Work In Progress limit would not be exceeded. Note that each developer has only one avatar, and can therefore only take off one backlog item at a time before completing it. The Work In Progress limit cannot therefore exceed the number of developers. Developers are allowed to collaborate on the same item; it is therefore permissible for an item to have multiple avatars. No item that is in progress should ever be without an avatar.
Applicability: Avatars can be used on both Scrum and Kanban boards to show which team member is progressing each item. Single Piece Flow obviates the need for avatars since all developers will, by definition, be working on the same item.
Consequences: Avatars reduce the potential for confusion in the team regarding who is progressing work. They also encourage the limitation of WIP since each developer only has one avatar to attach to an item.
Implementation: Cartoon characters are a popular choice of avatar. They can be printed out, potentially laminated, and then attached to index cards on a physical Scrum or Kanban board. Fridge magnets can be used on magnetic boards. Electronic boards may not always support avatar images, but most will allow the name of an item’s assignee to be registered and displayed instead.