Cloned Avatar

Cloned Avatar
: Increase the Work In Progress beyond 1 item per team member

Proverbs: You can’t be in two places at once; Good and quickly seldom meet

Also Known As: Split Avatar

Motivation: If development team members are given unclear priorities in a high-pressure environment, they can be tempted to start development on an item without first completing the work they have in  progress. They can then claim to those exerting the pressure that work is underway.

Structure: A Development Team member accepts a backlog item on behalf of the team, and thereby brings it into Work In Progress. His or her avatar is placed on the item to show that responsibility has been taken for its progression. Before the item is complete, another enqueued item is taken off the backlog and brought into progress. The team member then either places a duplicate avatar on the work (cloned avatar) or spans both items with a single avatar (split avatar).

Applicability: Avatar cloning or splitting  is common where product ownership is poor. A good product owner establishes clear priorities . Pull will be exerted on work that is currently in progress rather than unstarted work. As such, team members will neither be expected nor encouraged to break WIP limits.

Consequences: When team members clone or split their avatars they are typically breaking WIP limits. Each team member should only have one avatar and as such the team WIP limit should be no greater than the number of team members. Exceeding the WIP limit leads to an increase in batch sizes, reduced throughput, and an increased depreciation of work partially completed.

: It is common to find an avatar straddling two or more items in progress on a Scrum or Kanban board, or for items to be placed in proximity to one avatar so as to imply simultaneous progression (split avatar). Some teams normalize this dysfunction by mistakenly allowing team members more than one avatar (cloned avatar).