Jul 12, 2017 · by Daniel Stangu

Seiri and Seiton: The Transformation of Documentation

In the previous article about agile transformation, we introduced the documentation approach we, at Softvision, have adopted as part of our delivery partnerships. As mentioned, what we did was look back at how 5S transformed the lean agile practice. The first two steps were to focus on the elimination of any unnecessary clutter and how to visually manage the information. When engaging with customers we spend time identifying what is relevant and necessary information and what is “clutter”; that is what in 5S is identified as the Seiri/Sort phase. Once identified the goal of Seiton/Set in Order is to effectively and efficiently store that information.

So why do we care about these processes, and how do they help with agile delivery? Believe it or not, an agile approach to documentation can address buggy code, missed deadlines and unhappy customers.

Seiri/Sort and the Agile Mindset.

The Agile Manifesto stated that we value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
Working software over comprehensive documentation;
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation;
Responding to change over following a plan;

Although it refers to documentation, agile principles do not set any guidelines on what and how to document, but the principle behind the agile manifesto is to deliver value to the customer. That means that the time we spend delivering our services should be spent doing something that adds value to the customer, avoiding wasting time in tasks that add no value. Does that mean we should not document anything? Not at all, but in order to avoid wasting time, documentation should occur only when it is necessary.

So, in order to avoid the “clutter” these are some of the questions that we ask ourselves:

  1. Is the information needed to support development or to provide functional references?
  2. Who is the target audience: a new, existing or future team or department?
  3. How will the people use that information? As a reference or as a manual?

Armed with these questions, during the project kick-off we will focus on creating documentation with high level information about the epics, identifying the main characteristic of the product. Most importantly we will look at best practices on interacting with the customer: how to communicate daily status/blockers, how to file a good bug. These are such basic tasks but without the proper information provided we could never establish the trust needed to be successful in the partnerships we have with our customers. Different people have different ways of communicating, so these initial steps will be accomplished by iterating 1 or 2 sprints on what is the best format.

Seiton/Set in Order

Once we have the basic documentation completed we will focus on creating the onboarding process documentation that usually will consist of:

  • Customer intro
  • Customer’s organization
  • Overall architecture
  • Methodologies
  • Tools
  • Release cycle
  • Project workflows
  • Specific teams area

This is where the “visual management” will play an important role. We have just enough information to get someone pointed in the right direction through our customer’s documentation.

In Agile, documentation will evolve and stakeholders will look to keep the information as light as possible, but documents serve as the form of persistent communication especially when non co-located team members are involved. So, now that the sort and set in order are defined we look forward to the next steps, where we invite everyone to take ownership in the cleanliness of the “information area”. That will be something that we will cover in our next post.

Daniel Stangu

Daniel Stangu

Guild Master: Agile Transformation
15 years ago Daniel started his journey in the software industry at Softvision Romania. He moved to US andworked at companies like Nokia and Dell on agile implementation and engineering processes, before joining Softvision once again 3 years ago. He is an early adopter of new technologies and interested in how they affect and change the way people work, live and communicate.
Daniel Stangu
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