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May 31, 2006

What’s your Bus Number?

I really like when an idea can be illustrated simply and effectively in a simple term, one that everyone can understand. I recently came across one of those terms on the web and shared it at the AgileKC group last night.

The term is ‘bus number’ as in “What’s the bus number of this project?” The underlying idea is how many people need to be removed from the project (walk out in front of the proverbial bus)  before the project is in jeopardy. If you have one developer who is the only person that can only work on a specific part of the code, and a hundred developers that can work on everything else, your bus number is one. If every developer can work on every aspect of the code, and you can reasonably bring new developers up to speed on all aspects of the code if needed, you can answer the question by saying, ‘There aren’t enough busses in New York City to affect this project.’ (Swaggering while walking away after saying this is optional.)

The goal is to have a very high bus number, or said another way have a lot of code ownership in the project. But code ownership might be difficult for everyone to understand. The concept of a bus number isn’t. The context of the conversation last night was in relation to pair programming. The proposition I was making was that pair programming is an effective way to increase the bus number on a project.

I don’t know if there will be a big visible chart in our war room for bus number in the near future, but if I come across a project that code ownership (or the lack thereof) can cause a spectacular failure (ala Scott Ambler) I think I would create a chart on a 3ft. x 3ft. piece of paper that had the title Bus Number, and have one element, the project’s bus number. It would be effective in generating the appropriate conversations and would most likely put focus on resolving the issue.

So what’s your bus number?

Posted by martinolson on May 31, 2006 | Permalink


my bus number is 742

Posted by: safari | Apr 7, 2010 8:04:20 PM

Veey rude bus 3979

Posted by: rashaad | Jul 2, 2011 10:27:37 AM

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