Epic Focus: Measure your way to a better time to market

There are several recurring wishes our clients bring to us, one of which is speed, to improve time to market. However, there is no dial that we can turn to deliver value faster. Software teams are not like cars; there’s no accelerator pedal. Even if we try to speed up by adding more resources, in many cases, the actual bottleneck will just become more apparent.

In our search for increased delivery of value, we hunt for these bottlenecks. No two contexts are the same, and for this story, we have a particular context in mind. Symptoms in different organizations are often similar, and our story might apply to your setting if you recognize the problems we encountered.

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Multi products Scrum teams, how do you deal with that?

Multi Products Scrum teams are in reality observed often. One team serving different stakeholders and customer segments. Both would like to use the same people to work on their improvements.

In most organizations there tend to be more products than teams. While scaling frameworks give solutions on how to cope with a big Product and orchestrating value delivery among multiple teams. But how to deal with many products and a few Scrum teams?

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Agile Chef

Agile Chef

As a real ‘Foody’ I love to spend hours in the kitchen and experimenting. I also watch a lot of TV shows and documentaries about food. The other day I was watching an episode on Michelin star Chef’s and this one was about Richard van Oostenbrugge. He recently received his first Michelin star in his own restaurant ‘212’ in Amsterdam.

While I was watching it suddenly struck me that Chef Richard and his team were actually working quite in an Agile way. ‘We take a dish and try to improve this again and again, instead of starting some new every time’. For me this is a great example of ‘Inspect’ and ‘Adapt’. Continuously and in small steps improve your product until it is perfect and worth of a Michelin star. If you have dinner in restaurant ‘212’ you can look from all tables straight into the kitchen. All the food is prepared right in front of you. For me a perfect example of ‘Transparency’.

Scrum Values

So, what about some of the Scrum values like courage, focus, commitment, respect and openness in a restaurant kitchen?

Without courage there will never evolve a new Michelin star worthy dish. It takes a lot of commitment to put in the needed work hours day in day out. You need a sharp focus on quality, preparing methods and ingredients to get and to keep your Michelin stars. All team members in the kitchen, from the dishwasher to the chef have a lot of respect for each other and they all need each other to deliver the perfect dish. And finally, there is lots of quick feedback amongst the team members, a sure sign of openness.

I really like the extreme focus of a Michelin star restaurant on the end product and to see all teams work close together. For the perfect end result and best customer experience you also need the ‘black brigade’ and they also need to be aligned perfectly.

All in all, I think a Michelin star restaurant (and a lot of other restaurants) are a perfect example of an Agile mindset. Next time you go out to a nice restaurant put on your Agile glasses and see what elements of their way of working you can use in your team or organization.

 

EventStorming and how to monitor Domain Events for product management

We design, model, and create software to solve a problem for our customer (this can also be a customer from within the same company). Only when we do so, we focus naturally on solving the happy path and want to deliver that value as soon as possible. The only problem here is that we will always come to a point where we get corner cases or business exceptions, and the question starts to arise, what shall we do? Is it worth the effort to invest in building a solution for this, or can we leave this function out of the system because it is not worth it? To answer these question, we want, if possible, feedback from the system to know this. We can quickly get this feedback making it explicit in the form of a Domain Event during our EventStorming and start monitoring it. This way we can leave the options open until we know what to do.

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The secret to making people buy your product

There is no greater waste than building something extremely efficient, well architectured (is that a word?), with high quality that nobody wants.

Yet we see it all the time. We have the Agile manifesto and Scrum probably to thank for that (the seeing bit.) “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software”. It’s the valuable bit that is embodied by the Product Owner in Scrum, or “the value maximiser”.

Lean Startup has taught us that we suffer from cognitive bias and simply assume we know what customers want, and therefor should treat our requirements as assumptions. Get out of the building and ask our customers! We all know that Henry Ford would disagree. But could both be right.

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Verbal Turn Indicators For Intercultural Product Owners

Jujutsu exams are coming up. One of the things that examiners want to see in jujutsu is the use of go-no-sen, sen-no-sen and tai-no-sen. Go-no-sen means that you respond to an action of your opponent, tai-no-sen means you act simultaneously and sen-no-sen means you take the initiative and act before the opponent has a chance.

When we debate product features, roadmaps, implementations, marketing plans etc. this happens all the time. We listen to what the other person has to say and respond (go-no-sen) or we interrupt and try to take over the discussion (tai-no-sen).
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Don’t Build That Product

At the Agile Chef Conference I facilitated a workshop where participants could experience how Aikido can be used to resolve conflicts on the work floor as well by applying verbal Aikido. At the end of the session someone asked me to demonstrate the best defence against a sword attack; I responded by turning around and running as fast as I could.

So how is that in Product Management? what ideas are ideas you should really run away from?

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The Best New Years Resolution: Agile Product Management

Agile Product Management is grounded in the Jobs to be done theory and Lean startup principles. In my book “The Product Samurai” I described how you can effectively apply these techniques to be a better Product Manager, but what I didn’t’ cover was why not everybody is doing this already?

Making up for that, and unveiling the seed conditions for the next level of Product Management, I am pleased to give you the best new years resolution: Agile Product Management

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The Customer Pain Map

Customer Pain

Customer Pain

“Ouch, that really hurt.” “What was it?” my sparring partner replied. “The choke or the overstretching of the elbow joint?” “The quick throw, I had no time for proper fall breaking.” I replied.

It happens in our sport, we try and experiment and try to find the best way to perform a technique. The goal is not to inflict pain but to figure out what works and what not. Knowing where the pain is and whether it affects the recipient is important beyond jujutsu and in fact is the core of Product Management.

Let’s look at a handy visualization of customer pain to help Product Owners and Product Managers to prioritize.

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Better guesswork for Product Owners

Estimation, if there is one concept hard to grasp in product development it will be when things are done. With done I don’t mean the releasable increment from the iteration, but rather what will be in it? or in Product Management speak: “what problem does it solve for our customer?”.

I increasingly am practicing randori (sparring matches in judo) and find it has increased my agile fu. It’s a constant adjustment of balance, creating opportunities rather than waiting for them to unfold, follow through fast or the opportunity we created is gone. It’s hard work, time boxed and most of the time I loose learn.

The key thing in both situations is that we don’t have a lot of time to estimate what will work or not. We can’t plan very far ahead and we have almost no data to make assumptions on, we do know however the extreme boundaries of the assumptions and iterate from there.

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