Presented this lean startup experience report at Agile Goa 2013 and Agile India 2014 conference. Here’s to those who don’t want to spend fortunes validating their product idea!
I conducted the “Prune the product tree” workshop with a group of Product Managers at one of our client. The prezi was quite light weight, mostly used as conversation placeholder and to have a format to the whole workshop.
PS – Embedding the prezi into wordpress – #win, struggled with it for quite some time.
Recently I happened to try out a new prioritisation technique at one of the clients and the group found it really helpful. I am going to call it – “DFD prioritisation”.
Most of the product management teams in agile environment are used to hearing MVP, MOSCOW prioritisation techniques but often find it difficult to categorise different epics/stories in “Must, Should, Could or Would have” categories.
In an attempt to ease this I suggested using “DFD prioritisation” where DFD stands for –
Delighters – Features which will delight the customers.
Frills – Features which customers will like but can live without for the first release.
Disgustors – Features which customers will absolutely hate.
I used it in conjunction with the popular “Prune the product tree” exercise by Innovation Games. Instead of placing features on leaves and branches, we used the DFD level of priorities on the product tree. Teams found it quite easy to classify the features into one of the DFD categories! Done!
Next time, I’m going to use big posters with DFD sections on the product tree!
Since the time I worked on an interesting time boxed, rapid prototyping engagement with a client based out of London, I’ve been an advocate of making everything visual in the team room. For me, story walls were done and dusted, although there are quite a few benefits of using story walls, they’ve become a stereotype. Just with a little creativity there’s so much more you can get out of them.
Here’s how to get started with an “experience wall”:
Start with the product backlog. I’ve always had hard time visually representing the product backlog. How do we make sure that the product management, development and iteration/project management team quickly gets “just enough” information about what they’re working towards? If your team is working on multiple user goals in a release, how do we keep track of the progress on each of them? Here are the variations I’ve tried
This could be the simplified version of your sprint/iteration wall. The specific one in example was for a rapid prototyping, 6 week product idea validation engagement. This essentially serves as a radiator for the development team so depending on the extend of visibility desired, you can tweak the columns.
What we’ll get
Now this is something really interesting. None of the workspaces I had seen earlier ever thought about “visually highlighting” what the product/development/UI/UX team is working towards. Often times, the team only knows about it during sprint/iteration showcase. With this section on your experience wall, you can now visualize the progress, customer feedback, focus areas on wireframes.
Once you bring all these together on a big wall, side-by-side, you’ve set up “experience wall”, not just a story wall! Now forget about waiting for iteration showcases to demo your progress, just walk your customer/team through the wall everyday during standup/scrum meeting and you’ve covered pretty much everything that team’s working on!
I’ve been part of 3 discovery/inception workshops in last 3 months. It’s been an amazing experience to work with some of the smartest ThoughtWorkers. Needless to say, different people bring in different perspectives, skill sets and I’ve learnt a lot from them especially around inception preparation, workshop facilitation, product management/lifecycle and in general keeping myself motivated while going through extended work hours, excruciating travels and depressing weather!
I am going to share few of the key techniques and learnings mastered over this journey.
1. Coming up with an agenda
First and the foremost, don’t spend too much energy in planning the agenda for these workshops. It’s important to make sure you have key stakeholders involved, if there are too many of them, block their calendars upfront. Try and come up with objectives for the entire inception duration based on your understanding of the client problem. Now work backward from these objectives to the workshop sessions. Think about which workshops/sessions will help you achieve these objectives. Key is having a rough plan and revisiting the plan every evening after daily retrospective with your team. Here’s what worked the best, a simple To-do, Doing, Done chart.
2. Inception preparation
Get your drawing toolset together and sketch out important posters like ground rules, parking lot etc. Effectiveness of your sessions depend on your ability to use these posters! An example is the way you can use ground rules, parking lot in case of arguments, off-track discussions. One of the team I worked with had too many creative heads on it and we decided to make the posters too beautiful, only to realise it made people conscious to put anything on them! No need to over-engineer, make them look neat and tidy that’s it! Along with the posters, make sure you run through a checklist of stationary required if the workshops are offsite. Here’s another example of the most common posters you’ll need on the first day!
3. Inception kickoff
Be confident, start with an ice-breaker session (Refer the gamestorming website for few examples or just use your creativity!) to make people feel comfortable with the new faces around. Keeping high energy level not just being the facilitator but also with the whole group makes a lot of difference. The sessions tend to be intense and it’s difficult to keep brains turned on throughout the day, plan for regular breaks.
Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll share few specific workshop activities from the last 3 inceptions.
“Don’t plan for every session upfront, have a rough session plan for first/next couple of days and keep re-visiting the plan every evening.”
I’ve seen some inception/discovery workshops in the past where teams kick-off with a tight, optimistic schedule for every single session for whole of 2-3 week duration. I’ve also seen people forcing themselves to stick to this plan, even when you have a feeling somewhere back of your mind that you need more time.
However, this approach will only be effective when you have a strong facilitator, extremely involved participation from stakeholders and facilitators ability to shuffle things around quickly and convincingly.