Category Archives: inception

Build-Measure-Learn : Without spending a fortune!

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!

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DFD Prioritisation

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!

DFD Prioritization

“Transformation secret sauce – Part 1”

“Figure out the why’s early on” – Now a days most of the leaders are trying to get their teams “agile” although very few clearly have an objective behind being “agile”. So that’s exactly what we figured out in early days of the transformation, help the management clearly articulate the benefits they hope to acquire after being agile.

“Keep calm, plan baby steps” – You’re not just trying to introduce new processes, tools but also changing the way people are used to getting certain things done. Plan baby steps of introducing change, keep your teams motivated and don’t forget to highlight the “small wins”.

“Win trust from the people than from management” – If you win trust from people on the ground, it’s often easier to propagate the change more than giving them hours of gyan in trainings and meeting rooms.

Stay tuned for the next set of ingredients for the perfect transformation secret sauce!

3 in a row!

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.

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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!

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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.

Learnings from recent discovery workshop

“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.