The product development game

During the Innovation Games® summit held in San Jose, CA in January, 2013, Tom Grant gave a keynote presentation titled “It is time to change the rules at work”.

Grant characterized the state of product development as follows:

  1. Complexity: Our software products are so complex to develop, maintain and implement.
  2. Poor customer insight: We as developers don’t understand what the customer value is. Therefore, our software is not providing new opportunities to the customer which creates business growth or addressing real pains.
  3. Lack of understanding of how customer is like at work: Generally, we donot understand the customer’s world. Developers in many cases are expected to create products for various industries, for example, banking and health care.
  4. No honest conversation with our customer: Normally we don’t like customers or at least we are not sincerely trying to help them. We even call out them by phrases like:
    They don’t know what they want or even we claim that they don’t know their own business. The customer change their minds too often. No one is available to answer development team questions and so forth.
  5. Dysfunctional team: The cross-functional team who develops the product lacks productive communication. Team members don’t collaborate to figure the business value to our customer. Moreover, team members are from different non-aligned groups which add inefficiencies. Continue reading

4 disciplines of execution (4DX)

The 4DX is structured approach for execution to achieve organization’s strategic goals. This post describes synergy of 4DX with Agile product management.

The dilemma is that organizations are not short of ideas and strategy but they lack the capability of execution to achieve them. The 4DX uses the analogy whirlwind to describe the urgency and daily job which distract the organization from achieving its goals.

Continue reading


This post represents my own reflections on Diana Larsen’s book “Liftoff: Launching Agile Teams & Projects“.

Project chartering is well established project management practice. However, the stress in agile chartering is on the collaborative and carefully designed activities to create the charter. Project chartering is part of project liftoff.

A successful project liftoff can set it on the right orbit required to arrive at its destination. It is not a guarantee of success, however, it is a proactive risk mitigation to propel the project on the right orbit. Skipping the liftoff is a recipe for failure .

Liftoff is a session which should be carefully planned for to:

  1. Estimate required time for Liftoff session, participants, agenda, logistics.
  2. Distribute materials before the liftoff session.
  3. The pre work session is a group activity that is led by the product owner/sponsor to vet project idea, arrive at project purpose, estimate the budget, identify the product owner and enforce sponsor commitment.

The liftoff session to be successful must serve to:

  1. Create strong sense of ownership among participants on its outcomes.
  2. Sponsor demonstrates his commitment to the project.
  3. The session should be based on activities but those activities should be well designed to serve real world purpose of the project.
  4. Create charter for every team involved in the project.

Liftoff session activities can include retrospective to reconcile the team by having shared understanding on what happened in previous phases of the project or in other projects.

Liftoff can be used to improve the situation of existing projects. I see real world examples of canceled projects because of not meeting anticipated benefits. Those projects were set to navigate in wrong orbit. The project community who interacts directly with such failed projects concluded that the project is taking them to no where or to a destination they did not want.

An outcome of project liftoff is  the charter which should serve to have all project team and community agree on purpose, have alignment needed to achieve the purpose, and provide shared understanding on the context and boundaries of the project.

Chartering is a collaborative endeavor that focuses on the whole system and the interdependencies among all people involved in the project. Charter undergoes continuous improvement throughout the project, therefore, our aim in chartering session is to have a Good Enough For Now (GEFN) version of  the charter.

Resisting Visualization

Once you visualize the work, you can improve it! I have heard this in many occasions and from prominent experts. When you visualize the work,  you actually arrive at shared visible understanding which allow actions to be logical consequence. Actions are stemmed from understanding the principles of flow, bottlenecks and the five focusing principles.

Resistance means the effect of change has started. It resembles our body resistance to the medicines which indicates our bodies are actual responding. Continue reading

Inadequacy of project Percentage of Completion (PoC)

PoC is a widely used metric in traditional organizations to monitor their projects. Normally such projects can have 40+ people with multiple vendors involved. The project is structured into teams some implement Agile others are not. Sometimes the program management wants to become Agile but they are not sure how to structure their team for meeting compliance and regulation expectations, as well as inherited organization’s practices. Continue reading