What We Believe About Agile

Happy New Year! We hope that 2015 started great for you. To kick off what we expect to be more frequent blogging, this post describes what we believe about Agile. I'm motivated to write this for two reasons - to explicitly state our point of view and to prepare for a Certified ScrumMaster class that I'm teaching this week.

Agile is four values and twelve principles found on the Agile Manifesto home page and on the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto page. That's it. We believe that if an organization of people works together in a way that is aligned to these values and principles that the organization is Agile. We approach all of our teaching, coaching and other consulting from this point of view.

Agile isn't daily meetings, user stories, continuous integration, product owners or other related activities, artifacts or roles. Agile is a mindset of collaboration to create great products incrementally and iteratively, frequently adjusting based on changes in the world around us and what we learn.

A group of people could work in a way that is Agile with a model of interaction that they invent. In other words, you don't need Scrum, Extreme Programming, SAFe, Kanban or any other framework to be Agile. However, frameworks certainly help people execute efficiently and consistently.

We created Applied Frameworks because we believe in fulfilling the needs of people and organizations to be more effective and happier in their work to produce great products that meet and exceed their customers' needs. We believe that an Agile mindset enables us to accomplish WHY we exist.

This year we want to help you and your organization find your most effective and happiest state of execution and hope this is your best year yet. Let's go!


10 user stories for a #prodmgmt Christmas (plus 1)

What do you want for Christmas? How about addressing these issues, expressed in the form of user stories?

  1. As the video technician in the family, I want my wife to be able to use our TV setup without training so she doesn’t complain at me. [Logitech Harmony Smart Control]
  2. As a coffee snob, I want to create my own blends for the Keurig machine so I can enjoy every cup. [Ekobrew Refillable K-Cup]
  3. As a video watcher, I want to watch what I want to watch wherever I want to watch it. [Netflix]
  4. As a person who admires good design, I want to see a photo depicting the weather in my favorite cities. [Yahoo Weather]
  5. As a safety-conscious homeowner, I want to be able to quiet my fire alarm without covering it with a shower cap. [Nest Protect
  6. As a traveling consultant I want a Bluetooth headset that works all day so I don’t have to recharge it until bedtime. [Plantronics Voyager Legend and Charging Case]
  7. As a voracious reader, I want my entire library with me when I travel so I can read whatever I want to read wherever I am. [Kindle Paperwhite]
  8. As an advocate of excellence in design, I want anything/everything from Apple.
  9. As a singer/songwriter, I want everyone to enjoy some good music by buying my album called "Years and Years" (or my son's album This Winter Room).

plus one more: 

Inspiration: Take time to work on the business...

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 Take time to work on the business, not just in the business.—Richard Rhodes

According to some surveys, product managers and product marketing managers spend up to 50% of their time in unplanned activities. They’re the janitors of the product, cleaning up the messes made by others. 

As many of us approach the end of the fiscal year, now is the time to look beyond product firefighting and plan to start the new year with a leadership view. Take time to work on the business. Let’s look beyond the daily product difficulties and perform some retrospectives. And not just development process retrospectives -- extend your view to the business objectives and your business planning processes and also your market review and market successes. 

What will you do differently next year? Take time to work on the business. Look at your product process from from idea to retrospective.

 

Inspiration: Your enemy is not piracy, but obscurity

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Your enemy is not piracy, but obscurity.
—Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media.

 I’ve often heard people express concern about talking about their ideas externally. “What if someone steals my idea?” “What if our competitors find out?”

Some companies’ paranoia is laughable. They worry about piracy when they should worry about obscurity. They worry more about protecting an idea than they do about making sure it’s an idea the market will embrace.

Frankly, I’ve never been too concerned about non-disclosure agreements. Sure, I use ‘em. And I sign ‘em. But my rule is this: Don’t share information with people you don’t trust. Don’t show your confidential roadmap and new product ideas to anyone you don’t trust. In fact, I’m reluctant to give confidential documents to some people inside the company. (You know the ones I mean. They think ‘confidential’ means ‘distribute immediately’.)

I prefer to build a personal product advisory. A small group of customers and colleagues I can talk to about an idea and be assured they’ll keep it to themselves. A few people I can have discussions with and know the discussion won’t show up in a blog post or in a tweet. Or in a contract!

Got a great idea? Test it with your friends and colleagues. Pick some favorite customers and get their feedback.

If you consider how hard it is to create a great product—and to launch it successfully—how likely is it that someone can steal your idea and get it in the market before you can?

Yes, ideas are precious but don’t be so afraid that you fail to share your ideas with others.

Inspiration: The way to get things done...

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The way to get things done is not to mind who gets the credit of doing them.—Benjamin Jowett, University of Oxford.

Robin just wants to do the work. She is interested in it for the learning experience. She isn’t the slightest bit worried about getting the credit. Just that the work will be fun, it will be challenging, and it will be good for the company.

In the Invasion of Normandy during World War II, there were three days when the conditions were right: fair weather with the right moon for a nighttime invasion. (Fun fact: In preparation, the BBC appealed for holiday pictures and snapshots of France. Those of the Normandy beaches were singled out to create detailed geological maps of the area.) By the time 6 June 1944 arrived, the 160,000 troops had been on standby for three days. Imagine the stress of waiting and waiting and waiting for a decision.

One of the reasons that agile methods are so effective is they focus on getting stuff done. Do a little work, show your results, and then move to the next step. Avoid analysis paralysis.

One of the problems with transparency is that your team sees your vision, buys into it, and is ready to go. But then there’s often the tedious waiting for a decision to do what everyone already agrees is a good idea.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when people enjoy doing the work. Not just talking about it, planning for it, defining its parameters. Just. Do. The. Work.