Making Sense of Product Discovery: Two Playbooks Anyone Can Use

The room was packed. Erin, the Product Manager, had called for an emergency meeting. The product they had just launched wasn’t meeting expectations. Erin stated with a determined voice: “We need to do more Discovery”. The room went quiet.

With confused looks, the team glanced at each other: “What does she really mean?”. “What does she mean by ‘Discovery?’”.

Perhaps this scenario resonates with you. A situation where the term “Discovery” is used, but it’s difficult to discern what it actually entails.

To be fair, the term Product Discovery is ambiguous.

My intention with this article is to try to demystify what Product Discovery is and to give you two Playbooks you can use.

But before we jump into the Playbooks, let’s first spend some time getting to know Product Discovery.

What is Product Discovery?

For simplicity’s sake, in Product Development, you have two engines running at the same time: Discovery & Delivery.

To paraphrase the don himself, Marty Cagan:

Discovery is about building the right product

Delivery is about building the product right

Meaning: Discovery are the steps you take together with your team to mitigate the risk of being wrong: to build a product that customers want, meets your business goals and is technically feasible.

Delivery, on the other hand, is about realizing the product with all the rigor that goes into development.

Discovery is an evolution of many different tools and methods

Discovery is an amalgamation of practices that have been around for ages, such as Agile, Lean Startup, Customer Development, User Experience Design, Business Model Generation, Jobs-to-be-Done and many others. All of these different methods have one thing in common: to de-risk building the wrong product. However, they have their different takes and nuances in doing so.

Discovery in your team should be the “best of the best” – a toolbox of the most suitable tools

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

The analogy I use for Product Discovery is that it’s like a toolbox. There are many tools in a toolbox: hammers, screwdrivers, drills, etc. Sometimes you need a hammer, but other scenarios require a screwdriver. You wouldn’t use these tools at the same time, they have a specific use case.

During my years as a UX Designer, working in various design leadership positions and recently as a Product Discovery Coach, I’ve tried a plethora of tools relating to Product Discovery. My realization is that there are clear pros and cons to each one.

Two Playbooks

When I coach organizations, I typically stumble on two main problems:

  1. The organization works with Product Discovery, but it either takes too long or the solutions defined in Discovery never get into the customers’ hands
  2. The organization hasn’t worked with Product Discovery at scale. Teams have done smaller Discovery initiatives but what’s ultimately being premiered is the Delivery backlog

The ambition with these Playbooks is to create simplicity and enable anyone in a team to use the tools, regardless of role. 

But what is a Playbook?

The word Playbook comes from American Football. It’s essentially a book that the Football Coach uses to inform the team about different tactics to use during the game. I like the term because out on the field there are tactics, but you can never fully plan what’s going to happen. In Product Discovery, you can’t plan all the details up-front because Product Discovery is about learning. You might need to re-adjust as you progress

Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash

Known vs. Unknown

Product Development, plainly speaking, is about solving problems. Problems can have a varying degree of complexity. Sometimes, problems are quite straightforward to solve. Other problems might need a lot of digging to find out what the best solution could be.

For example, you have received an issue from customer service that customers can’t find a certain piece of functionality – which is causing frustration. With that information, you already have insights around the problem and you have a clear signal of what the solution could be. 

Another example could be that you have seen a drastic decrease in engagement from a particular customer segment. In order to solve the problem, you need to uncover the underlying issues and to find the root cause. This means that you have to do quite a lot of research. 

The first example is of a “known problem” and the other is of an “unknown problem”. One is tactical in nature, the other one is strategic. Hence, why there are two Playbooks; Known and Unknown.

Let’s start with the Known Playbook.

Known

Hypothesis > Design Studio > Prototyping > User Test > Team Pitch

Hypothesis

As the example above highlighted, known problems are quite tangible in nature, meaning you already have a hunch of what a potential solution could be. Therefore, the first step is to formulate a hypothesis.

Below is a structure for hypotheses that I’ve used with clients. 

We believe customers have a problem with [problem statement]. If we provide [solution], we will see [desired outcome]. 

Here’s an example.

We believe customers have a problem with understanding the pricing of our product. If we provide a clear overview and comparison of our different pricing options, we will see an increase in conversion

This should, by no means, be a rigid structure that you should follow verbatim. What’s important is that your hypothesis features:

  • The problem you want to solve
  • A high-level solution statement
  • An intended outcome
Design Studio

After you’ve established a hypothesis together with your team, you can start to ideate a detailed solution(s). The Design Studio method is widely used within Agile and my colleague Yassal Sundman has written an excellent overview of the method. 

The essence is that you quickly sketch rough solutions, present and iterate on your ideas. 

Prototyping

Following the Design Studio, you’ve identified concepts that you need to further explore. Depending on the nature of the solution, you can either prototype in code or use a prototyping tool such as InVision or Figma. The idea is that you want to create something tangible that you can test on users.

User test

Since you’ve prototyped solution(s), you can now test on real users. If you don’t have someone within your team who has experience in user testing, I urge you to just give it a try. There are tons of resources online regarding best practices in user testing. I also recommend the book Rocket Surgery Made Easy.

Team pitch

The last step of the Playbook is to share what you have achieved: the insights you have gathered and the prototype(s). I recommend teams to invite a larger group of colleagues/stakeholders in order to have a wider spread of your learnings and to have the opportunity to receive valuable feedback. 

Unknown

Research questions > Research > Design Sprint > Team Pitch

When it comes to Unknown problems, there is more research required since the problem is more complex. Hence, why the Playbook starts with research questions.

Research questions

The simplest way of gathering important research questions is to invite the team to a 1-hour workshop. The steps of the workshop:

  1. Everyone writes down the research questions they have about the subject on post-its
  2. You create an Affinity Map of the post-its, meaning you cluster them in different categories
  3. You dot-vote on the most important research questions to tackle
  4. You’re done

Research

At the end of the workshop, you have clarity on what to focus on. I recommend that you use at least three sources to gather research data, for instance, analytics data, customer interviews, and customer service. If you have at least three sources, you will be able to triangulate and validate the data from different perspectives, meaning that you will be more certain around your insights. 

I won’t go into detail on how you can conduct research since there are so many useful books/blog posts on the subject. On customer interviews, I highly recommend Steve Portigal’s book Interviewing Users

Design Sprint

After you have gathered insights, it’s time to create tangible solutions. I’ve used the Design Sprint method for many years to align teams on the right concepts to build. The main benefits of running a Design Sprint are:

  • You focus. You have one week to ideate, create prototypes and to test solutions on users
  • It’s cross-functional in nature. You invite people from diverse perspectives
  • You have all the tools at your disposal. The Sprint book is super-handy and gives you minute-by-minute schedules of each day

Team pitch

As a finale, just like the Known Playbook, you invite your team to review what you have accomplished. 

Final pieces of advice

There you have ‘em. Two Playbooks that you can use in your team to create more rigor in your Product Discovery efforts. From experience, to be even more successful with Product Discovery, I also recommend doing the following:

  • Visualize: Try to visualize in either a Kanban or a Scrum board of what you’re working on, both in Discovery and Delivery
  • Time-box: Time-box your Discovery initiatives and have a clear outcome in mind
  • Work cross-functionally: Have a team that has the customers’, the business’ and the technical perspectives in mind

Best of luck in your Product Discovery efforts!

If you’re in Stockholm on December 9-10, please join Jens Wedin and I. We’re running a two-day course on Product Discovery where we’ll dig deep in the world of Product Discovery.

Förutsättningar för en positiv grupputveckling

Jag utbildade mig nyligen till handledare för försvarshögskolans koncept Utvecklande Ledarskap (UL); fem mycket inspirerande och lärorika dagar. Förutom ny kunskap har jag dock också med mig upplevelsen kring kraften i grupputveckling när den blir som bäst. Under kursen satt och jobbade vi i kvarteret där vi både hjälpte varandra förstå kursinnehållet men också förberedde och genomförde en del av den normala UL-kursen inför övriga kursdeltagare. Det är fascinerande hur starkt relationerna inom en grupp kan utvecklas, och från det att en tydlig teameffekt kan växa fram, efter så kort tid som några få dagar. 

Det fick mig att fundera på vad det var som hände under kursen som gjorde detta möjligt. Vid reflektionen kring hur utbildningen var strukturerad, den miljö vi befann oss i, handledarnas agerande och vad vi gjorde i kvartetterna, landade jag i att nedanstående fyra aspekter hjälpte oss till att formeras till kraftfullt team under veckan som gick:

  • fokus på att bygga en trygg miljö, 
  • Vi hade väldigt tajta målsättningar att arbeta mot
  • Det fanns möjligheten till frekvent feedback på de resultat vi skapade, samt vi gav varandra löpande feedback på varandras prestationer
  • och vi var en liten och komplett gruppering som skulle lösa uppdraget tillsammans självständigt.
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Working Agreements Mingle

Facilitating a workshop or class? Need to come up with working agreements? Are people still shy and quiet and is the tempo still low? Here’s an easy method to get a medium sized group, about 20 people, to come up with and agree to a set of working agreements, while energizing the room and getting people talking to each other.

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Anti-Agile – skapa insikter kring förändringsbehov

Anti-Agile är en av mina favoritövningar att facilitera vid uppdrag hos kund. Använder man denna övningen internt inom en organisation så synliggör man ofta många dysfunktioner som finns inom organisationen; kulturellt, strukturellt och hur man arbetar. Övningen fungerar också väldigt bra som en murbräcka i att bryta tron att allt fungerar så bra som det är, och föreställningen att vi är så agila som vi möjligen kan bli. Det senare är många gånger en utmaning då en stark föreställning om sin egna förträfflighet är ett stort hinder att ta sig över som coach för att få kunder att öppna upp sig för coaching och vägledning i sin arbetssituation. 

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Doug Kirkpatrick, CFO who turned management innovator

Interview with Doug Kirkpatrick, startup team member of Morning Star and co-founder of the Morning Star Self-Management Institute. Famous for being built on their principles of self-management, which has led to that Morning Star is today the largest tomato processing in the world. Today Doug has left Morning Star to spread his experience as a speaker, author, and consultant.

In his book, Beyond Empowerment, Doug tells the story of how Morning Star became an example of true empowerment.  He tells us how they went beyond traditional ways of delegating (empowering) and creating a self-managed and truly empowered company. 

I found Morning Star to be an intriguing and fascinating story! I have been following the company for quite a while and recently had the fortune to meet with Doug. During one of our discussions, he shared the fascinating story and his experience as one of Morning Star’s original colleagues.

Doug shares his story from Morning Star

To learn how you can operate a large successful company in a very agile way based on self-management and a few simple but powerful organizational principles, then continue reading.

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Output vs Outcome vs Impact

Here is an attempt to establish a definition of Output, Outcome and Impacts! It is based on my interpretation of the work of Jeff Patton, Marty Cagan and Clayton Christensen, with some good input from Gojko Adzic, John Seddon and John Cutler.

How Outputs generate Outcomes that generate Impacts

Why is that remotely interesting? To bring clarity to important discussions! Output, Outcome and Impact are usually used interchangeably for each other in important discussions on strategy, goals and objectives. In my experience, this brings confusion over what we try to achieve and the criteria for success. Being specific on the meaning of these words, and when to use them, help us have the right conversations when discussion goals.

A clear definition helps us differentiate between three very different approaches to goal setting: Output focus, Outcome focus and Impact focus. These strategies are grounded in three widely different mindsets and mental models, each with its own models, processes and tools.

  • Output-focus is about maximizing the number of “stuff” (features, epics, products) produced. This is a valid focus when you’re making a big bet that you’re pretty sure will have the right outcome and positive impact. It could be a pre-requisite to other bets or initiatives. When having an output focus, remember that customers do not want features; they want you to solve their problems!
  • Outcome-focus is about applying yourself to understanding your customer needs, solving their problems and creating new possibilities for them. You know that you’re succeeding when your customers have changed, or adopted, behaviors that make their life easier.
  • Impact-focus is about maximizing the bottom-line for the organization in term of revenues. Generally, actions here tend to be dictated by cost accounting, resource efficiency and economies of scale with the purpose of cutting costs. It may be a very valid focus for a while, but remember that an organization that focuses on solving its own problems doesn’t have time to solve its customers’. Do that for too long and you’ve lost sight of your customers; what was the purpose of the organization to start with?

Of the three possible strategies presented here, one really sticks out in our VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) saturated world where the customer is in the driver seat: a focus on Outcomes help organizations succeed better by achieving “customer centricity“. Indeed, “Good Things” (like greater Impact/revenues), will naturally come as a bi-effect from the relentless focus on customer Outcomes. That, is the foundation of Business Agility: organization/corporate success comes today from the ability to continuously innovate on behalf of your customers.

So, what’s your current focus? Is it the right one? Bring clarity to your important discussions at all levels by differentiating between Outputs, Outcomes and Impacts.

References

Jeff Patton

Marty Cagan

Clayton Christensen

John Seddon

Gojko Adzic

John Cutler

Pair Coaching

Just like pair programming, there are a lot of benefits to pair coaching. In fact, the positives – two pairs of eyes, direct feedback, observation from two different perspectives – are even stronger motivators for pairing up when coaching! We see a lot of pairing when it comes to teaching classes, and larger facilitations, why not apply the same benefits to coaching as well!

The coaching context

In an individual coaching session, there are a lot of things going on. First, there is the content of the conversation. Then there are the thought processes and emotions within both the coach and the person being coached. As well as the communication and dynamics of the relationship between them. This is already a complex situation that can benefit from an added perspective. Imagine the complexity when we start talking about team or group coaching. 

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Get Awesome Team Focus with this daily routine!

Tired of the same old boring and ineffective daily meetings with your team?

Try this new Awesome Team Focus daily routine!

It will help your team use a swarming technique to laser-focus on the stuff that really matters and get it done. As a bonus it will help you start limiting Work In Process without realizing it!

Welcome to your new effective and efficient team!


Yeah!

Evolutionär förändring

Inledning

Ser jag tillbaka på mina år som konsult och coach på Crisp har det skett en rätt stor förändring i vilka typer av uppdrag vi får. Många organisationer möter en allt mer föränderlig omvärld med snabbfotade kunder; är de inte nöjda med det utbud som organisationen levererar går det till en konkurrent i stället. Det räcker inte längre med att enskilda team fungerar bättre; hela organisationer behöver förbättras för att nödvändiga effekter skall skapas. 

För att lyckas med förändringsarbetet behöver vi:

  • Utgå från att organisationer är komplexa system vilket kräver en organisk förändring snarare än ett plandrivet och mekaniskt sådan. 
  • Genomför förändringen evolutionärt drivet genom de hinder som teamen upplever, 
  • Successivt forma den struktur och arbetssätt som just den specifika organisationen bäst behöver för att leverera värde. 
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Agile in Public sector and the “Play with the thought” Digitalisation kit

I just got back from Agile Islands 2019. I really encourage people who haven’t been there to pay it a visit. It’s refreshing to get back with a new insight and idea every time I visit the conference.

Anyway: Here are the slides from my presentation

Let me also share the workshop kit I used.

The “Play with the thought” Digitisation Kit.

Anti-Agile Personalities – Part 2

In my previous blog post I listed personalities on the management side that stood in the way of efficient, modern product development. In this post, I will cover some of the personalities you might find in the actual development teams.

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Efficient, effective and inclusive decision-making – A bold statement, a book and a video

I hereby proclaim that; there are ONLY 10 different ways a decision can be made!

At least in a meeting with several participants.

Sorry for starting with this click baity statement. On the other hand – I haven’t been disproven so far. Regardless of if this is true or not, I believe that the art and skill of decision-making is an increasingly important topic. Why do I believe that?

In many organizations, I often encounter the assumption that a decision is either made by one person, or by a group that has discussed a proposal until everyone agrees. If this is actually true, your ability to conduct effective, efficient and inclusive decision-making is sadly limited. A rapidly increasing number of companies go agile, organizing people into a network of autonomous teams, supported by teams of managers and leaders.

Decision-making and ownership are decentralized to those closest to the problems and opportunities. Leadership is no longer manifested in hierarchies of individual accountability, but in interconnected layers of supportive leadership teams. Just as agile teams collaborate to delivering value to users and customers, so must the leadership collaborate when working, meeting and making decisions. A leadership team’s ability to reach a shared understanding through debates and discussions, explore options and then together decide on the best path forward – is crucial. The speed to decision and time to review and evaluate the impact will dictate your whole organization’s ability to quickly respond, learn, adapt and improve.

With this blog I hope to expand your toolbox and inspire you to experiment with a more varied approach to decision-making.

.

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The top 3 biggest forecasting and planning errors

In my consulting and training engagements I get to see the impact where planned delivery dates are missed. It’s never because people just aren’t trying or working hard enough. This post gives you my top 3 real reasons traditional Agile planning and the dates produced by them fail.

Number One Reason: The Assumed Start Date is Missed

Sounds obvious right. To give an estimated delivery date you add the estimated duration to a starting date. Rarely do I see anyone track or adjust for the eventual start date for any initiative. Often the definition of “started” isn’t clear. 

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Anti-Agile Personalities – Part 1

The technology development is going in lightning speed nowadays and almost every company has at least 10 competitors who can offer their customers the same or better experiences or goods. This puts quite a lot of pressure on companies and organisations to be nimble and customer focused which in turn does the same on the people working for them. Certain traits have become more important in employees than before, whether it is management or development teams, such as trust, flexibility, passion, curiosity, ability to collaborate, humility, and innovativeness. It also means that personalities not defined by these traits that still worked very well in traditional, hierarchical organisations actually might be obstructing efficient development in modern organisations.

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Design Studio Facilitation

Design studios are useful for helping a group of people converge on an idea. This post provides a PDF presentation for facilitating a design studio workshop, including an additional optional section for refining ideas when the desired result is to generate multiple ideas. The general pattern is:

  • Generate ideas
  • Present
  • Get feedback
  • Refine and converge the ideas
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Agile 2019

Agile 2019 in a nutshell: Jam packed with inspiring, informative talks! I tried to sum up my experience when I came home from DC a couple of weeks ago, but there were just too many good things to say! So I’ll leave you with the graphic above with some of the highlights, and I’ll share what I’ve actually followed up on since I’ve been back.

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Three Myths About Strategy

There are lies, there are big lies, and then there are myths. And myths are the worst of the three.

Myths present a subtle trap, which is what makes even smart people fall for them. They are usually based on a plausible half-truth, and they do not immediately lead you astray if you start to act on them. It’s only with the passage of time that you realize that you’ve made a mistake, but by then your wrong choices can’t be unmade and the damage is done.

We encounter myths in most realms of human endeavour, and the discipline of strategic thinking is no exception. Here are three of the most pernicious ones I’ve encountered in a long career studying strategy and advising companies about it:

Myth 1: Strategy is about the long-term

Why it’s plausible

In some industries, the basis of competition can remain unchanged for decades, and leaders who stick to their strategy through downturns as well as upturns and ignore surface noise do very well.

Why it’s wrong

It is precisely when long-held assumptions about an industry are challenged that strategic changes happen. And you will need to make those changes very quickly. Thinking about strategy as some kind of long-term commitment can blind you to that need Strategy is not about the long term or the short term, but about the fundamentals of how the business works: the sources of value creation, the drivers of the cost to deliver it, and the basis of competition. To get a grip on strategy, we do not need to lengthen the time horizon of our thinking, but its depth. Far from being about things we are going to do in the future, strategy is about what we are going to do now in order to shape the future to our advantage.

Myth 2: Disruptors change strategy all the time

Why it’s plausible

It looks as if Amazon and the platform giants like Google and Facebook keep changing strategy because they use the massive amounts of cash they generate to innovate, bringing out new products and services every year. Innovation is easily confused with a change in strategic direction, and sometimes it does indeed trigger such a change.

Why it’s wrong

In the case of Amazon and the rest of Big Tech, most of the innovative new products and services reflect a single, consistent strategy, one that’s been familiar to business people since at least the 1960s. That’s when Bruce Henderson, the founder of BCG, observed that in many businesses, costs decline by a predictable amount with every doubling of cumulative volume. The implication was that by pricing ahead in anticipation of those cost declines, a company could sacrifice current margins to gain share, achieve market leadership and then reap the gains. The strategy was captured in the imperative: ‘Cut price and add capacity’. That’s basically what today’s platform businesses are doing – though do they use more jazzy vocabulary like ‘blitzscaling’ or ‘hypergrowth’ and add some twists. For today’s platform businesses for instance, the imperative could be called ‘Give it away and add users’. But it’s just a more radical version of a strategy that’s more than half a century old.

Myth 3: Competitive advantage is dead

Why it’s plausible

There is evidence that the time period over which advantage can be sustained is shortening, which suggests that achieving defensibility is harder, which in turn implies that barriers are more flimsy and easier to surmount. One market observer notes that average tenure in the S&P 500 has fallen from 33 years in 1964 to 24 years in 2016.

Why it’s wrong

Reports of the death of competitive advantage are vastly exaggerated. The competitive advantages of Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are so massive and the barriers to overcoming them so high, that public discussion of them revolves around the use of regulation to break them up to reduce their power. In a very short time, it has become hard to imagine how market forces alone could tame them. The full truth is not that competitive advantage is dead, but that you need to rely on multiple advantages rather than just the one. And part of the reason that Amazon & Co will be hard to unseat is that they have realized this. They are not betting on a building a single big wall, but on building up lots of smaller ones.

The Art of Strategy

In our uncertain world, fundamentals are changing so we need to think about them, whether they are valid in the short- or long-term. Think how you can deploy the capabilities you have and build new ones you need to defend your competitive position. Be on the lookout for the emergence of unexpected events at the customer interface that point to opportunities that can be deliberately exploited. Play to win the short games that will enable you to prevail in the long ones. Think deep to act fast. Strategy is still what it has always been: the art of taking action under the pressure of the most difficult conditions.

Psst: Do you want to learn the art of making strategy come alive? “Stephen “Art of action” Bungay is coming to Stockholm on Sept 4:th. We are a bunch of Crisper’s going, take the chance and join up you too!

Note: This is an exert from a longer article by Bungay in Harward Business Review. You can read the full versionhere.

6 Tips towards Business Agility

Agile, and Agile methods, like Scrum and Kanban, have had tremendous success over the past few decades, but still, most organizations are not getting the value and expected outcomes from their Agile initiatives. A big reason is that people often confuse Agile methods, or applying the methods in one department, with agility, which means having the ability to adopt these methods and deliver value to both the business and customers. Having that organizational ability is the essence of Business Agility. You can also refer to it as scaling Agile to the whole organization.

As co-organizer of the yearly Agile People Sweden conference, we have recognized that this is a current challenge for most organizations today, and hence the Business Agility is the theme for this year´s conference.

Business Agility is about creating an Agile Organizations adaptable for the VUCA world

I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Kari Kelly from Atypical Workplace LLC.  It resulted in 6 tips for how your organization can create value through Business Agility.

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The Product Roadmap Agility Checklist

I see many versions of product roadmaps in my work. Unfortunately very few pass this agility test. Does your product roadmap pass the Product Roadmap Agility checklist?

Download the checklist here.

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How self driving car company AID builds its organisation using Agile – interview with the CEO

How do you grow, innovate, and deliver – at the same time? AID (Audi’s unit for self-driving cars) uses Agile to build its organisation at the same pace as their product. We interviewed their CEO Karlheinz Wurm on why they have chosen to do so. We also sneaked in a question – how is it (really) to get feedback as a leader?

Enter The Target Sergeant

Hi there, it’s been a while since you last heard from me, I know.

I have to admit it, I’ve been feeling lost for some time now. Since our company adopted Agile, I haven’t felt at home. People around me started thinking, took initiatives, started to talk about building a “culture”. I felt lost as my position was being challenged. I’ve done my best to highlight the threats of Agile all this time but no one ever listens (and what the heck is a “growth mindset” anyway?). But fear not, redemption is finally at hand! I got promoted to Controller (*cough* there was apparently no other position to put me in) and our CEO just briefed us that he was thinking of introducing OKR’s (obviously, everyone else is doing it). Now here’s an opportunity! Enter the target sergeant!

This thing about letting people think, and “self-organization”, why don’t people get it that this is the recipe for chaos! But – I see my part of the equation clearly now. There is a gap to fill! The target sergeant is what I need to reclaim my importance.

Let me quickly summarize the key success factors for the target sergeant:

  • Highlight the risks. Whenever there’s a creative initiative in your surroundings, highlight the risks. Always begin by acknowledging that it is a great initiative. Then do a silent pause. Raise your voice and start your next sentence with “but…” (oh this always works BTW). You’ll start noticing a few eyeballs darting from side to side. Then, build up a focused crescendo, “…have you thought about the risks?”(Of course they haven’t! Seize the moment as you’ve got the whole management team by the balls now). Your fellow management colleagues will start to panic. Because, let’s be honest, who wants to insert risks? If anyone at this point has the gumption to object, then cut them off with, “We have commitments to keep!” Game over! Silently smile and lean back as your peers start to appreciate the senior wisdom you bring to the table (a great example has been made. Who would dare to be creative now. Ha!).
  • A master target sergeant recognizes that few ever really meet their targets. This is a problem! How can our company ever be competitive as long as this is happening? Become a target sergeant master by always highlighting the target gaps in anyone’s execution. Aren’t they committed to the cause? Silently smile and lean back as your colleagues scurry around like mice squabbling over the safest bet during target setting meetings. Then raise your voice “shouldn’t our targets be aggressive”? Watch your colleagues squirm! Muhaha!
  • Oh, and this is one of my favorites,“Has anyone tried this before?” (…of course not, that’s why it’s a novel idea, duh! ) Look around and you’ll see signs of doubt. Should we really be the first ones to try this out? Who would dare to object to that?
  • The final killer: Put emphasis on the time pressure we are under. This is the simplest trick in the book! You are always late! This is due to the fact that you set impossible stretch goals in the first place! (does that ring a bell?) When “time pressure” and “late” appear in the same sentence, the meeting will quickly loose interest and move over to the next status point on the agenda. Watch the nods around the table as your peers recognize your senior wisdom!

To sum it up, I realize that my Controller role wasn’t so bad after all. I’ll make sure we avoid chaos and my CEO has hinted that I will be considered for the CFO position – he wants more execution at the top level!

Final target sergeant advice: Always remember to jump ship and move on to the next company before the ship sinks. The story will be that your peers failed in executing the vision. You are exonerated because you pointed this out from the start. (At this point in time, everyone will have forgotten that what you really failed to do was to innovate muhahaha). Happy drilling Sergeants!

Enkelt att ta bort 10 miljoner ton CO2 ur atmosfären och lagra i marken

Det är tekniskt och finansiellt möjligt att inom några få år kunna ta bort CO2 från atmosfären och lagra i marken “negativt utsläpp” med så kallad bio-CCS i Sverige.
Det enda som hindrar är lite lagar och regler.

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Playing with Power – Game of Structure, Beta version

Two years ago I created a simple role-play card game called Game of Structure. After trying it out a couple of times it has been sitting idle, and what fun is that? So now I am making it available with this post.

=> Game of Structure – Beta version

The game is Creative Commons Attribution 4.0, so you may use it freely as long as you honor it’s origin. If there is enough interest I may go ahead and create a physical card deck based on this game.

What type of game is this?

The idea is to offer an experience of how a single hierarchy of fixed power roles can generate some common patterns of stuck attention, conversation and challenge that we frequently see in organizations. Often we spend a lot of time managing those conversations without seeing that some of them may emerge just from the power structure itself as a design choice. If we can experience that this may be the case we can talk about it and consider redesigning those structures rather than having to fix these challenges directly.

This game helps you see and experience some of the load of this extra complexity. Have fun!

Disclaimer – The game is fun as it is but I invite you to be a little careful when drawing conclusions from it – there may be some fallacies and traps! If you want to dive down this perhaps sensitive and deeper rabbit hole, read on through the second part of this blog post. read more »

Understand the Essence of Your Product

In my prior blog, I shared that the Product Canvas is a tool anchoring a shared understanding of your product. Part 1 of the canvas provides contextual and strategic information. Part 2 summarizes the key compositional element of your product requirements using the 7 Product Dimensions.

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Health checks for Teams and Leadership

In this blog post I want to share a powerful tool, the Leadership Health Check. It will help you become stronger as a management team and reveal improvement opportunities for how you, as a team of active servant leaders, better can enable the agile teams you support.

But first, let’s take it from the beginning.

One of my favourite exercises in my toolbox as an agile coach is something I learned during my years at Spotify; the Squad Health Check. It’s a retrospectives format, a self-evaluation workshop, in which the teams express how they feel they’re doing on wide variety of topics such as collaboration, value of what is delivered, ability to influence, received organizational support, etc. The result generates insights and commitment to actions of improvement for both the team and the supporting leadership. I love it because I believe it’s a great tool for strengthening autonomy, culture and continuous learning.

More than a year ago, a colleague at Spotify Georgiana Laura Levinta and I created a health check for the leadership of our Tribe (Tribe is a semi-autonomous department at Spotify encapsulating 4-8 teams and with a dedicated set of leaders and managers). Geo and I were inspired by the Squad Health Check, but the goal with this adoptation was to help the Tribe’s managers perform a self-evaluation of their ability to provide active supportive leadership to the squads within the tribe, and to generate a discussion on how they can improve as a team to be able to provide even better support.

Since then, I have together with my current client Casumo, adopted this for their context, culture and beliefs. We’ve run it several times with great success and value, both with the company’s leadership team but also on cluster level (semi-autonomous department). I believe the Team Health Check and the Leadership Health Check both are tremendously powerful; hence I want to unleash them to the wider agile community, hoping that more organizations will find them valuable and useful. Or at least be inspired by them, and then try something totally different.

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Go Blue or go Black – New Jimmy Cards now available!

I’m blown away of the popularity of the Jimmy Cards I created a few years ago. The massive amount of feedback and appreciative comments inspired me to compile two additional decks. The goal of the original red is to help new teams gel. The new black deck is aimed to challenge mature teams that have worked together for some time. The new blue deck will help the leadership team collaborate more effectively. And now, finally, the labour is done and the physical cards have actually been printed and are available to buy!

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Know Your Product with the Product Canvas

What is your product?

If you ask your product development team members, product managers or owners, colleagues in finance, service or operations, marketing, sales, compliance, and all the other departments and teams that make up your organization, would they agree?

It might surprise you to realize that for many organizations, not everyone has clarity around something so fundamental. I’ve developed a Product Canvas to address this issue. The canvas also helps product managers or owners proactively steer their products.

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What is Agile marketing – new article

Consumer behaviors are transforming and the speed of IT development is accellerating.  Launching new products is becoming ever easier. This means new challenges – and new opportunities – for marketing departments.  The companies that learn to master Agile marketing, in a faster changing world, stands a better chance of building long-lasting relationships with their customers.

Innovative companies like Zalando and Telenor are already applying Agile tools inside marketing. However, what is Agile marketing all about? In this article we’ve summarised the key ingredients:

  • More time to create
  • Cross-functional teams
  • Data-driven insights
  • Engage with audience through social media

Read the full article here “Agile marketing in a nutshell”

The CTO Questions: 10 questions that help you gauge the current state of your tech operations

Ever heard this conversation play out?

Manager 1: “We should adopt scaling framework Y.”
Manager 2: “But scaling framework Y doesn’t have a recipe for baking cookies. So we need to do X.”
Manager 3: “Whut? You’re both wrong. We have Agile teams. We’re good!”

In fact, each statement above can be wrong. So the question is, how would you know?

As a coach, it never ceases to surprise me how often management teams lack a shared understanding of their current state of tech operations. If members of a leadership team do not share a common understanding of the current state, it’s easy to fall into the traps of process religion (“my tool is better than yours”), or status quo bias (“why change? From my perspective, everything seems just fine”), or just sheer complacency, “I don’t need to improve, they do”. One piece of solid advice, the last thing you want to do as the leader is to be oblivious to the current state of affairs.

My preferred method of learning the current state is to always start with an “outside-in” view. Assume your operations are a black box and look at the output first, then delve into how the cogs operate inside. Answering these 10 questions helps you do that:

Value oriented

  • Do we create innovations that give us unique marked advantages? How many per year?
  • What is our lead time from idea to delivery? From idea to customer value? Sample data from 2-3 projects.
  • What is our ROI profile? Do we invest first, work long and hard for months and years and hope to reap the business benefits later? Or do we deliver value continuously? Typically Agile?
  • Do we have the development capacity to take on all the good business opportunities that present themselves? What opportunities have we let slip by?

Quality oriented

  • How often can we do releases with quality that include a cross-section of our tech stack?
  • How often do we have slippage on big projects? How much slippage?
  • What proportion of support to business features is clogging up our development pipeline?

Engagement and operations indicators

  • How many projects are there running in parallel in our organization right now? Do we allow skilled people to work with focus?
  • Do we regularly work overtime to meet deadlines?
  • Do we have high personnel turnover for people in coordinating positions?

Of course, you don’t need to answer all the questions above. But getting the facts on the table is the key to building a shared understanding of where you are at, so the management team can start to pull in the same direction when improving.

Need help refining your backlog and finding small MVPs?

I guess you, like the most of us, have a problem breaking work down to small but still valuable pieces and that your MVP (minimal viable product) is more or less the same as the project scope. If you recognize yourself in this than keep reading.

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