Agile & Lean Product Development

A Practical Approach to Agility and Product Management

Nail your Backlog Priorities by Figuring out Return on Effort

Prioritization of work is hard: it’s often more an art than a science. Unless you work in an organization that has mastered the delicate balance of work from a prioritized roadmap as well as customer requests, you too may often be faced with squeaky-wheel prioritization: The customer yelling the loudest (or the one who last spoke with sales or the CEO) gets what they want.

We product management professionals thought there must be a better way to figure out prioritization, one that’s more “scientific” and less subjective. So various schemes for prioritization emerged from the industry, looking at the benefits of features such as new revenue, customer retention, cost savings, … you name it. Either one or multiple of these factors were being considered and summarized into terms such as “business value”. Agilists quickly pointed out that absolute values (e.g. dollars) make things hard to compare and that measurements are often imprecise, so we started thinking in relative business value points.

Great, so now we have a way of systematically prioritizing our features, right? As long as we work our way down our feature backlog in descending order of business value, we’re making sure we deliver the most value to the business and we solved the problem of old-school prioritization, right?

Well, not so fast, cowboy… (Continue reading this post on MindTheProduct where it has been published in its entirety)

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Ideas are Screwing Up your Product Roadmap

Your ideas could be messing up your product roadmap. Yes, you read that right. Wait, aren’t great ideas the fuel of a good product roadmap? Sure, to some extent. But are you suffering from challenges like having a hard time sticking to your roadmap and delivering against it? Half-done or low-quality features? Constantly switching priorities, or too much WIP? Well, it may just be because of your ideas.

First, let’s clarify what I mean by roadmap: …

Read the remainder of this post on ProductCraft 

Why the Word “assign” should be Banned from Agile Teams

Words matter. Language matters. Single words can evoke a whole set of connotations and feelings. In the Agile space, the word “waterfall” certainly does that. Every language domain, such as an organization or field of practice, has these words or phrases that have a very specific meaning understood by everyone who’s part of that group. Sometimes they’re neutral, sometimes positive and sometimes they’re just taboo — words you better avoid due to the bad aftertaste or overwhelmingly negative connotations. In a different context or domain, the same word may be completely innocent and neutral — just ask hikers about waterfalls. (In one organization I worked for, you should never mention “productivity”; otherwise, you’d immediately be confronted with visceral reactions and backlash!)

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7 Great Books for Product Managers

There are an increasing number of books out there about various aspects of product management. Here are some of my favorites which will hopefully be useful for both aspiring as well as experienced Product Managers and entrepreneurs:

Marty Cagan’s INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love is a must-read. He covers everything from the structure of the organization, ideation and discovery to scaling the business. In this 2nd edition, he focuses not only on start-ups, but also on growth-stage and large companies.

 

The Lean Startup is a classic. Eric Ries, in this milestone book, makes the case for the discipline of entrepreneurial management (Vision), dives into the details of the build/measure/learn loop (Steer) and shows how to accelerate learning and scale the business (Accelerate). (Also, check out Eric’s 2nd book “The Startup Way”.)

 

Hooked: Nir Eyal takes his readers on a fascinating journey into the Hooked model and explains what it takes to use habits to create “sticky” and engaging applications that users come back to again and again. This book will be particularly intriguing to those of us interested in human behavior, psychology, and brain science.

 

The Lean Product Playbook was one of the first books I read when getting into Product Management. Dan Olsen does a great job of walking his readers step-by-step through the process of determining target customers, identifying underserved needs, defining the value prop, and, building and refining the MVP. Furthermore, he also gets into how to use metrics and analytics to optimize the product.

 

Running Lean: As the master and creator of the Lean Canvas, Ash Maurya shows how to not just create a product, but a viable and scalable business by documenting a plan, validating the riskiest parts, and testing the plan qualitatively and quantitatively. (Another great read of his is the follow-up book “Scaling Lean”.)

 

Somewhat surprisingly, there aren’t many books about product strategy. Roman Pichler’s Strategize: Product Strategy and Product Roadmap Practices for the Digital Age is a compact but comprehensive and very useful guide for strategy development and validation, product roadmapping and portfolio roadmaps.

 

In Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, Jake Knapp & others from Google Ventures demonstrate how to use a single calendar week (!) to solve a significant problem with a small team and find and validate a solution. Brilliant and effective!

 

As it turns out, many very successful entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have one habit in common: they read a lot! I hope this list is inspiring you to keep reading and learning about the expanding field of Product Management.

What are some of your favorite product-related books?

Practical Tips for Distributed Agile Teams

Distributed Agile teams are here to stay – like it or not. According to CollabNet/VersionOne’s 12th State of Agile survey, 79% of respondents had at least some distributed teams practicing Agile. I myself was taught early on that Agile teams had to be co-located and should sit in the same area in order to facilitate high-bandwidth osmotic communication. And while that is still a very effective way of working, in today’s workplace we see more and more distributed Agile teams. 

For the sake of this post, I will focus on team members distributed geographically across the country or globe, less on people in adjacent buildings or on different floors. I will cover:

  • Why distributed teams are becoming more and more popular
  • Challenges of distributed teams
  • 10 tips to make them more successful

So let’s dive in!

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