I’ve spent the past seven years striving to successfully integrate agile and lean approaches into teams and product development organizations. I’ve got four sheets of paper taped to the wall above my desk that I occasionally glance at when I need to make sure I’m acting based on lean and agile principles:
- The Agile Manifesto
- Principles Behind the Agile Manifesto
- Declaration of Interdependence
- The categories of the Principles of Product Development Flow
I looked at these when coming up with the following items that describe my approach and what I value when it comes to product development.
The flow of value from idea to customer use needs to be everyone’s primary concern.
I place a high degree of emphasis on shared ownership, stable teams, and group accountability. I don’t believe that the “single wringable neck” philosophy yields nearly the level of performance as the peer pressure and joint accountability generated in a stable team.
Cross-functional teams are critical – not just engineers and testers – also marketing specialists, standards experts, legal counsel, implementation managers, financial analysts. All these people are necessary to create a product. They should all be part of a stable team and should all be accountable to each other not some high-ranking manager or executive.
I expect uncertainty. In product development, we do a lot of work up front to plan our way. It’s important to do some level of planning, but we need to acknowledge that this is the point in the project when we know the least about both the problem and solution. As soon as we set the plan to ink or electron, it is outdated. As soon as we start to develop, we learn something that leads to a deviation in the plan. Almost always, the things we learn change the value equation. If we don’t accept change and try to responsibly exploit it, we doom ourselves to shortchanging the value we can deliver.
Because I accept change and uncertainty as a positive and inevitable function of product development, I believe that any change management method needs to be incredibly lightweight. In most cases, it should be a change logging method whereby the people with the best information (those closest to the work) make the change and log it for all to see. If slightly more control is required from some reason, there should be change guidelines that everyone is aware of. As long as a change is within these predefined guardrails, no special permission is required.
I believe in situationally-specific processes and strategies. Scrum isn’t always the best approach. Sometimes traditional PMBOK methods are even the best approach.
Transparency is critical to get effective lateral and vertical communication that leads to efficient delivery of value.
When examining the status of an initiative, I value trends over point-in-time values. From a trend, I can tell if an initiative is getting further off track or back on track. If I’ve got only a snapshot value, I don’t have enough context to make a judgment.
In order to get the most important things done as quickly as possible, we need to limit the number of things we do. We need to focus on finishing, not on starting. We need to focus on getting to done, not on moving something forward.
Short feedback loops are critically important in the world today. The pace of change continues to accelerate. If you’re not getting frequent feedback from stakeholders, customers, partners, etc. chances are the destination you were initially targeting has moved. There should be no product-related initiative we undertake that goes longer than six months before we can release it to customers. If I see something that is taking longer than three months before we get customer feedback, I start to ask difficult questions.
My StrengthsFinder top 5:
- Deliberative:Serious care taken in making decisions or choices. Anticipate obstacles.
- IntellectionCharacterized by intellectual activity. Introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.
- RelatorEnjoy close relationships with others. Find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.
- AnalyticalSearch for reasons and causes. Have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation.
- StrategicCreate alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.