Category Archives: Leadership

Sunsetting a product: Get Data

As a Product Manager, one of the efforts that we are often asked to consider is the decommissioning or sunsetting of a product or platform.  It is not always a fun task, but it is very important to the business.  This blog series is dedicated to the steps that a strong Product Manager needs to consider when researching this kind of issue.  The first and most important thing to do is to get data.

If ever there was a project that should NOT be executed based on gut feel, this is it.  You need data to make sure you make the most sunsetprudent decision possible.  There is no way to sunset a product without upsetting some aspects of your business, so this is not something that should be taken lightly.  What kind of data do you need?

Customer Analysis:

You need solid data from the financial and CRM systems of the company to answer the following questions:

  1. How many customers are impacted?
  2. How important are those customers?
  3. What other services have they purchased?
  4. What prices are they paying?
  5. What is their lifetime value?

Agile Culture: Impacts to the Organization

In previous blogs, we reviewed the implications of adopting an Agile Culture on management – learning to trust the teams, understanding the new aspects of teamwork and the reality of more transparency.  In this blog, we are going to address the impacts to the organizational structure.  Jim Highsmith, one of the original signers of the Agile Manifesto recognizes the evolution of organizations and has presented a webinar titled “Stop doing Agile.  Start being Agile.”

ChangeWhen we think about that phrase – to start being Agile – we have to dig deep into our culture and organization to truly examine how things currently are and how they ultimately should be.  What we typically find when we start coaching an organization is that they are open to fitting Agile into their existing structure.  But that isn’t enough.  There has to be a willingness to abandon the existing structure in favor of one that is truly Agile.  This is a much bigger shift and much harder to accomplish and in many cases (unfortunately) this is where Agile implementations are compromised.  Let’s look at some examples.

Agile Culture: Management and Transparency

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transparency_and_translucency

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transparency_and_translucency

This is a blog series about the impacts of an Agile implementation for management.  We have already discussed trust  and teamwork, and this post is dedicated to transparency.

Transparency for the Team

People that move into Agile (or Scrum) team typically experience a dramatic increase in their involvement in the business.  They have access to more information and they are participants in conversations that would have excluded them in the past.   The team members now see more of the Product Vision or Roadmap than they ever have before.  They probably have a task board where they can see which tasks are in which state.  They should be having a Daily Stand-Up meeting where the team learns if anything is standing in the way of progress for their development effort.  They are now included in conversations about scope and timing and release planning.  Thus, from the team member’s perspective, transparency has increased exponentially.

This is not necessarily true for management.  When you have a team that you trust and that is working together, the transparency for management might actually decrease in some ways.  As a manager or Director, you will no longer know everything that is happening on your teams in an Agile environment for two main reasons.  (1) You trust the teams to work together to deliver so you no longer micro-manage them and (2) Because of the trust and teamwork, more things are happening than ever before and it is much harder – and unnecessary – to stay on top of everything.

Agile Culture: Management and Teamwork

When it comes to implementing Agile, managers who are used to a “Command and Control” environment are going to be very uncomfortable.  Now, let’s be honest, Command and Control managers are not all bad.  They typically feel a high degree of accountability and that is a great thing.  They feel like their neck is on the line so they want actions to be done as they command so that they can deliver.  But what they fail to benefit from is the wisdom of the team.

Image Source: http://buzzardnbigdog.com/?p=3131

Image Source: http://buzzardnbigdog.com/?p=3131

The Power of the Team

Think about your team or colleagues.  Who has long tenure and has ‘been there, done that’? Who is a relative new hire who may have relevant experiences from a previous employer?  Who has worked in several different departments? Who has worked in several different roles?  Each of these unique traits means that an employee might bring a unique perspective that the manager would benefit from, if they were willing to listen.  Albert Einstein has famously said “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.”  Our employees have great ideas and many welcome the opportunity to creatively solve the problems of the business.

Members of management – manager, director, VP, whatever – should present the team with the problem or opportunity and let them ‘self organize’ to determine how they will solve the problem with teamwork.

Agile Culture: Management and Trust

I recently led a discussion on the impacts of Agile on the culture of an organization.  I shared that if your company is undergoing an Agile transformation and you aren’t uncomfortable, then you aren’t stretching enough.  Agile is uncomfortable.  It is awesome and the positive impacts on productivity, collaboration and customer and employee satisfaction are profound.  But getting there can be bumpy.  This blog is dedicated to the subject of trust and how it plays out with management.

Trust and Teenagers

trust-230x300

Image Source: http://www.webapptesting.com/trust-no-one-who-doesnt-localize-their-apps/2012/08/

A good analogy on trust is college freshman.  If anyone has sent away a child, niece, nephew or neighbor, then you know something about trust.  When we send our loved ones away to a land of temptation with minimal supervision and high expectations, we have to trust them.  How do we do that?  Well, hopefully a number of factors are working towards the positive.  We hope the following about college freshmen:

–          They have a strong foundation

–          They are smart/intelligent

–          They are capable of learning from their mistakes

If an 18 year old has these qualities, they will probably fare well in their new environment.  They have a foundation of values and experiences that will influence their decisions, they are smart people who can navigate through new experiences and if they do make a wrong turn, they can learn from their mistakes and course correct.

So why is it that we are able to trust immature and hormonal teenagers but we cannot trust our employees?  Are the same factors not also true about our employees?

Step 3: Write a scene for success

In our previous blogs, we have outlined two key steps to take before you dive into that new project or idea that you are so excited about.  Those were: Step 1 – Set your Goals and Step 2 – Define your target audience, or personas.  Now it is time for the final step – decide what success looks like and the best way to do that is to write a scene.  I wish I could say this was my idea, but it’s not.  The smart people at Wharton wrote a great article on this concept called Visionary Leadership: Creating Scenes that Change the Future.   The idea is to define success for your project/challenge/opportunity by creating a scene – like in a movie – of what success would look like in the future.  We did this at a company that we are consulting with and it was a great exercise.

Write the Scene

movie-reel

Image Source: http://www.squidoo.com/screenwriting_tips

Our effort was an Agile implementation at a company with lots of legacy software and its fair share of legacy processes and ideas.  We sat down and pretended that we were through the Agile adoption and the core tenets of Agile were alive and well.  Our scene involved speedy response to a changing market condition, reprioritization of work, team execution of a new deliverable, finding out that deliverable was not the correct response, immediately incorporating that feedback, course-correcting and quickly deploying a more suitable solution.  This scene included management and stakeholders playing a supportive role without judgment, finger-pointing or unnecessary meetings.  Sounds like a dream world, right?  This was a great exercise because it forced us to think about all of the attitudes and practices that would need to change to make this scene a reality and that was eye-opening.

Agile: The Power of the Fist (of Five)

There is a concept in Agile called Fist of Five.  The notion is simple – when you come to a decision point and you need to make sure everyone is on board,  you ‘vote’.  Agile is all about transparency and Fist of Five is one method to reinforce it.

Image Source: http://nicosteyn.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/5-rules/

Image Source: http://nicosteyn.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/5-rules/

We do it like the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors” where everyone shows their vote at the same time.  One – Two – Three – Shoot.  In theory, this is supposed to keep people from being influenced by their neighbor, but honestly, we think it is just more fun.

The voting works as follows:  A team member will propose a direction forward and the team will demonstrate their acceptance by holding up their hand with the number of fingers that corresponds with their level of support.

5 fingers = I am all in.  I completely agree.
4 fingers = I buy into the option and I will support it.
3 fingers = I may have some reservations, but I can support the decision and move forward.
2 fingers = I have reservations and I cannot support this decision without further discussion and clarification.
1 finger = I cannot support this direction.  I disagree.

You are building what? Five Rules of Products

Product Management is an unknown discipline to many people and it is so necessary that we must spread the word.  There are visionaries and entrepreneurs out there who are coming up with wonderful ideas and then spending precious time and resources pursuing these ideas without considering some basic information first.  This blog is designed to showcase a handful of questions that Product Management asks before you commit to building the “next big thing.”

Image Source: http://wildieck.com/tag/how-to-stop-procrastinating/

Image Source: http://wildieck.com/tag/how-to-stop-procrastinating/

1. What is the business problem you are trying to solve?

This question is usually answered by most idea people.  They see a pain point and they want to address it.  Awesome.  As long as you can clearly articulate what you are trying to achieve, you are headed in the right directio

2. Who are we trying to solve it for?

Here is where things start to get a bit murky.  Do you want to cross-sell this new product to existing customers?  Or do you want to attract new customers?  Do you see this product being purchased by the masses?  Exactly what you build, the complexity of the product and the required feature set will all be shaped by knowing exactly who your target market is.  And if you say “all consumers in the US,” you might need some refinement to your strategy.

Agile Textbook

As you may know, I am very proud to be co-authoring a textbook on the Agile Methodologies. This unique book is targeted at undergraduate computer science, software engineering and business students who do not necessarily have work experience to help them understand the nuances, challenges and benefits of an Agile implementation.  Our goal is to present the information in an easy to digest fashion to provide students with the terminology and concepts that they will need when they enter the workforce.

Studygroup relaxing in beanbags while doing school work.

Image Source: http://www.stevenharveyceca.com/individuals-future-college-students

Our question is:  What should we include in the book?  Is there something that you wish someone had taught you with regards to Agile?  Is there something that you wish new hires and interns understood about Agile?

 

Our book will cover the following topics:

  1. The history and value of agile development
  2. Understanding the different types of agile development
  3. Describing the different roles
  4. Cultural considerations with agile
  5. The new way to collect and document requirements
  6. Grooming and planning
  7. Tracking and reporting
  8. Testing, quality & integration
  9. Market management

We will reference many of the Agile experts as well as present stories and examples to make the information more relatable.

Please let us know your thoughts on what needs to be included.  We would love to get your input!