Value Hunting with the Product Owner

Value Hunting with the Product Owner

I coach my Product Owners to ruthlessly refine their Product Backlog to prevent onset of an Agile death march. A lack of proper attention to Product Backlog Refinement can lead to product decay, premature end of product life, and demotivation of the Development Team. 

In light of these risks, it's important to get Product Backlog Refinement right...

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4 things

I was recently challenged to boil Agile down to what could be conveyed to a group of folks new to Agile within a 1 hour session. My solution was to constrain the session to 4 key elements of Agile:

  1. Deliver - I consider delivery to be the fundamental rule of agile -- every iteration without fail. Not necessarily to production, but make sure what you've built works.
  2. Value - Building something suitable for purpose is the ultimate goal. The absence of value is an indication to reassess, redirect, or stop.
  3. Prioritize - Deliver the highest value item first. Once done, repeat. Prioritization is not a one time thing. Prioritization is a continuous activity.
  4. Learn - Experiment all the time. Each iteration tests 2 hypotheses -- one product focused and the other process focused. On the product side, the team is working on what is perceived to believed to be the highest value work. The inspection of the delivered product is the ultimate test of the product hypothesis. On the process side, the team creates and executes what is perceived to be the best possible process given current constraints. The test of the process hypothesis is whether the best possible delivery occurred.  The results from both these experiments serves as input to the next experiment. 

Ok, I lied. There were actually 5 elements. The fifth? -- Repeat! It's a never ending cycle.

Why Exercise?



Tell me and I’ll forget;

show me and I may remember;

involve me and I’ll understand.

                           (Chinese proverb)

Why do I include so many exercises in my Scrum classes? Because mastering Scrum takes practice and a lot of it. Whether you’re a ScrumMaster, Product Owner, or Team Member, you develop mastery through practice. Repeated studies show that adults learn best by doing. Exercises bring the doing into the classroom.

Tell me... A lecture can be entertaining, riveting, and ultimately forgettable. How often have you thoroughly enjoyed a speaker only to forget the gist of the speech within days? If you have difficulty remembering the gist, what chance do the details have?

Show me... Visuals can help long-term recovery of information. Think back on an important event in your life. Chances are that the first thing that pops into your mind is a picture ― a snapshot your brain took of the event at the time. These pictures are like an index of the stuff we keep in our memory. Additional details will follow ― sounds, smells, emotions ― but the first thing is often the picture. The picture is the key to unlocking the rest of the information.

Involve me... Athletes refer to muscle memory as a result of repeated, disciplined practice focusing on a particular activity. Anyone who has successfully learned to ride a bike or drive a manual transmission car has developed a “muscle memory” that enables them to perform this activity without conscious thought. With practice, the body knows or “understands” how to respond appropriately to achieve the desired result. Class exercises provide the physical experience on how to perform the specific practice.

Balance ― Since people learn in different ways, my workshops blend auditory (Tell me), using lecture and discussion; visual (Show me), using slides and wall space as information radiators; and kinesthetic (Involve me), physical activities and role play. Consistently, participants’ feedback rank the exercises as having the greatest impact on their understanding and retention of class material. Integration and balance of these different modes of teaching is essential to a successful learning experience.