Virtual UATs

One of the key elements of Agile product development is to get frequent feedback from users to validate that your development is headed in the right direction.  One way I have been experimenting with getting this feedback is through weekly 10 minute ‘product videos’ that I make every Friday.  In these recorded sessions I demonstrate new features, review the product roadmap and sprint backlog, and talk about the key benefits that our product offers.  These are aimed primarily at internal users, our sales and marketing team, and the support team that has to answer questions about the new features we are building.

So far these weekly videos are getting a good response.  The team enjoys a quick recap of what we have done both mid-sprint and at the end of each two-week cycle.  The recordings help me both communicate to the team efficiently and crystallize what the value of our new features is – if I can’t summarize why we built what we did in a few minutes then it might not have been worth doing.

How do you communicate to internal stakeholderes what your team is working on and why? These videos are of course not a substitute for real user-acceptance testing and product demonstration scenarios, but they do allow a wider audience to get a high-level view into what is happening with our core product.  At times these videos generate questions and feedback from folks I would not have been able to sit down with one-on-one.  I’d like to get deeper feedback from more people but in truth it’s not that simple.

More recommended reading

For my pop-culture blog this week I’m going to point you to another blog: http://tickledtk.com/2015/02/five-unread-comic-books-begging-to-be-read-fandom5/

And her blog entry is about 5 great new (or relatively new) comic books to check out.  I’ll try to move beyond comic books in my blogging entries soon but right now there are lots of good ones on my shelf, on my computer, and on my mind.  Enjoy.

Recommended reading

This week’s leadership post is really just a recommendation of a great resource.  This is in part because of the week I have been having which has kept me from writing something longer.  But it is also because I regularly enjoy the articles from this source.

If you’ve not reading http://www.strategy-business.com/ I encourage you to start.  I tweet quotes from almost everything I read on this site.  They have a wide range of articles and blogs on corporate culture, leadership development, business books, innovation and more.  Check it out if you get the chance.

Simple-minded question

Today’s question brought to you by the 1980s, and especially by a band I listened to a lot in those days, Simple Minds.  If you really listen to there lyrics you’ll discover that in truth it’s not that simple.  Enjoy:

What you gonna do when things go wrong?
What you gonna do when it all cracks up?
What you gonna do when the Love burns down?
What you gonna do when the flames go up?
Who is gonna come and turn the tide?
What’s it gonna take to make a dream survive?
Who’s got the touch to calm the storm inside?
Don’t say goodbye
Don’t say goodbye
In the final seconds who’s gonna save you?

Reading Marvel

This week I read the final parts of Spider-verse – the big Marvel event for Spider-Man for 2014-15 coming off of the last big Spider-Man event which was the whole Superior Spider-Man event.  As I have written before, Spider-Man has long been my favorite character and I really enjoyed both Superior Spider-Man and Spider-verse as story arcs.  I mostly stopped reading comics for 25 years and found it fairly easy to plug in again to what was happening with Spider-Man.  Unlike with the X-Men, the Avengers, and other heroes I read about as a kid – whose story lines had become far too convoluted for me to pick up again – I had no real trouble jumping in to what Peter Parker (or Otto Octavius) was doing.  I read every tie-in issue for Spider-verse and even though at times the story seemed to be spinning in too many directions I felt that the authors pulled it together well in the end (though it’s not really the end since there is still an epilogue and many of these characters are going to continue at least until the summer).

In spite of how well this story hung together I am glad to know that Marvel is planning some significant universe reordering with this summer’s Secret Wars.  The cast of characters across the Marvel comics universe has become too large to keep track of.  When I was a kid I read the one X-Men book and the one Avengers book and I knew what was going on with both teams.  Now there are multiple books for these inter-twining characters, sometimes multiple versions of the same character with time travel and cloning, and it gets hard to know who is ‘inverted’ or reformed or replaced or what.  It’s time to simplify things I think without throwing away core continuity for the characters.  I think Spider-Man has done that well (though I know some fans have objected to different story lines in the past few years).  I hope Secret Wars can make the rest of the Marvel universe accessible again.

Of course, in truth it’s not that simple.

Why you need an internal innovation team

ASBIV:

Good Agile ideas here; check these out

Originally posted on Under 10 by Steve Johnson:

Every organization has to prepare for the abandonment of everything it does.—Peter F. Drucker, American management consultant.

innovate

How does a pack of wolves take down a bear? They attack from all sides. While the bear is dealing with a frontal attack, another wolf is attacking from behind. Ultimately, the bear gets exhausted from turning and turning and turning to address each attack.

Sound familiar?

Maybe you’re the biggest vendor in your space but you’re being attacked by upstarts. After all, with today’s technology, a new player can go from idea to execution in weeks—less time than it takes for you to get a business plan defined and approved.

Maybe you’re the biggest vendor in your space but you have more ideas than you can execute. And as soon as you decide on a set of priorities, a big sale or executive pet project comes in that de-rails the plan.

To…

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The long haul

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while and have seen my comments about Agile software development, you know that I appreciate the principles of Agile.  I think they reflect not just a good way to make software but also a good way to live.  One of those core principles concerns sustainable development.  It affirms that Agile processes promote sustainable development; the sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Is it possible to get more work out of a team if they are pushed really hard?  For a little while.  But over time that team burns out or those team members move to other projects.  This is not (in general) because people don’t want to work hard but because people want to work sustainably hard.  This connects well with the self-organizing nature of Agile teams.  Motivated individuals given the freedom to find a sustainable work pattern will produce great results over the long-term and do it in ways that they can repeat on other projects.

In my experience Agile is about the long game; Agile teams thrive and produce incredible results in firms that similarly take a long-term view of what leads to success.  Some people might think you can get more work from a team by demanding that they put in longer hours but in truth it’s not that simple.