In Agile, How to Handle New Client Requirements?


When your customer discovers what they really want in their project, ask them how they would like to handle it. You can push out the release date or add more resources (which is like saying we are going to need more money), or you can drop some of the less important stories from the to-do list (preferred).

Managing change requests

Don’t get emotional when you have this conversation. It is not your call to make. You are simply communicating.

Your responsibility is to:

  1. make them aware of the impact of their decisions and
  2. give them the information they need to make an informed decision.

If your client really wants it all, create a nice-to-have list and tell them that if there is time at the end of the project, these are the first stories you will do.

But make it clear, the nice-to-haves are currently off the table and are not going to be part of the core plan.

How to move a slow project to Agile?


You are running a project that is not going well, progress is not as planned, confidence on meeting a deadline is low, what you are currently doing is not working and you need to get something out of the door fast.

You have read about agile and understand the benefits of this way of delivering, but you are already in the middle of the project and do not know how to transition your slow motion project into an agile one.

Project Management

How to transition a slow motion project into agile?

1) You need to make sure everyone is on the same page

  • Why you are there
  • What you are trying to accomplish
  • Who’s the customer
  • What big rocks you need to move
  • Who’s calling the shots

If there is any doubt about these, ask the tough questions and get some alignment.

2) You need to start delivering

If you have to ship something fast, throw out the current plan, and create a new one you can believe in. Just as if you are creating a new agile plan from scratch, create a to-do list, size things up, set some priorities and deliver the minimal amount of functionality to get something out the door.

If you need to show progress but have to work within the confines of your original plan, start delivering something of value every week.

Take one or two valuable features each week and just do them completely. Once you have shown you can deliver (and regained an element of trust), slowly rework the plan and define a release based on your now measured team velocity and how much work there is remaining.

Then simply keep delivering until you have something you can ship. Update the plan as you go, execute fiercely, and use the sense of urgency you have been giving to blow through anything standing in your way.

5 Delivery Principles for a Digital Team


Too many of digital projects do not work well, are delivered late, over budget or not fit to purpose. To increase the success rate of these projects, there is the need of a new approach.

1. Put users’ needs first

The products and services you deliver should be driven by the needs of your users, not what suits you as providers. This means you need to invest time and effort to regularly engage with users and the contexts in which they interact with what you produce.

2. Make decisions based on data

Simply stating a user’s needs is insufficient, you need to counsel these needs with sound qualitative and quantitative data, and use that data to make objective decisions about what to deliver and when. Data is not making choices easier, but it will help you to take better decisions.

3. Release iteratively and often

Stop doing ‘big’ releases, these tend to frustrate users and put at risk the organisation. Work Agile, start small with the minimum viable product, test it and release it as soon as possible on a timescale of days and weeks, rather than months or years. Repeat the process many times over, adding to your products and services based on feedback, tests and changes to technology.

4. Keep it simple and consistent

You will do the hard work not to over-think or over-complicate things. Whether a user is new or experienced, task-driven or browsing, they will able to get started quickly, flow through the process with ease and trust the integrity of the results. Keep always usability in mind.

5. Do the hard work behind the scenes

Great digital product or service doesn’t rest entirely on what  appears on-screen. Your work doesn’t stop when you send something live. Care about the running of products and services, from their discovery, development and throughout the time they are operational.

If you want to know what other organisations are doing, the U.S. Digital Services Playbook is a fantastic read.

Agile Product Development


In agile product development is very hard to have the best product right away, so commit to rapid and continuous improvements is the way to go. Of course, the messiness of trial and error may seem uncomfortable, but action allows us to learn at a faster rate.

In agile product development avoid the paralysis by analysis

In agile product development avoid the paralysis by analysis

The following insightful story comes from the book Art & Fear:

A clever ceramics instructor divided his pottery class into 2 groups. One half of the students would be graded on quality and the other half would be grade on quantity.

Thought out the course, the “quality” students funnelled all the energy into crafting the perfect ceramic piece, they studied the right mix of materials, the correct measures, weight, optimal temperature, did an extensive research and produced one “perfect” product.

While the second half students do not care about the “perfect” product, but produced pots in every session non stop.

At the end, although it was counterintuitive to his students, yo can guess how his experiment came out at the end of the course, the best pieces all come from students whose goal was quantity, the ones who spent the most time actually practicing their craft.

This lesson is applicable to a much broader view, if you want to make something great, you need to start making. Looking for perfection can get in the way during the early stages of the creative process. Do not get stuck in planing and start acting.

All the over-planing, talking are sings that we are afraid, that we don’t just feel ready;  that tendency leads us to wait rather than act, to perfect rather than launch.

* Image credit istock.com

Stop Planing and Start Acting


Being creative and innovative is not enough, you still need to act.

Many people get stuck between wanting to act and taking action. Professors Bob Sutton and Jeffrey Pfeffer call this the “knowing-doing gap”: the space between what we know we should do and what we actually do. This cal lead the company to have a paralysis by analysis, this is when talk becomes a substitute for action.

Yoya, Do or do not there is no try

A corporate example of paralysis by analysis is Eastman Kodak company, in mid 1990’s the leadership team had a deep expertise and intellectually understood that the future of photography was digital, Kodak had actually invented the digital camera in 1975 and later they pioneered the world’s first megapixel sensor. So why all this knowledge and technology was not marketed by Kodak, why they didn’t take action?

Kodak had basically owned the consumer and professional photography market for at least 100 years, with in some segments having a market share as high as 90%. Facing strong global competitors in the digital market like Cannon, Sony, Nikon, Kodak knew that it will struggle and the management team had fear of failure.

What happened to Kodak is not due to lack of information or leadership expertise; its failure was to not being able to turn insight into action, as a result one of the most important corporations lost its way.

To achieve goals, to overcome obstacles in your way, you have to be focused on getting it done now. As Yoda (from Stars Wars) put it to Luke Skywalker “Do or do not. There is no try”.

8 Ticks to turn insight into action:

  1. Start with the end goal in mind
  2. Fight procrastination by adopting “do it now!” as your mantra
  3. Don’t plan out everything you need to do to finish a project, just focus on the very next thing you need to do to move it forward
  4. Assign a set amount of time per day to work on a task or project
  5. Un-clutter, be able to access what you need, when you need it, without breaking the flow of your work to find it
  6. Break down large goals into smaller steps to make the journey to completion more doable
  7. Prioritise, certain tasks will always hold more priority than others
  8. Stop chasing perfection, getting things done shouldn’t involve mastering perfection

* Image credit hitwallpaper.com

Change and Negotiation


When people think about negotiation, they immediately think of having to influence someone else but Erica Ariel Fox says you have to manage yourself first.

She introduces the big four concept:

  1. Your Dreamer, or inner CEO. This part of you operates on intuition, and imagines big possibilities for the future
  2. Your Thinker, or inner CFO. This part uses facts and logic to make rational assessments, to evaluate options and manage risk
  3. Your Lover, or inner VP of HR. This part of you runs on emotion, values relationships, and excels at communicating with other people.
  4. Your Warrior, or inner COO. This part of you thrives on action, wanting to close the performance gap and getting things done, tell the hard truth, and take a firm stand for your values.

Without the CEO, you could miss the vision that is essential to an innovative strategy. No CFO, and the budget collapses. Without HR, the right people do not get hired or developed. If the COO’s absent, it’s all talk and no action.

The big four change from within

The Big Four represent your capacity to dream about the future, to analyse and solve problems, to build relationships with people, and to take effective action; they enable your visioning, thinking, feeling, and achieving; they make it possible for you to take four approaches to leading and living: inspirational, analytical, relational, and practical.

Ideally, you have these 4 c-level executives operate within you in balance, they are available to you and you can call on each one when the time is right. Negotiating with yourself means letting your Big Four consider which of them is in the best position to get the result you want.

Read more: Erika Fox. “Winning from Within: A Breakthrough Method for Leading, Living, and Lasting Change” HarperBusiness

Strategy and Customer Understanding


Your customer experience must support your corporate strategy. You need to work and focus on defining the customer experience that best aligns with:

  1. corporate vision,
  2. target market
  3. value proposition, your products & services
  4. unique strengths (competitive advantage)
  5. financial objectives
  6. core values

Be aware that the wrong customer experience would confuse your customers and send them to a competitor.

In addition to the strategy alignment, your customer experience must align with your brand attributes, you need to guide the activities and decision-making of employees at every level of your organisation, so that they can deliver on your company’s brand promises.

Companies need to understand and get a complete picture of what their customers really need, want and aspire.

To do this, there are three methods:

  1. mining unsolicited customer feedback, customers constantly provide unsolicited feedback about their experiences via emails, call, chats, social media, etc.
  2. conducting ethnographic research, this is simply observing your customer’s behaviour in a natural setting
  3. gathering input from employees, each of frontline employees interact with dozen or hundreds of individual customers and routinely witnesses with good and bad customer experiences.
  4. companies can create “Voice of the employees programs

As an example of a low tech approach, you can place whiteboards in prominent locations for employees to share ideas for improving the customer experience and track ideas from submission to implementation.

Thinking you know what customers want is risky. Most companies neglect to build a foundation of customer understanding before they develop products, services and experiences strategies, and then proceed with costly initiatives.

Employees and managers very often fall into the trap of assuming that what they want is what customers want.

To avoid this trap, you can:

  1. use personas to document who your customers are. Unlike market segmentations, which typically remain nameless and faceless, personas come to life with names, photos and vivid narratives that describe real life scenarios.
  2. once you have developed your personas, you create journey maps that visually illustrate a particular persona’s activities over time. You can plot the entire course of a customer’s relationship with a company or zoom in to just one particular part of the journey

But remember, you end goal is not the personas and journey maps themselves, your end goal is deep customer insights.

Once you complete this part, share your customer insight early and often, use all channels available and meet regularly with employees and business functions for all the company to be in the same page.

Read more: Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business by Harley Manning, Kerry Bodine and Josh Bernoff. Forrester Research.