Johanna Rothman

Where I Think “Agile” is Headed, Part 1: Do You Need an Agile Approach?

Johanna Rothman

I spoke at Agile 2019 last week. I had both a great time and a heart-rending realization. The great time was meeting and reconnecting with people. The heart-rending realization is our industry is in big, big trouble. Here are my thoughts and where I think the “agile” industry is headed. Problems I See with “Agile” Here's a summary of problems I saw last week: Too many people think “agile” will solve all their problems.

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Where I Think “Agile” is Headed, Part 2: Where Does Management Fit?

Johanna Rothman

In Part 1 , I wrote about how “Agile” is not a silver bullet and is not right for every team and every product. This post is about how management fits into agile approaches. Too often, managers think “agile” is for others, specifically teams of people. Teams need to figure out how to manage their WIP, collaborate with the customer, and deliver something small every day. Team-based “agile” is not enough.

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Product Roles, Part 1: Product Managers, Product Owners, Business Analysts

Johanna Rothman

We have many words for people who shepherd the business value of a product. The many words aren't a problem, as long as we can all agree on what these various people are and they take responsibility for.

Projects, Products, and the Project Portfolio: Part 2, Assess & Rank the Work

Johanna Rothman

Part 1 was about seeing the value in the various projects. I called the value stream a product so that people would think about who would use it and why. I suggested that we stop work on specific products when you have more products than teams.

How To Take Action on Customer Discovery

Speaker: Nick Noreña, Innovation Coach and Advisor, Kromatic

We all want to build successful products - and that means satisfied customers. Before anything else, you must understand what problems you can solve. The best way to do that is to get out of the building and start asking questions. But how can you make the most of those conversations, and ensure that you walk away with productive insights? Join Nick Noreña, educator, entrepreneur, and currently Innovation Coach and Advisor at Kromatic, as he covers how we can effectively action our findings from customer discovery conversations.

When is “Agile Scaling” the Answer?

Johanna Rothman

At the Influential Agile Leader workshop earlier this year, I led a session about scaling and how you might think about it. I introduced the topic and explained that “scaling” might not be the answer.

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Projects, Products, and the Project Portfolio: Part 1, Organize the Work

Johanna Rothman

I've been working with some clients who are trying to find the magic way to slice and dice their project portfolios. Their organizations treat the software people (IT or Engineering) as a shared service. That means the software people “service” the rest of the organization.

Product Planning, Information Persistence, & Product Lifetime

Johanna Rothman

I've been thinking a lot about planning recently. Many of my clients want to create long-term plans, based on data with short validity, even for products in a high state of change.

One-on-Ones: Regular and Sacrosanct

Johanna Rothman

When Esther and I wrote Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management , we didn't really think one-on-ones were a secret. But, managers weren't conducting the one-on-ones regularly. The managers canceled for other “higher priority” meetings.

Product Roles, Part 6: Shorten Feedback Loops

Johanna Rothman

I started this series discussing the issue of the various product-based roles in an agile organization. I suggested a product value team because one person becomes a bottleneck. One person is unlikely to shepherd the strategy and the tactics for a product.

Build Product Progress with a Strong Data Culture

Speaker: Nima Gardideh, CTO, Pearmill

Have you ever thought your product's progress was headed in one direction, and been shocked to see a different story reflected in big picture KPIs like revenue? It can be confusing when customer feedback or metrics like registration or retention are painting a different picture. No matter how sophisticated your analytics are, if you're asking the wrong questions - or looking at the wrong metrics - you're going to have trouble getting answers that can help you. Join Nima Gardideh, CTO of Pearmill, as he demonstrates how to build a strong data culture within your team, so everyone understands which metrics they should actually focus on - and why. Then, he'll explain how you can use your analytics to regularly review progress and successes. Finally, he'll discuss what you should keep in mind when instrumenting your analytics.

Clean Your Backlogs

Johanna Rothman

I've been working at the intersection of the project portfolio and the product roadmaps. You can tell because of the various posts about information persistence.) Here's what I find when I work with my clients: They have years worth of projects in the project portfolio. They have years worth of ideas in various states of description in what they're calling product roadmaps. They have years worth of defects in the defect tracking system.

“Agile Coaching” Is Not the Goal

Johanna Rothman

I've met a number of agile coaches recently. They tell me they're hired as Scrum coaches or as Scrum Masters. They see their job as “better Scrum.” ” It would be lovely if that was their one and only job.

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Rethinking the Need for Generalizing Specialists

Johanna Rothman

Early on in my agile practice, I believed in generalizing specialists. I even wrote Five Tips to Hiring a Generalizing Specialist. However, if a team becomes collaborative, I no longer think we need generalizing specialists. That's because the team works and learns as a team. If a team is willing to collaborate as pairs, a swarm, or mob , you might not need generalizing specialists at all. Why Generalizing Specialists. Back in the waterfall world, many people had narrow specialties.

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Product Roles, Part 5: Component Teams to Create Slices

Johanna Rothman

As I've written these product role posts, a number of you have asked about how to use component teams. You might have a security team. Maybe a performance team. Regardless of my desire, you have component teams. You want a more agile approach to manage the interdependencies among the teams.

What Is (and Isn’t) Product Management?

Speaker: Steve Johnson, VP of Products, Pragmatic Institute

Product Management is one of the most exciting - and most misunderstood - functions in technical organizations. Is it strategic or tactical? Is it a planning role or a support role? Many product professionals are unclear about what is (and isn't) product management. After all, product management spans many activities from business planning to market readiness. In this session, we’ll examine many product activities and artifacts for product strategy, planning, and growth, and introduce a simple tool that you can use in your organization to clarify the roles of product management and others. Steve Johnson explores the many roles of Product Management in this fun talk focused on why product managers should obsess on problems instead of solutions.

Announcement: Make the Most of Your One-on-Ones Workshop

Johanna Rothman

If you wondered why I've been so quiet here on the blog, it's because I've been managing my own product development. This announcement is that Esther Derby and I have teamed up to offer online workshops based on Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management.

Minimum Requirements Documentation: A Matter of Context

Johanna Rothman

A colleague asked me about the kinds of documentation the team might need for their stories. He wanted to know what a large geographically distributed team might do. What was reasonable for the stories, the epics, and the roadmap? How little could they do for requirements documentation? I start with the pattern of Card, Conversation, Confirmation when I think about requirements and how much documentation.

Help Managers Visualize Their Problems

Johanna Rothman

I've been working with several managers at organizations large and small, who want to capitalize their software “earlier.” ” These managers have some strongly-held beliefs about the people: People are resources. Resources can multitask on several projects at a time.

How Little Can You Do (& Still be Effective)

Johanna Rothman

Back in Manage It!, I suggested that for requirements, the questions should be, “How little can we do?” ” and still have a great product. My argument was this: the longer the project (regardless of approach), the more risk there is. Can you reduce risk by reducing the requirements? That would allow you to release earlier with less risk. Not to release a bad product. No, to release a smaller product.

The 5 Levels of Analytics Maturity

Basic dashboards used to be enough to thrill end users. But over time, modern capabilities have emerged—and bare-minimum features are no longer cutting it. How have analytics changed? And where do your BI offerings fall short? Find out sophisticated ways to future-proof your application. Brought to you by Logi Analytics.

Tactical Ideas for Agile Budgeting, Part 1

Johanna Rothman

Too often, organizations want to budget for an entire year. The managers run around for two or three months in advance of that fiscal year, attempting to predict a ton of things: Estimates for not-well-defined projects or features, Capital equipment or tool needs, “Headcount” aka, people needed. Then, the organization doesn't finalize the budget until after the year starts.

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Announcement: New Distributed Agile Teams Online Workshop

Johanna Rothman

After Mark Kilby and I collaborated on From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams , we decided to start creating online classes. We have just opened registration for our first geographically distributed agile teams class. See Prepare for Successful Distributed Agile Teams. It's a self-study class. That means you can proceed at your own pace. You'll have the opportunity to join a Slack group for discussion and support.

Successful Geographically Distributed Agile Teams Book Milestone

Johanna Rothman

I’ve been pair-writing a book with Mark Kilby , From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams: Collaborate to Deliver. We hit a big milestone today: We published the first complete draft today. We’ve been working on this book for a year.

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Feedback and Feedforward for Continuous Improvement Posted

Johanna Rothman

I’m a monthly contributor to the Gurock blog. This month’s article is Feedback & Feedforward for Continuous Improvement : Using Double-Loop Learning Challenges Our Assumptions. Single-loop learning is when you “Plan the work and work the plan.”

Make an Impact with Analytics and Journey Maps

Speaker: Kirui K. K., Co-founder and CEO of Tanasuk Africa

If you want to offer a better user experience, it can be tempting to track each and every data point in your product. However, this can quickly get complicated and overwhelming as you collect more and more data. How do you know which metrics will help you improve? Kirui K. K., Co-founder & CEO Tanasuk Africa, wants you to know that analytics don't have to be complicated to make an impact - no matter the size of your company. Join him as he explains how to create a customer journey map, then use that map to figure out the metrics you need to know - and how to use them.

Strategy Behind More Agile Budgeting, Part 2

Johanna Rothman

I suggested ways to think about more agile budgeting in part 1. I didn't tell you why. How do you budget your own money and time? If you're like me, you have a plan for the year. I evaluate the plan—my products, services, and clients—on a regular basis. I always evaluate monthly.

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Why Managers Believe Multitasking Works: Long Decision Wait Times

Johanna Rothman

When I teach any sort of product/project/portfolio management, I ask, “Who believes multitasking works?” ” Always, at least several managers raise their hands. They believe multitasking works because they multitask all the time.

Product Roles, Part 4: Product Orientation and the Role of Projects

Johanna Rothman

Many people in the agile community promote a product orientation over a project orientation. That's possible because an organization has product or feature teams. That works until you have more products than teams. That's when you might still need projects to accomplish everything.

Agile Project Kickoffs

Johanna Rothman

I've led various project kickoffs over the years. Back in the closer-to-waterfall days, we had to introduce ourselves to each other. We could then move to the project purpose and release criteria. Now that agile teams stay together, we can change the kickoff to more project-specific work. I wrote an article several years ago, Keys to Chartering an Agile Project. That article has the template I offered in Manage It! In Create Your Successful Agile Project , I suggested a reframe for the charter.

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The Magic of Intent: Start Knowing The Goals of Your Users

Speaker: Terhi Hanninen, Senior Product Manager, Zalando, and Dr. Franziska Roth, Senior User Researcher, Zalando

It's important to know your users - what are their preferences, pain points, ultimate goals? With user research and usage data, you can get a great idea of how your users act. The tricky part is, very few users reliably act the same way every time they use your product. Join Terhi Hanninen, Senior Product Manager, and Dr. Franziska Roth, Senior User Researcher at Zalando, as they explain how they were able to reach a new level of user understanding - by taking their user research and segmenting their users by point-in-time intent. You'll leave with a strategy to change how your product team, and organization at large, understands your users.

Seeing the Close-to-the-Customer Conundrum

Johanna Rothman

Too-typical “telephone” game. Especially when we use agile approaches, we want to be close to our customer. If you've ever had a chance to sit with a customer, you've learned how effectively (and fast!) the team and the customer learn from each other.

Designing an Organization for a Product Approach, Part 1

Johanna Rothman

If you’re thinking about an agile transformation, you already know about feature teams. You might even call them/use them as product teams. You might wonder about organizing all the work as product work. See Your Current Organization. Many organizations use functions to organize people.

Product Roles, Part 3: Product or Feature Teams vs Project Teams

Johanna Rothman

An agile approach requires a cross-functional team. That means that everyone on the team focuses on the same intent. That intent might be an entire product. It might be a feature set as part of a larger program. But, the team focuses as a team.

Agile Milestone Criteria for Projects and Programs

Johanna Rothman

You've got interdependencies across the organization for a given project or program to release a product. You can see demos. That's not the problem. You need enough insight or prediction to start the marketing campaign or to create training videos or product documentation.

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Monetizing Analytics Features: Why Data Visualizations Will Never Be Enough

Think your customers will pay more for data visualizations in your application? Five years ago they may have. But today, dashboards and visualizations have become table stakes. Discover which features will differentiate your application and maximize the ROI of your embedded analytics. Brought to you by Logi Analytics.

Management Signals

Johanna Rothman

I’m catching up on my podcasts and just listened to Seth Godin’s Akimbo episode about honest signals. (Do Do listen.) It’s about the signals we send that are honest or dishonest and why we might choose one, the other, or both.

Technical Debt, Loans & Costs

Johanna Rothman

I listened to The Ultimate Metric: Identifying the Right Problems to Solve. The guest, Janelle Klein, said: Technical debt is not a loan. I thought that was brilliant. She went on to explain that when we talk about “debt” managers think they have dials to manage the debt. Uh oh. Wrong. When managers think in cost accounting terms, such as mortgages, they think they can: Predict the cost of maintaining that debt, in both money and time. (Do Do nothing to pay off or manage that debt.).

How I Make My Decisions to Speak at Conferences

Johanna Rothman

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash. Consultants who make money speak at conferences. I love to speak. Give me a microphone—I am a happy person. I keep having to turn down speaking requests, both domestic and overseas. I would love to go, to learn and to meet people.

Cost vs Value Measurements for Agile Approaches

Johanna Rothman

Some of my clients have struggled with their project governance as they move to agile approaches. In the past, they've asked for estimates and costs—by requirement—and then tracked the variance for those estimates and costs. The governance people do not record assumptions. They only record estimates and actuals. They want to “measure” the project success by adherence to estimates of date and costs, not by when the project creates which kind of value.

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Your Post-Launch Toolkit for Understanding Your Users

Speaker: Brittney Gwynn, former Director of Product, Simple Health

If you've ever launched an MVP, you know that the journey has only just begun. How do you figure out what to do next? You know that you need to look at how different user segments react, but how do you quickly distinguish signal from noise so you can iterate and improve? Join Brittney Gwynn, former Director of Product at Simple Health, as she explains how you can use early customer feedback, usage data, and continuous experimentation to optimize your journey to product-market fit. Whether you're at a brand-new company, or looking to innovate within a more mature organization, or anywhere in between, you'll come away with a new skill set, ready to make the most of your launches.