Kellogg PM: week8 Agile product development

Last week, I learned UX/UI design and wireframing. I enjoyed last week a lot since I don’t have any experience or knowledge about it at all. Those designs include not only structure, symbol, and object on customer facing applications but count data design, how hard it is to get their job-to-be-done done.

Photo by İrfan Simsar on Unsplash

This week I learn Agile product development, it’s a framework, methodology, and mindset to increase flexibility and develop faster. This point of view is in accordance with the tech company mindset or startup mindset where we want to build, measure and learn as fast as possible. Unlike the Agile approach that has an iterative process, waterfall is the old methodology which is more sequential and simpler. I truly believe it’s still useful but in a totally different scenario. If we have a clear understanding of requirements and constraints then it would be great to use waterfall[1], Agile on the other hand gives you flexibility to plan based on sprint instead. You can start with unclear plan in mind.

Management is not only about work but managing people and how we all achieve goals together. I start to feel like agile is just a tool that people introduce and try to upscale it to a management tool not just for the development team. It’s a new way to overcome old management style in traditional company.

  1. Agile — This is an iterative product development approach, it suits situations where we don’t have super clear requirements or we want to test out new ideas/products/services.
  2. Waterfall — This is a sequential product development approach, it suits situations where we have extremely clear requirements and we are confident that this is factual not assumptions.
  3. Product Roadmapping — It’s a visual form of product development plans, any PM can use this as a tool to keep tracking of her products or as a tool for communication with stakeholders.
  4. Kanban — Kanban or Kanban board is the most simple Agile methodology tool. The fundamental component comprises of 3 parts: to do, doing, and done. I personally used the kanban board in trello/asana before, it’s a tool for project management and it’s super useful in my opinion.
  5. Scrum — Scrum is one of the most common Agile methodology. The operation of scrum is under sprint between 1 to 4 weeks. Scrum contains predefined roles and ceremonies, or you can called events, which include daily standup, sprint review, sprint planning. A scrum consists of developers, scrum master, and product owner.
  6. Product Owner is the term derived from Agile framework, this is not the same as Product Management. Mostly, the difference comes from the scope of the work.
  7. SAFe — This is an agile framework for a large enterprise, this would enable governance across the company. SAFe big picture summarizes how every team in any level interconnects. This framework applies scrum, kanban, and xp in different use cases.
Agile SAFe 5.0 framwork from scaledagileframework.com

Embracing Agile from HBR[3]

“Agile is about innovation”- This Agile methodology could be applied in several industries not only technological development of application or website, for example, human resource, marketing, production, warehousing, even build fighter jets. What people might misunderstand is for routine operations and processes, Agile is not useful but that’s not true. More often than not, people would believe that they need new products and services to serve customers better. In reality, they need innovation in functional processes too.

There are 6 crucial practices that leadership can adopt to make great use of Agile.

1.Learn How Agile Really Works

We need to start by understanding that Agile is not a command-and-control style of management anymore. It’s neither “do what I say but faster” as HBR article mentioned nor a new word for complete control management style. This framework embraces speed, flexibility of the small team, and promoting each individual capability rather than just control.

Product owner aka initiative owner responsibility is to coordinate with key stakeholders: customers, senior executives, and business managers. He or she would maintain a list of great opportunities in the product backlog, and the owners would relentlessly rank orders of these opportunities.

The great thing about the initiative owner is that he or she doesn’t tell who does what or how long the task will take. The team will discuss with the developer manager helping out to split a big task into smaller ones with clear and defined requirements. This maximizes the team’s brain power.

2.Understand Where Agile Does or Does Not Work

The research team found that if any project satisfies these criterias then it would be suitable to use Agile: complex problem, solution is unknown, product requirements will likely to change, the work can be modularized, close collaboration with end users.

The nature of projects mentioned above is found in product development functions, marketing projects, strategic planning activities, supply-chain challenges, and resource allocation decisions. They are less valuable to routine tasks such as plant maintenance, purchasing, sales calls, and accounting. In my humble opinion for analytics work, agile and scrum suits bi developer , machine learning engineers, and data science(engineering) but not data analyst work, not decision scientist work, and not data science in reseearch function. I think the nature of analytics work can not be modularized since it does not contain a specific template of work., even if we have rough template it’s hard to estimate time spent on big unclear task. Description and methodology could change over a meeting, and priority is totally different from engineering kind of work so it’s tough to plan and execute.

Photo by Lala Azizli on Unsplash

3.Start Small and Let the Word Spread

Like all change, we start small and let the impact speak, not us selling it to others. I think this topic falling into change management, moving from one style to another requires understanding and buy-in from a particular team. Unlike corporate programs where rolling out is just an act of announcement and everyone needs to follow. We start from small team where they are willing to learn and have less resistance to apply new concept. After that, we aim to showcase real value to others within the same function.

4.Allow “Master” Teams to Customize Their Practices

At the heart of Agile, it’s not about mandate but flexibility. Applying agile principles corresponds to managing humans, contrasting to machines we have life, creativity, and we can make decisions. Any team that understands the key agile principles can adapt the process to improve speed, increase team member satisfaction.

5.Practice Agile at the Top

It would be too naive to apply Agile principles to the whole company except the management team or your team. The nature of some management tasks could be enhanced using agile methodology. Leadership could apply their agile methodology too, it’s not just for the IT department only or this is engineering only.

6.Destroy the Barriers to Agile Behaviors

There’s a default old management style that needs to be steered toward agile such as focusing on the team rather than the individual. Collective intelligence of the team is far more important and easier to create than individual intelligence. Facilitators can utilize agile framework to slowly build trust, feedback system, and measure on speed and team’s satisfaction instead of member contribution.

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Him Apisit

Interest in Data Analytics, Product Development, Social Enterprise, Decision Science, Management Science, Behavioral Science, Strategy, Game Theory.