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Food for Agile Thought #427: Continuous Product Improvement, Changing Teams, Use Cases & User Stories, The Tech Gamble of Over-Engineering

TL; DR: Continuous Product Improvement — Food for Agile Thought #427

Welcome to the 427th edition of the Food for Agile Thought newsletter, shared with 47,634 peers. This week, Jeff Patton outlines a continuous product improvement cycle, highlighting its critical stages, and Brian Link delves into the evolving landscape of agile practices, reflecting on the recent dynamics. Heidi Helfand shares valuable strategies from her book “Dynamic Reteaming,” while Joost Minnaar advocates personal transformation as a critical element in successful organizational change. Also, we ask whether Scrum GPTs pose a challenge to Scrum Masters.

Then, Roman Pichler shares essential tips on product portfolio strategy, while Alistair Cockburn advocates using simple use cases and user stories in Agile teams. Jason Evanish guides Product Managers on helping engineers improve feature delivery estimates, and Thiago Brant explores the importance of Business Agility across all areas of your organization, pointing to useful practices and helpful frameworks.

Lastly, Alex Ewerlöf discusses the concept of ‘tech gamble’ and the importance of informed decision-making in technology development. The Consortium for Information & Software Quality™ highlights the high cost of poor software quality in the US, and Dave Snowden reflects on his early work with matrices and their alignment with complexity science. Shane Hastie’s interview with psychologist John Fisher explores the Fisher Change Curve and its applications in change management. Finally, Economist Tyler Cowen delves into the evolving role of AI, from its potential for leveling the playing field to its broader societal implications in various domains.

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The most popular discussion on LinkedIn last week was: The MinimumViableLibrary — #ProductOwner v2.0 edition!

📺 Sunand of CareersTalk interviewed me on Scrum Master Interview questions.

Did you miss the previous Food for Agile Thought’s issue 426?

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🏆 The Tip of the Week: Continuous Product Improvement

Jeff Patton: The Continuous Product Improvement Cycle

Jeff Patton discusses the continuous product improvement cycle, a model for teaching product development. It covers the cycle’s four parts: Sense, Focus, Discover, and Deliver, explaining how they help understand customers, prioritize work, test ideas, and release new features, emphasizing tech products’ need for frequent updates.

🍋 Lemon of the Week

We do not have a lemon this week.

➿ Agile & Scrum

Brian Link: Why is the world of agile changing?

Brian Link analyzes the evolving agile landscape, attributing changes to cost-cutting, agile saturation, and coaching quality. He advises agile professionals to broaden their skills, reposition themselves, and focus on meeting current industry needs in leadership, product management, agile basics, and team support.

Lenny Rachitsky and Heidi Helfand: The art and wisdom of changing teams

In a podcast by Lenny Rachitsky, Heidi Helfand discusses her book “Dynamic Reteaming.” She shares expertise on the necessity and benefits of reteaming in organizations, exploring five key patterns and offering strategies for effective team restructuring and decision-making.

staysaasy: How To Fix Broken Teams

The article provides a guide to fixing dysfunctional teams and identifying issues like complexity and undermanagement. Key steps include appointing a new manager, improving processes, removing negative influences, introducing new members, and revising team missions.

Joost Minnaar (via Corporate Rebels): The Importance of Transforming the Self in Change Management

Joost Minnaar underscores the role of personal transformation in organizational change, advocating for self-reflection and autonomy to drive progressive workplace evolution.

🎓 🖥 🇬🇧 Professional Scrum Facilitation Skills Class w/ PSFS Certificate — February 15, 2024

The Professional Scrum Facilitation Skills (PSFS) training by Berlin Product People is a one-day official Scrum.org class for advanced Scrum practitioners and agile coaches, including the industry-acknowledged PSFS certification. This PSFS training class is in English.

Enjoy the benefits of a live-virtual immersive class with like-minded agile peers from 09:00 – 17:30 o’clock CET.

Learn more: 🖥 💯 🇬🇧 Professional Scrum Facilitation Skills Class w/ PSFS Certificate — February 15, 2024.

👉 From time to time, we can offer last-minute seats for training classes at cost to individuals who do not have access to a corporate training budget. If you like to be notified about these opportunities, please register here.

🎯 Product

Alistair Cockburn (via Humanizing Work): 📺 Alistair Cockburn on Use Cases & User Stories

In this interview, Alistair Cockburn, an Agile Manifesto co-author, advocates for the use of use cases in Agile teams. He presents them as simple, story-like series of sentences that facilitate organization-wide discussion and critique, effectively complementing user stories in Agile product development. Cockburn suggests practical steps for integrating these lightweight use cases.

Roman Pichler: Everything You Need to Know about Product Portfolio Strategy

Roman Pichler’s article details the product portfolio strategy, which is crucial for managing groups of products like Microsoft Office. It differentiates between product portfolio, family, and line, and outlines key elements of an effective portfolio strategy. The piece also highlights how individual product strategies align with the overall portfolio, emphasizing the importance of regular management and strategy updates.

Jason Evanish: How Product Managers can help their Engineers make Better Estimates

Jason Evanish advises Product Managers on aiding engineers in making better feature delivery estimates, focusing on breaking down tasks, early discussions on complex projects, flexibility in scope, clear product specs, and pre-Sprint planning meetings.

(via Management 3.0): Business Agility Explained

Thiago Brant delves into Business Agility, highlighting insights on its necessity across all organizational areas. He emphasizes the centrality of people in Business Agility and explores its concept, significance, and practices, including critical challenges and frameworks for effective implementation.

📯 Could a Scrum GPT Challenge Scrum Masters?

Fewer Jobs for Scrum Masters, and now we see the universal Scrum GPT entering the competition: Will Scrum Masters change from essential practitioners to a niche role?

The job market is currently challenging for many agile practitioners, particularly Scrum Masters. Many are looking for new opportunities, while an increasing number of organizations consider the benefits they contribute to a team’s overall success. This is not just reflected in fewer job offerings for Scrum Masters; we also observe the demand for training significantly reduced.

To make the situation worse, AI has improved significantly over the last 12 months, too. Back in November 2023, OpenAI released GPTs, a hyper-customizable version of their GPT-4-based chatbot. (Please note that you need to have access to OpenAI’s paid version of ChatGPT to use GPTs.)

Besides the exciting market opportunity for many people with specific knowledge, data, or content, the question is what implication this new technology will have on the job market for agile practitioners when their roles are partly based on “knowledge” now available from a machine?

Read the article now: Could a Scrum GPT Challenge Scrum Masters?

🛠 Concepts, Tools & Measuring

Alex Ewerlöf: Tech gamble

Alex Ewerlöf discusses ‘tech gamble,’ a proactive yet often misguided approach to overengineering technology, contrasting it with reactive tech debt and emphasizing the importance of informed decision-making.

(via CISQ): Cost of Poor Software Quality in the US: A 2022 Report

Consortium for Information & Software Quality™ highlights the rising cost of poor software quality in the US, in 2022 at $2.41 trillion, focusing on cybercrime, supply chain issues, and growing Technical Debt.

Dave Snowden (via The Cynefin Company): The uncertainty matrices

Dave Snowden reflects on his early work, developing two matrices contrasting system knowledge and decision-maker awareness. These evolved with his focus on complexity science, aligning with Cynefin domains to aid strategic decision-making.

Shane Hastie (via InfoQ): Using The Fisher Change Curve to Build Empathy

Shane Hastie interviews psychologist John Fisher on the Fisher Change Curve, discussing its application in team dynamics, the importance of communication in change management, and the role of coaches in guiding individuals and teams through change processes.

🎶 Encore

Tyler Cowen (via Every): Economist Tyler Cowen on How ChatGPT Is Changing Your Job

Economist Tyler Cowen discusses the evolving role of AI in work and life, from leveling the playing field to its long-term, less egalitarian effects and its use in travel, research, and education.

📅 Scrum Training & Event Schedule

You can secure your seat for Scrum training classes, workshops, and meetups directly by following the corresponding link in the table below:

Date Class and Language City Price
🖥 💯 🇬🇧 May 28-29, 2024 GUARANTEED: Professional Scrum Master (Advanced) Training (PSM II; English; Live Virtual Class) Live Virtual Class €1,189 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 💯 🇬🇧 June 6, 2024 GUARANTEED: Hands-on Agile #62: From Backlog Manager to Product Manager: From Outputs to Outcomes w/ David Pereira (English) Live Virtual Meetup FREE
🖥 💯 🇬🇧 June 13-July 11, 2024 GUARANTEED: Advanced Product Backlog Management Cohort Class (PBM; English; Live Virtual Cohort) Live Virtual Cohort €399 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 💯 🇬🇧 June 25, 2024 GUARANTEED: Professional Scrum Facilitation Skills Training (PSFS; English; Live Virtual Class) Live Virtual Class €749 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 💯 🇬🇧 July 7, 2024 GUARANTEED: Hands-on Agile #63: The Anti-Patterns Canvas — A Tool Session (1) with Stefan Wolpers (English) Live Virtual Meetup FREE
🖥 💯 🇩🇪 July 9-10, 2024 GUARANTEED: Professional Scrum Product Owner Training (PSPO I; German; Live Virtual Class) Live Virtual Class €1,299 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇩🇪 August 27-28, 2024 Professional Scrum Master Training (PSM I; German; Live Virtual Class) Live Virtual Class €1,189 incl. 19% VAT

See all upcoming classes here.

You can book your seat for the training directly by following the corresponding links to the ticket shop. If the procurement process of your organization requires a different purchasing process, please contact Berlin Product People GmbH directly.

📺 Join 5,000-plus Agile Peers on Youtube

Now available on the Age-of-Product Youtube channel to improve learning, for example, about Continuous Product Improvement:

✋ Do Not Miss Out and Learn More About Continuous Product Improvement — Join the 19,000-plus Strong ‘Hands-on Agile’ Slack Community

I invite you to join the “Hands-on Agile” Slack Community and enjoy the benefits of a fast-growing, vibrant community of agile practitioners from around the world.

If you like to join all you have to do now is provide your credentials via this Google form, and I will sign you up. By the way, it’s free.

Help your team to learn about Continuous Product Improvement by pointing them to the free Scrum Anti-Patterns Guide:

🗞️ Last Week’s Food for Agile Thought Edition

Read more: Food for Agile Thought #426: Continuous Integration, More Features = More Problems, Rebuilding Trust, Job Stories Revisited.

Categories: News
Stefan Wolpers: Stefan, based in Berlin, Germany, has worked for 18-plus years as a Product Manager, Product Owner, agile coach, and Scrum Master. He is a Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) with Scrum.org and the author of Pearson’s “Scrum Anti-Patterns Guide.” He has developed B2C as well as B2B software, for startups as well as corporations, including a former Google subsidiary. Stefan curates the ‘Food for Agile Thought’ newsletter and organizes the Agile Camp Berlin, a Barcamp for coaches and other agile practitioners.
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