Food for Thought #30: Cargo Cult Agile, Agile Change, MVP, Tools^2, Risk & Failure

Age of Product’s Food for Thought of February 28th, 2016 covers: Cargo cult coaching, organizations w/o Steve Jobs, customer care as a litmus test for agile change, becoming ‘agile’ because of competitors, Google’s way to performing teams, motivating stakeholders to come with problems, not solutions, the true nature of MVPs and product/market fit, how to prioritize product features, shipping v0 products, essential tools (two great lists), and finally failure, risk and basic income in Silicon Valley.

Life: Failure, Risk and Basic Income in Silicon Valley

Claire Cain Miller (via The New York Times): What It’s Really Like to Risk It All in Silicon Valley

Before Nathalie Miller decided to walk away from Instacart, the grocery delivery start-up now worth more than $2 billion, she made a spreadsheet to analyze how much money she was leaving on the table.

Evgeny Morozov (via theguardian): Silicon Valley talks a good game on ‘basic income’, but its words are empty

The radical idea of handing cash to citizens regardless of whether they work has taken root in Europe. Now America’s tech elite is backing the concept – but why?

Agile & Scrum

Doc Norton (via Medium): Coaching Anti-Patterns: Prescriptive Agile

Coaching Anti-Patterns: Prescriptive Agile

The Prescriptive Agile Coach is armed with a reliable set of practices. The practices have been documented, vetted, and implemented successfully on a number of teams. They are inarguably proven. To the Prescriptive Agile Coach, those not following these practices are not truly Agile.

(via Darden School at UVA): Active Innovation Leadership: What if Your Organization Isn’t Loaded With Geniuses Like Steve Jobs?

The bad news is that there are only very few people in the Steve Jobs genius category to go around. The good news? The rest of us. Most of us are far more innovative than we give ourselves credit for. And more good news? In my experience, it is teachable and learnable.

Stefan Wolpers (via Age of Product): Customer Care as a Litmus Test for Innovation & Agile Change

Customer Care as a Litmus Test for Innovation & Agile Change

Customer care as entity, its function and status within a company, can act as a good litmus test for a company’s culture, its product management, and thus its potential for innovation and agile change. If customer care is regarded solely as a cost center that needs to be outsourced, agile change is unlikely to happen in that organization.

Mark Levison: “Because Our Competitors Are” is No Reason to Become an Agile Organization

Control-focused organizations struggle to adapt rapidly enough to survive, compared to their competitors who embrace change. Traditional/hierarchical organizations work well when problems are clear and solutions are repeatable but, unfortunately, those that thrive in those conditions are fragile when the situation changes and they can’t adapt.

Charles Duhigg (via The New York Times): What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

New research reveals surprising truths about why some work groups thrive and others falter.

Product & Lean

Daniel Zacarias: Moving from Solutions to Problems

Feature requests: Depending on how pushy and persistent stakeholders are in support of their feature, you might be forced to eventually let it through. Once this happens, expectations are set. “My feature got into the product,” they think. From that, it’s a slippery slope.

Thomas Schranz (via Ramen): Journey to Product / Market Fit

Everyone is obsessed about product/market fit. I hate to break it to you but… Obsessing about product/market fit is a huge waste of your time.

avrum (via Medium): MVPs: You’re doing it wrong.

To be clear, the MVP is a great tool when utilized correctly. The problem is, it is rarely utilized correctly. But that faulty execution is actually a symptom of a deeper problem, a fundamental misunderstanding of what an MVP is, and what problem it actually solves.

Jerry Cao (via UXPin): The 3-Step Hybrid Process for Prioritizing Product Features


Best practices on: How to first think of features in terms of themes. How to break down themes into projects. How to rank each project collaboratively for maximum impact.

David Mack (via Y Combinator): The Art of Shipping Early and Often

The virtues of shipping a product are hopefully clear to everyone. Without shipping, you have no growth – and by definition, you are not a startup.

“Several distinct problems manifest themselves as delays in launching: working too slowly; not truly understanding the problem; fear of having to deal with users; fear of being judged; working on too many different things; excessive perfectionism. Fortunately you can combat all of them by the simple expedient of forcing yourself to launch something fairly quickly.” —Paul Graham

(via Indicative): The 87 Most Essential Tools For Data-Driven Product Managers

We’ve broken out the list by category of tools with an explanation of how we define them. They are listed in order of each step of how the product management process operates, from product ideation all the way through to analyzing user engagement with your finished product.

Peter Reinhardt (via First Round Capital): The Tools Early-Stage Startups Actually Need to Understand Their Customers

In this interview, Reinhardt draws from his extensive evaluation of tools to share how and when resource-constrained startups should select them. Here, he weighs in on the build-versus-buy debate, provides recommendations on which tools to consider across eight distinct categories, outlines the pitfalls to avoid when choosing tools and when to declare tools successful.

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