Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Doing one thing at a time

James Shore discussed Agile Release Planning on this recent PM podcast, and it was refreshing to hear the benefits of agile pitched to a product management audience.

Like the best ideas, the tenets of agile appear almost too simple to be true. "Master of the bleeding obvious" Basil Fawlty would say. Yet most organisations seem structurally incapable of behaving along these lines.

James' presentation is very entertaining, and well worth a listen. He keeps the agenda short and well tuned to a PM audience. Although the ideas are born from a software environment, they are largely transferable to other domains. A discussion of five concepts to help you increase the value you deliver in business:

  • Work on one project at a time .. it improves your ROI

  • Release early and often .. get to market faster with a minimum, but valuable feature-set. Not only do you get to take advantage of the real customer voice sooner, but, again, better ROI.

  • Adapt your plans .. to slavishly avoid change is to confound the opportunity to increase the value of your work as new things are learned along the way

  • Conduct experiments .. your project can have many outcomes, and you will never know which is best unless you test options, collect data, and analyse

  • Plan at the last responsible moment .. avoid costly planning that is basically trying to predict the future (unsuccessfully). The later the decision, the more information you will have available to make a good decision.

The one project at a time struck a chord with me, as I've recently been campaigning in a minor way along these lines. The classic "proof" is the positive impact it can have on ROI if you allow appropriately sized teams to focus on one thing at a time. This is of course in addition to any productivity benefits you get from avoiding task switching, and giving people the chance to get into a flow state.

Here's my version of the graphic to illustrate the point:

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