• Black Swan Farming using Cost of Delay

    Black Swan Farming using Cost of Delay

    Discover, nurture and speed up the delivery of value Improving prioritization has become a tired concept in most IT departments, and yet it has the potential to change the conversation from one of cutting cost, to delivering valuable solutions as quick as the business needs it. This paper examines how Maersk Line applied an economic…

  • “The Business” is BS

    A bit of a rant from Threads: Post by @blackswanfarming View on Threads “The Business” – this is a phrase that should be used sparingly in Product Development, if at all. How does it show up? “What does the business want?” is one example.Have you ever heard, “The business wants X” or “The business need Y”?“The…

  • InfoSecurity for Financial Services

    InfoSecurity for Financial Services

    This may seem a bit off topic, but losing your life savings due to a phishing attack that drains your accounts is a Black Swan event for many folks. Even though phishing attacks are common enough to regularly make the newspaper, the status quo for financial services when emailing customers is still quite bad. When…

  • PSA: the plural of Kiwi is Kiwi

    PSA: the plural of Kiwi is Kiwi

    Not much more to say on this. It’s not that hard to grok. We manage to do it with “sheep”, without too much confusion (past the age of about 4 or 5). We should probably put the same effort into our National Bird that also serves as a reference to the people of Aotearoa New…

  • Top-down “Priority Lists” don’t work

    Seen this many times. Feels good, but the feeling doesn’t last, and it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem. In fact, it prolongs the problem, which is a bit sad. Firstly, let’s understand the motivation. The problem The team is overloaded. They’ve been working on a few really important things, and (surprise, surprise) those have turned…

  • What’s different about software development ?

    It’s the 2020s (or as my kids say, “The 20’s” and we’ve still got organisations using outdated methods for managing software endeavours. Here’s 10 key differences that make software development a poor fit for traditional project management: These differences highlight the need for alternative approaches like Agile, Scrum, Kanban, or my preference, XP. These approaches…

  • Reality… bites

    Fairy tales are tempting. Everyone wants to know when some complex endeavour will be “done”. There’s usually a lot of investment of time, money and focus for an org. And the benefits are often substantial, even if they are sometimes unsubstantiated. There’s a lot riding on it, not least of which is the credibility of…

  • Autonomous, collaborative, self-managing squads

    Just realising that I’ve not posted anywhere a graphic that I’ve been using for over 10 years now. These are the three different perspectives that are usually in tension within a Product Squad setup. Yes they overlap, so it’s not a tidy roles and responsibilities, and don’t even attempt to do a RACI with it.…

  • Quarterly Look Ahead (QLA)

    This post is a follow on from an overview of the Product Development Heartbeat. The Quarterly Look Ahead (QLA) is the part of that overall rhythm that pulls together teams, stakeholders and the wider org and helps with alignment to strategic goals and outcomes or objectives. So, how to approach this Quarterly Look Ahead? Hurry…

  • Product Development Heartbeat

    Lots of organisations as they grow start to struggle with how to stay aligned while maintaining the autonomy of when they were smaller. What works for one or two squads starts to fall apart at four or five and is straight up untenable above Dunbars number (~120 people). Here’s a rough way to organise and…

  • Rimac the Black Swan

    This thread is a classic Black Swan story. (Fair warning, the 1/2 is a classic underestimation. Still worth your time reading.

  • 3 anti-patterns to avoid in Product Development

    3 anti-patterns to avoid in Product Development

    In my travels in Product Development over the last decade or so, I’ve seen up close the value destroyed and delays incurred as a result of falling into three common traps. They’re all seemingly harmless or perhaps even considered good, but there’s some serious downsides that only become obvious much later. If you’re looking to…

  • Thinking different(ly) – 2023 Edition

    Thinking different(ly) – 2023 Edition

    2023 has been tough for a lot of organisations. As inflation got away on central banks interest rates headed north and all of a sudden it was all a bit different. What we’ve seen is that some were a bit drunk on cheap debt. Some organisations seem to have overhired. Others found that search for…

  • Thoughts on ChatGPT

    Thoughts on ChatGPT

    Steve Jobs, “A Bicycle for the Mind” – on the invention of the personal computer: I remember reading an article when I was about 12 years old – i think it might have been Scientific American – where they measured the efficiency of locomotion for all these species on planet Earth, how much energy did…

  • Learning teams become earning teams

    Learning teams become earning teams

    Product Development is a lot more like farming than it is like a manufacturing line or an engine. Manufacturing is usually incremental – lots of different parts with carefully controlled size and shape all need to be put together. Product Development on the other has is iterative. We repeat our process many times building on the…

  • Delivery Dates

    Delivery Dates

    Product Development involves tough choices and trade-offs. Here’s a typical one: what would you choose to optimise for? 1. Predictability (“on time, on budget”) 2. Throughput (Storypoints or maybe # of stories) 3. Speed (cycletime from idea to live) Of these three, a lot of organisations have a strong bias that optimises for predictability. Not…

  • Product Development Org Design – Principles

    Product Development Org Design – Principles

    Some guiding principles that have emerged for me over the years of inheriting somewhat broken Product Development organisations – and the approach that has worked well for me. 1. Start where you are If you’re relatively new, or taking on a new area, first do no harm. Chesterton’s Fence applies. Without a good understanding of the local…

  • BA, PO, QA

    BA, PO, QA

    This is from a while ago, written as an attempt to provide an overview of how these three roles have changed and how a large and complex organisation might transition from a more traditional setup to a more modern “fighting fit” one. Posit: the Business Analyst role is fading The role of Business Analysts in…

  • Warning signs and advice for Boards and Execs

    Warning signs and advice for Boards and Execs

    Best to break this into a couple of key areas: a) major investments, and b) baseline risks, things you as an Exec team and/or Board of Director’s should probably be aware of. Major Investments tend to get a lot of focus up front, but often go sideways in similar ways and for similar reasons. Baseline…

  • “Delivery” ain’t enough.

    “Delivery” ain’t enough.

    Hard agree with Cyd Harrell: Launching is not success. Success is your product solving the problem it’s intended to solve, for the people you intended to help, without harming other people. If you can’t state what you’re solving, who it helps, & who could be hurt, you’re not ready to build let alone launch –…

  • Cost of Delay, NPV and Taguchi

    Cost of Delay, NPV and Taguchi

    Cost of Delay is a very different animal to many of the concepts that people try to shoe-horn it into. Sometimes those are useful analogies. Other times, it’s not helpful, and leads to confusion, missing the actual power of Cost of Delay. A Is Cost of Delay like a really high NPV discount rate? For…

  • Product Development is Poetry

    Product Development is Poetry

    This Ethan Hawke clip makes an important point that also applies to what we do in developing products. I think that most of us really want to offer the world something of quality, something that the world will consider good or important. And that’s really the enemy, because it’s not up to us whether what…

  • Culture and conformity

    Culture and conformity

    Here’s a perfect illustration of how organisational culture works: Something underneath the surface (not explicit or visible to individual actors) quietly amplifies conformity and dampens outliers. This is of course, a paradox. It’s a “good” thing when it comes to mission, vision, and rejecting toxic behaviour. It’s a “bad” thing if it means conforming thinking,…

  • Central Bank Digital Currency

    Central Bank Digital Currency

    CBDC discussions seem to be heating up. Be interesting to see where each of these four work streams at the European Central Bank lead to: “First, we will test the compatibility between a digital euro and existing central bank settlement services (such as TIPS),” outlines Panetta. Second, we will explore the interconnection between decentralised technologies,…

  • JTBD Lesson #3: Beware of Overserving!

    JTBD Lesson #3: Beware of Overserving!

    Improving the product along obvious parameters of value as defined by your customers today tends to lead to overserving. At some point, it becomes more than they can absorb. Remember the “Advanced Photo System”? You have to be careful about Overserving. It’s tempting to offer all the bells and whistles that customers ask for or…

  • JTBD Lesson #2: The Job to be Done doesn’t change.

    JTBD Lesson #2: The Job to be Done doesn’t change.

    The second key lesson you might have already spotted in the example from Lesson 1: The JOB doesn’t change, The Product we hire does. Consider the previous JTBD, “sharing a moment with others”… Below is a (totally science fiction today) product from Magic Leap, an Augmented Reality startup working on overlaying 3D images on your…

  • JTBD Lesson #1: Focus on the higher purpose

    JTBD Lesson #1: Focus on the higher purpose

    As a Product team, it’s tempting to look at the product itself and focus almost entirely about how to make it “better” along parameters that we already measure, especially the ones that existing customers ask for. This is what Christensen calls “sustaining innovation”. What Jobs To Be Done suggests, however, is that we focus on…

  • JTBD (Jobs To Be Done) – An Intro

    JTBD (Jobs To Be Done) – An Intro

    Jobs to be Done is a way of thinking about products and services. Using JTBD as a way of thinking brings a different perspective that helps us: Avoid building things that no one wants. Understand at a deeper level what a product needs to do Reveal why and how people choose a product or service…

  • Avoiding Disruption – 7 key points

    Avoiding Disruption – 7 key points

    The late Clayton M. Christensen researched and wrote one of the most frequently referenced books on innovation: “The Innovator’s Dilemma – when new technologies cause great firms to fail“. In it, Christensen outlines how companies tend to do everything “right” but in doing so, fail to successfully adopt new technologies. The book’s thesis is the…

  • Culture, Technology and Decay

    Culture, Technology and Decay

    In Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Satis House (from the latin for “enough”) is a wonderful metaphor for technology in organisations today. So often, what you hope will satisfy you and be “enough”, quickly decays into dashed dreams and bitter disappointment. Why? Mostly culture, and a paradigm that’s completely broken, unsuited for the context and the…

  • Technical Debt != Bad Coding

    Technical Debt != Bad Coding

    “Technical Debt” is NOT the result of poor programming – it is the cost of not refactoring as you learn more about a solution. Like all things popular, “Technical Debt” has become a widely misunderstood and abused term. In some cases, Tech Debt is everything done by those who have gone before, “OPC”: Other People’s Code. Other times,…

  • How is Cost of Delay in SAFe calculated?

    How is Cost of Delay in SAFe calculated?

    TL;DR: Poorly. Not recommended! If you want to delve into the details, read this. (The main problems are that it uses some made up relative terms and then combines them in a way that is illogical.) If you’ve already started using the made up relative terms that SAFe suggests, all is not lost. At least…

  • CapEx, OpEx and Accounting for Teams

    CapEx, OpEx and Accounting for Teams

    Years ago, I wrote about funding teams instead of projects. That covered a really common big-batch funding and approval problem: the feast and famine – and the learning curves that teams go through before they’re really effective. In it, I also suggested some alternatives to big-batch project funding, giving you smoother flow of value plus…

  • On Backlogs and Buffers

    On Backlogs and Buffers

    A Backlog is different to a Buffer. In short, a Backlog should be a safe waiting place, where it is: a) cheap and b) fast for ideas of all sizes and complexities to flow to. The purpose of a Backlog is to have just enough information to do a very rough triage of a potentially…

  • Accountability vs Complexity

    Accountability vs Complexity

    Ever been “held accountable” for something that you had no control or power over? I’ve previously spoken about how corrosive the words we use in organisations can be. Words matter. And some words tell you quite a lot about an organisation. One thing I’ve observed is the use of the phrase “hold to account” tends…

  • On “Trust” in Product Development

    On “Trust” in Product Development

    I rather rudely butted in on an interesting twitter exchange yesterday, which started off about assessments. John Cutler was sharing what he has learned from doing and iterating on them recently. Having done quite a few assessments over the last decade (and iterated and improved how we go about it) the observation I shared was…

  • The Product Backlog – “One safe waiting place”

    The Product Backlog – “One safe waiting place”

    What is a product backlog? What problem is it supposed to solve? What problems sometimes arise when using one? So many questions, and not a lot of guidance out there for Product Managers and Product Owners. What is a Backlog? The Agile Alliance’s definition starts off as follows: “A backlog is a list of features…

  • Cost of Delay and CD3 Prioritisation at Scale

    Cost of Delay and CD3 Prioritisation at Scale

    “How to generate the highest Return On Investment toward strategic priorities — across multiple teams that need to work together.” I get asked this question a lot. I’ve also seen lots of slow, disjointed, unresponsive and generally painful ways to approach this — and in lots of different organisations. Rather than poking holes in alternatives,…

  • Part Three – Alternative measures? (Velocity needs to die)

    Part Three – Alternative measures? (Velocity needs to die)

    Part One looked at Velocity, what it is, how it gets abused and what the typical result of that is – and therefore the need for an alternative. Part Two then considered what “agility” means, with three overlapping principles that we want to try and find some measures for. Now we want to look at…

  • Part Two – “Velocity” needs to die. Alternative measures?

    Part Two – “Velocity” needs to die. Alternative measures?

    So, we’ve briefly looked at Velocity, what it is, how it gets abused and what the typical result of that is – and therefore the need for an alternative. Now we’re going to look what “agility” means, with the intention of figuring out some measures that are better aligned with that. What does Agile really…

  • “Velocity” needs to die. Alternative measures?

    “Velocity” needs to die. Alternative measures?

    Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time with senior Executives of different organisations. Along the way, I’ve noticed a tendency for them to latch onto, and misuse, the concept of “Velocity”. Too often, I’ve heard someone say something along the lines of “We need to increase our Velocity.” Whilst the terminology here really…

  • “Why doesn’t Apple make a printer?”

    “Why doesn’t Apple make a printer?”

    Someone asked the above question, and whilst it seems facile, I couldn’t resist… Short answer: because there’s no profit in it. Slightly longer answer… This quote from Tim Cook (emphasis mine) may seem to contradict the shorter answer, but bear with me: “Stock price is a result, not an achievement by itself. For me, it’s…

  • Single Prioritised Backlog – chat with John Cutler

    Single Prioritised Backlog – chat with John Cutler

    Had an interesting conversation with John Cutler yesterday to discuss the idea of having a single prioritised Backlog for an organisation. The genesis for the chat came from a tweet that John posted, to which I responded: In the spirit of exploration and “strong opinions, weakly held, I’d love to debate this one with you.…

  • Survival in a demand-driven world

    Survival in a demand-driven world

    This is a really interesting read on Loose Threads. It talks about how the world of retail clothing has shifted from being supply-constrained to demand-driven. It looks at how Zara operates in the new world, and how others are struggling because they’re still setup on the basis on the old world, which is how they got…

  • Internal Product Management: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    Internal Product Management: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    Applying Product Management to “Internal Products” can be a bit strange. Sometimes it feels a bit like trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole. Having observed lots of organisations (mostly large, some small) struggle with aspects of this, it’s something I’ve been mulling over for years now. Earlier this month I…

  • Why Duration and not Cost?

    Why Duration and not Cost?

    We get this question a lot. It is referring to the denominator of CD3 (Cost of Delay Divided by Duration). For various reasons, people struggle with this. There’s perhaps an element of bikeshedding involved too, with people generally more comfortable talking about what they know and understand, and avoiding the Cost of Delay part, which…

  • Develop Better Products by Understanding Jobs To Be Done – Agile2017 Workshop

    Develop Better Products by Understanding Jobs To Be Done – Agile2017 Workshop

    Abstract: Jobs to be Done (JTBD) is an interview technique and way of thinking for revealing deeper insights into why people choose a product or service. Using JTBD helps us to avoid building stuff that no-one wants. It is a way to better understand what a product or service really needs to do. Why this…

  • The Agile PMO: 6 things you need to nail – Agile2017

    The Agile PMO: 6 things you need to nail – Agile2017

    Abstract: What does the PMO actually do in an agile, learning organisation? The leading vs dragging PMO In many organisations the PMO tends to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution. They tend to frustrate attempts to improve agility that come from either bottom-up team level adoption of agile and top-down…

  • How to Train Your HiPPO (Workshop) – Agile2017

    How to Train Your HiPPO (Workshop) – Agile2017

    Abstract: Have you noticed the impact when someone more senior in your organisation shares their opinion? Meet the HiPPO: the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Sometimes it’s subtle and unintended. Other times it’s more direct and intentional. Either way, the HiPPO is a dangerous animal in Product Management. When we allow the HiPPO to drive decision-making…

  • How to do a *really* basic forecast

    How to do a *really* basic forecast

    Forecasting delivery is something every organisation should be doing. Unfortunately, hardly any do. This is a shame because it’s actually quite easy, as hopefully you’ll see below. Even a very basic forecast is better than blindly following a plan. It doesn’t need to be super complicated. There will be flaws, of course, but much like qualitative cost of…

  • Product Roadmaps and Cost of Delay

    Product Roadmaps and Cost of Delay

    I sometimes get asked about how Cost of Delay and CD3 work with Product Roadmaps. This post is an initial attempt to collate my current thinking on this (as green as that may be). Firstly, it really depends what you mean by “Roadmap”. I’ve seen lots of Roadmaps, mostly bad, and a few good ones.…