Highlights from AgileAus19

August 01, 2019

Author: Cathy Tang

Agile Mindset

Recently I had the honour of representing Arq Group at this year’s Agile Australia 2019 conference. The focus for the conference was “Agile mindset: what it is, why it matters, and how we can adopt it across sectors.”

This year’s presentations came from retail, service and government sectors - not just from banking and finance sectors which have previously dominated in this space.

Discussions focused on the mindset to get the best outcomes for an organisations’ products and services in the Agile toolkit and less on Agile tools and techniques.

I learnt much during the two days, but in this post, I’m going to highlight some of the key themes tackled in the sessions. These themes are a useful prompt on how we should approach work within our teams and also how we help our clients on their Agile journey.

Strong focus on customer journeys

These days, we need to ensure that we understand the customer from different points of view. Empathy maps and customer journeys are now standard in the Agile toolkit.

As an Agility practitioner, it is essential to think outside the box and dare to get out of your comfort zone (i.e. step outside your day-to-day role) to understand who the real customers are. For example, the Iconic provided a case study where they encouraged their developers to participate in guerrilla testing. There is so much to uncover by spending time with the customer or users of your product or service.

Keynote speaker, Marty Cagan, emphasised the importance of the Product Manager role. Great Product Managers understand the data for your product, the business you’re in and the user experience. This role isn’t merely ‘retitled’ from BA to Product Owner who acts as a Product Manager.

It’s not about the features you build; it’s about creating a problem-solving organisation

Many features are built but not used. Several presenters mentioned that good projects are about having a solid backlog of problems to solve. Their advice was to focus on the major problem areas first, to build a good hypothesis and test things out rather than collecting a backlog of features.

We need a shift in mindset in the industry from delivering output (features) to outcomes (benefits).

It is also worthwhile to revisit the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) proposition as it can be easily misunderstood.

A quick reminder:

  • Iterate and learn as fast as you can
  • If your solution is scalable, it probably isn’t an MVP
  • Don’t be too attached to the project

 

Minimal Viable Product

 

Analyse the data and conclude with facts

As you test out your hypothesis, refer to the data. It isn’t just about what the data is telling you, but also what it isn’t. Jumping to conclusions too early leads to building features that are not used.

In the case study of Bank West, the presenters suggested that we take time to contemplate the results of experiments simply by using visual walls and refer back to them regularly as various stakeholders absorb information differently. Make use of leading and lagging indicators in your projects and have constant conversations about what you are learning.

Review Process with Visual Walls

Self-awareness and building great teams

Finally, diversity in leadership is critical within every organisation. It’s natural to hire people who are similar to you. However, a sign of a great leader is the ability to recognise the gaps in your own skillset and recruit team members that compensate for your deficiencies.

Human resources will not be able to staff for us because they try to fulfil roles by matching skills outlined on paper. Great leaders with the right level of self-awareness hire by drilling down to the needs of their team and hiring appropriately.

Leaders need to coach and mentor others in handling difficult conversations; this builds trust and high team morale. Without these skills, resentment can build in teams and undermine organisational goals.

My top three recommendations:

  • Marty Cagan: Taking his Silicon Valley experience and “No A*holes Rule, and uncovering patterns in organisations that build stand out products and services.
  • Ali Walker: check out her persona modal to unpack who you are and how you may interact with others
  • Bank West: Data! Data! Data! Obtaining an enquiring mind to uncover problems and solutions you may not have thought have.

 

Cathy Tang is a Scrum Master / Project Manager, Arq Group

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The range of case studies from this year’s conference provided great examples when applying the Agile mindset.

To access this year’s conference slides: http://agileaustralia.com.au/2019/presentations/?utm_campaign=2019-agileaus-thankyou-attendees-presentations&utm_medium=email&utm_source=aventri&utm_content=text

To access videos of past and present Agile Australia conferences:  https://www.infoq.com/agile_australia/

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For information about leading and lagging indicators: https://www.leadingagile.com/2018/02/leading-lagging-indicators/

To explain the difference between Product Managers and Product Owners: http://disciplinedagiledelivery.com/product-owners-vs-product-managers/