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Each month, one of our BigVisible coaches answers your questions via Twitter in the Agile Coach’s Corner. This month, David Bland spent some time with us and fielded questions ranging from lean startups to juggling priorities to organizational agility. In case you missed it, the bulk of the conversation is recorded below.

@BigVisible and @DavidJBland were joined by @Jittered, @ZSpencer, @DaveNicolette, and @DNeighbors in the hour-long conversation. Join us in June 12 at 4pm Eastern, 1 pm Pacific, for our next Agile Coach’s Corner, as we chat with @RandEaton.
Agile Coach's Corner on Lean Startup and Customer Development

Agile Coach’s Corner Welcome & Introductions

BigVisible: Welcome @davidjbland and Twitter audience! So glad you could join us today for our May 2012 Coach’s Corner with @davidjbland. Please ask questions at any time to @bigvisible with #bvcoach.

DavidJBland: I’ve been looking fwd to it all week :)

BigVisible: We have too! To get us started, perhaps you could tell us what are you excited about right now in your agile transformation work?

DavidJBland: Going beyond the teams. Going beyond Scrum. Organizational agility is rather fascinating to me. I see a convergence happening with visual thinking, lean startup, customer development, business model generation, etc.

Lean Startup & Organizational Agility

BigVisible: What is lean startup to you?

DavidJBland: Scientific method applied to business. Owning up to the fact that we don’t fully know the solution to begin with.

BigVisible: Interesting. Tell us more about how lean startup can help with organizational agility.

DavidJBland: Orgs are dealing with extreme uncertainty. They need ways to experiment & quickly iterate to find new solutions

BigVisible: So lean startups isn’t just for startups?

DavidJBland: Not at all. Big organizations could learn a thing or two from startups. They are both dealing with uncertainty

BigVisible: That’s very true. So, you also mentioned #customer development. What do you mean by that?

Customer Development & Product Owners

DavidJBland: Getting out of the building. Validating you are solving a real need before building software. Customer Development helps us solve the riddle of why agile teams still build software no one uses.

BigVisible: So do you mean just going and talking to your customers can help you build more usable software?

DavidJBland: Yes, but it is more than that. Writing down your hypothesis and validating the need… not just building what they ask. These don’t replace vision, but are ways to constantly test your vision against reality

BigVisible: So do #leanstartup and #customerdevelopment go hand in hand, then?

DavidJBland: I feel that they do. Lean Startup is heavily influenced by Customer Development ideas. And both are heavily influenced by OODA Loops :)

Jittered: How can #lean startup ideas help companies selling large, configured enterprise s/w? Hard to talk directly to users…

BigVisible: @Jittered makes a good point. How do large companies talk directly to users?

DavidJBland: I’d make effort to interview users, not just the buyers. Create personas, empathy maps of them. Much of 4 Steps to the Epiphany, where I learned of #custdev, isn’t even geared towards web.

BigVisible: Do you mean that if you can’t get to the customers directly, [you should] create user personas to validate your hypothesis?

DavidJBland: Yes, even if you guess while creating them, at least you have guesses to then go and validate.

Jittered: Note: “end users” aren’t necessarily the first-line customers, prof’l services/IT dept. is, due to config.

DavidJBland: Sounds like a good list of personas you have there :)

Jittered: Indeed. And sometimes have conflicting goals/needs.

BigVisible: Referring to the last tweet from @Jittered, any advice on juggling conflicting goals/needs?

DavidJBland: Perhaps map out a Business Model Canvas for each. See how they influence your product & business

Scrum, Lean Startup, & Customer Development

BigVisible: So how does #Scrum fit in with #leanstartup and #customerdevelopment?

DavidJBland: I think they help Scrum become successful. PO’s [Product Owners] need to study up on this & have hypothesis for story work. Product Owners need to be outcome focused, not output focused. Velocity isn’t everything. They’ll need help though. [The] Product Owner role is demanding enough without all of the #custdev responsibilities.

BigVisible: Who should help the product owners with the #custdev responsibilities?

DavidJBland: I get into hot water here, but I think Business Analysts can help out tremendously. But not the kind of BA’s that sit behind desks all day. I’m talking the kind that go outside :)

ZSpencer: I like to bring testers/interaction designers/BA/Dev into the POs cabinet.

DavidJBland: Yes.. not limited to BA. I tend to enjoy blurring the lines & having team act like entrepreneurs. I’m for healthy debate within Scrum teams. Team members shouldn’t feel like code monkeys.

DaveNicolette: Why does this get you into hot water?

DavidJBland: I think it leads to [the] multi-headed PO debate. Is BA a proxy PO, etc.

DaveNicolette: Useless word games.

DavidJBland: Or even worse, meetings about useless word games!

DaveNicolette: One reason to avoid the canonical “agile” buzzwords.

ZSpencer: This is why I like the idea of a cabinet. It’s an understood way for a group to support a leader. Once the cabinet exists it is easy for a PO to prioritize, then delegate acceptance if necessary.

DNeighbors: David, do you find this approach to cause problems when it comes to preaching cross functionality?

DavidJBland: I see some conflict between Scrum = your roles vs let’s blur the lines. I lean more towards helping teams be entrepreneurial & less towards Scrum dogma.

Beyond Scrum, Towards Organizational Agility

BigVisible: At the beginning of the coach’s corner, you mentioned you were interested in going beyond #Scrum. What did you mean?

DavidJBland: Organizational agility requires going beyond Scrum. We need to look at the system as a whole & nurture experimentation. Scrum helps the teams, but organizational agility extends beyond the teams.

BigVisible: David, any last thoughts before we close for the day?

DavidJBland: If we are going to survive as a species we need to get better at building software. No pressure.

BigVisible: Thanks for the great parting words @davidjbland and thanks to everyone for being part of our May Coach’s Corner! In June, BVCoach Rand Eaton will be on the hot seat for Coach’s Corner. Stay tuned for the exact date & time! Until next time, find ways to build better software. @davidjbland says our species depends on it! #bvcoach

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