July 25, 2014

All Posts Tagged With: Validated Learning

Agile Coaching Blog

Teams Need Business Models, Not Business Plans

I don’t read a lot of fiction, but when I do, it’s a 100+ page business plan attached to a 5-year spreadsheet with numbers that all go up and to the right.

As a result, the business plan has unfortunately become the main character in success theater. It’s rarely read and understood by executives, but perhaps even more tragic is that it doesn’t even satisfy the needs for teams actually trying to execute to the plan.

the dreaded business plan document
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The Enterprise Build-Measure-Learn Network

Build -> Measure -> Learn loops are often broken in large organizations, mostly due to the fact that functional silos do not enable validated learning.

These functional silos, coupled with large batch builds, often result in measurements being conducted on an ad hoc basis in isolation without context.

Broken loops make validated learning difficult

Networks Enable Validated Learning

If you do decide to hone in on actionable metrics, create a network that connects those who are measuring the outcomes of all of your hard work.

Validated learning requires a network

Validated Learning Should Feed the Product Backlog

Once the network is created, take these collective learnings back to the product owner. Unless you feed these back into the backlog all of your data crunching will go ignored on a wiki somewhere.

Validated learning is only possible when collective learnings become part of the product backlog

Once the Build -> Measure -> Learn network is created in your organization, you will not only will feed validated learning back into your backlog, but you will also help break down those functional silos to deliver value.


Looking for a little more lean in your life? You are in luck, David Bland is hosting a free webinar on Lean Startup principles, August 24th, 11 A.M PST/ 2 P.M EST.

Let’s get Lean! Sign me Up! 





Validated Learning and Systems Thinking

The lean startup concept of validated learning is quite effective a means for measuring our progress in an uncertain area. We can create a hypothesis and then test it, ideally with market feedback, to validate or invalidate the theory. This provides a concrete framework for evaluating if a new concept in an emergent domain is progressing, and offers metrics much more powerful than things like percentage complete. Specifically, by focusing a project on learning and not just delivering, we are able to better align a project team with the business interests. This gives us a common frame where the delivery team can work to ensure we deliver the right solution. So, how do we apply this type of technique to the B2B or internal IT world where we can’t validate our ideas with small sales in the market? Enter systems thinking.

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Validated Learning in Agile Projects

A recent question about sprint goals got me thinking about the lean startup concept known as “validated learning” and how something like this applies to agile projects. Eric Ries describes the concept of validated learning as:


“not after-the-fact rationalization or a good story designed to hide failure. It is a rigorous method for demonstrating progress when one is embedded in the soil of extreme uncertainty in which startups grow. Validated learning is the process of demonstrating empirically that a team has discovered valuable truths about a startup’s present and future business prospects.”
Ries, Eric (2011-09-13). The Lean Startup (p. 38). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

At first blush it seems this concept is just made to be utilized by teams working in an iterative manner. They can define sprints, validate learning, and adjust course. The challenge is that validated learning is more than just conjecture or forecasts, this means we must align the product of sprints with empirical, measurable goals. Enter the sprint goal.

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