The prototype kit

I’m sure we’ve all witnessed the act of self censorship where a team member caveats their statement by saying; ‘forgive me for early solutioning but….’. I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s as bad as we’ve come to assume?

In a ‘traditional’ user first projects, we discourage solutions that are designed without evidence. We do this to enable us to justify a design solution with an identified user need.

How often though, is the project team able to rapidly design and build (to a testable state) a product or service, early in the project? Though this sounds like the antithesis of…

No Service

I suppose it’s the job of anyone involved in user experience design to wax lyrical about good and poor experiences, so here’s mine.

Last weekend my father received a new sim from EE. He’d negotiated his monthly contract down to £6, which obviously required a new SIM card.

As the diligent son who works in IT, I was happy to help him set the SIM up on the EE website. To set the scene my father lives 100 miles away in a 17th century cottage that was designed to resist border raiders and any radio wave. …

I first came across the Cynefin framework at my previous company, around 5 years ago. I loved its ability to reduce risk in projects, but couldn't make it work in the agile teams I was working with at the time.

Fast forward to 2020 mid pandemic, when I was working for UKRI on a decommissioning and transitioning report and roadmap for them. Made Tech had won the gig partially due to David Winters excellent book ‘Modernising Legacy Applications in the Public Sector’.

The Made Tech team had landed in a multi client, mid transition project that was undergoing incumbent team…

I’ve just completed a short Inception for Ofgem, the Uk’s non-ministerial office that protects consumers in the energy sector, and more importantly for me, is part of moving the UK towards a greener energy system.

Remote Inception setup

Our project is to set up the service by which the UK will pay subsidies to the producers of bio-methane into the national grid. We’ve just passed our Alpha service assessment, and decided to run a weeks workshops (called an Inception) to start the Beta phase of our project.

The timing of our project cycle meant that the Inception would fall on a week with… service manual teams/phases

I’ve found that I can understand a process far quicker, and make better decisions when I map them. To this end I’ve taken all the service manual design phases and listed them out against the team makeup that’s recommended.

Every time I’ve had to (for instance) describe the persistent need for Product management across the delivery phases, I’ve used this diagram to show this. I’ve had positive feedback, and know it’s been shared within Made Tech, so I’ve make it available here.

Please let me know if you find this of value, or have suggestions about evolving it

My first sketch used to explain Mckinseys 3 horizons of growth

I initially used the 3 horizons strategy when helping clients define priority for business objectives. I’ve since used the same model to help teams manage the clients need for a roadmap of goals met towards the delivery date.

The problem

When a team (or organisation) have a collection of jobs to be done, it very easy to perform a quick prioritisation of all the tasks, start with the most urgent, then move onto the next. However, no matter how much you re-prioritise and respond to pivots in a lean a agile manner, you’ll still be ignoring a large portion of your backlog.

3 Horizons in a lean agile context

An early inception

I’ve been spinning up agile projects using Thoughtworks ‘quick start’ methodology (now called Inception) since 2014. I like to think that I’ve got less wrong on each subsequent engagement.

Inception is a neat way of fixing the tricky problem that agile project suffer from. This being that once established, a healthy agile project, being run by a high performance team is self managing, self sustaining, and highly productive (IE. delivers value to users, organisations and stakeholders).

The problem exists because the monolithic requirements document from a traditional waterfall based project is missing, or rather it’s purposfully not produced. This means…

Prioritising project needs by important and urgent
Prioritising project needs by important and urgent

A backlog being the repository of ‘stuff’ that needs to be done/built on a project can suffer from being a dumping ground for any half baked concept that may, or may not be of benefit to the end user.

I get a sinking feeling when a project reaches the point where the team is comfortable enough to take ownership of the project tools, and goes mad. Perhaps this is a natural part of the human condition, similar to the one that makes up thinks that another whiskey, or 100km enduro race is ever a good idea. …
Ed Catmull: Creativity Inc

When I was promoted to running the Product Management capability at Made Tech, my first action was to see what other Product Managers got excited about reading — here’s the blog post from CodeComputerLove I used as a shopping list; Product Thinking Books: 5 Essential Reads We Recommend.

1 standout from 1 book on this list. -

Eds book gives a great history of Pixar, and especially the ‘Braintrust’, which is the Pixar name for a fabulous mix of ultra lean, agile, show & tell problem solving (my interpretation). What’s also great is how he openly discusses when it doesn't work. — EG. …

EmbArrk from
The Arrk, EmbArrk project approach

In my previous company I was tasked with writing (yet another) playbook that would prescriptively describe how we would magically quick-start a project using proprietary methods and techniques. This book was dutifully completed, it’s 5 sections carefully colour coded and illustrated. Several hundred copies printed and given to potential and existing clients.

Did it work? As a collection of workshop methodologies it was great, described at a high enough level to be consumable, but with enough detail be believable. However as a framework, it was difficult to defend. …

Andreas England

Head of product management at Made Tech, Manchester, UK

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