This is part three in a series of blogposts where we look into a re-design of a Product Development Process. In the first part we talked about how we can think about value, in the second post we discussed choosing value. In this post, we will look into why we choose to spend time exploring value.
The task that the management team is asked to perform in this stage of the process is to choose what value, what impact, to explore. What follows this decision is not a delivery phase. Rather, the management team invests in a time boxed discovery process where a cross functional team enjoys a few days of fully focused undisturbed creative work.
This decoupling of the choice “to explore” and the choice “to deliver” is an attempt to reduce the weight of these choices. This makes each choice easier to make, it reduces risk and it helps us avoid bikeshedding. This approach, together with the small batch sizes and small releases we will see in our delivery phase, provides our decision making process with a few very desirable characteristics.
– decisions are reversible, we can manage the point of no return
– decisions are based on information, we have invested in reduced uncertainty
– decisions are not made in isolation, we have options
– decisions are made at the latest responsible moment, no sooner
When we talk about cross functional teams, we’re talking about teams that consists of all the people that need to be involved in order to carry this package of value “from concept to cash”, to borrow a useful term from the Poppendiecks. This means developers, designers, subject matter experts, communicators, customer support peeps, the troopers in sales and so forth. Basically, we want all the people and skills necessary to move the value along the value stream in order for the organization to cash in on the proposed value.
In the explore / discovery phase we firmly acknowledge that the answers cannot be known in advance and that the best we can do is to try things out and see what happens. This is an important mindset. And with this, we find ourselves deep in Design Thinking territory. The idea here is to work with “how to?” and “what if?”-type of questions. If applicable, this is also a good time to do a spike and generate a deeper understanding of any technical constraints.
All the work coming out of the discovery week is finally presented to the management team, and they are now faced with a new choice regarding how to proceed. At this point, the management have invested in a few days of exploration and planning, resulting in information, and now they are as well equipped as they can ever hope to be to choose their path forward. They can say “go”, they can say “no go” or they can invest in further discovery. Either way, the management and the discovery team should now be close to a position of shared understanding regarding the proposed value and how we might go about making it a reality.
So, focused exploration and discovery is more than anything an investment in better outcomes and reduced risk.
In the next part of this series we’ll spend some time thinking about the delivery phase.