Last month I was at Silicon Valley Code Camp, where developers learn from fellow developers. It’s an event throughout a whole weekend held yearly (usually in October) at the Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California. There was a long long list of speakers with loads of very interesting topics (#svcc on twitter) and a lot of volunteers helping out.
I attended a session called “Lean UX Anti-Patterns” by Bill Scott. He mentioned great productivity tips for product development teams in startups and enterprises which inspired me to share those and some of my thoughts with you. You can find the neat slides of Bill’s session at the end of this post. I’ll start right off now …
There’s nothing wrong getting a project to the point until all errors are fixed or until everything that bothers you is ironed out, in other words doing something until it’s perfect. But while bringing something to perfection, still seriously try to keep an eye on continuously delivering your changes. You don’t have to ship a completely perfect feature at a time, what for? Imagine yourself building something until perfection. You spend hours, months even years developing your baby, showing it to no one because you don’t want to disappoint people with a product which is lacking of features. After getting it out to the people you realize that they either don’t understand it in any way or don’t need it (anymore) because it was that time-consuming that the market has changed.
Instead of having that bad experience try shipping in smaller bits and steps. Just take care of that those simple bits work to a point that people can try it. You’ll get feedback earlier and you’ll might get aware of things you haven’t thought of much in the beginning. Don’t be afraid that people might don’t like it.
The most important thing is that you get your ideas out to the people and validate your assumptions as early as possible.
The earlier you get feedback you are able to pivot with less effort and prevent from building something into a wrong direction.
Not Enough Pizza
As teams scale up it gets harder to communicate and share knowledge with every single person. People tend to feel less accountable for what they are working on and devalued as the team is getting bigger. There is a good rule of thumb for team sizes:
“If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large.”
Depending on the appetite that usually makes teams at the size of 5 to 7 people.
The term two-pizza team was originally coined by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos while he transformed the companies product teams into small autonomous working task-forces.
Focus, communication, commitment, responsibility and self-coordination. All those principles become effective throughout every teammember in smaller teams.
You can read more about Amazon’s two-pizza teams in this FastCompany article.
Team Management with Emails
Communication between distributed team members can be a real challenge. If you have to work remotely email collaboration is usually not the best way to be productive. Chatting, making Skype- or Phone calls already offer better communication. But the most effective and best way to communicate is still a video call where both ends focus on the conversation and try to look into each others virtual eyes.
I’ve met somebody last week who told me that he is doing video calls regularly and if the person he is talking to looks at him while speaking, doing nothing else, it feels like a real conversation. The focus again is stronger and there is almost no loss of information.
That’s nice, but it doesn’t work for the Enterprise
Bill really inspired me by saying he is applying the principles of lean into his enterprise environment by starting with one pilot project, applying new habits and principles, going on with the next project and so on and so on. Slowly but surely lean thinking is understood and adopted, advantages are discovered and the team finds its own rhythm of development.
Especially in complex and settled environments, start with a pilot, learn and iterate.
If one member of the team is working i.e. 5 days in a row on his own, shutting down for just straightly doing his tasks, collaboration with the team is obviously not that intense as it could be if you exchange thoughts in shorter and regular timeframes.
Communication and knowledge sharing is key for a good playing team.
Lack of communication could end up developing into a wrong direction, people are doing things twice or are unaware of product that changes might happen while working without communicating with the rest of the team. Big chunks of work are maybe already wired too complex to fix without much effort. A healthy communication culture is crucial for product teams to stay in sync. Without that it’s impossible to react to sudden changes or to go after new opportunities. Daily stand up meetings can help a lot with that.
If you are the type of guy who is really visionary about future implementations or features in your project or product you know that your stream of ideas is never-ending. When it then comes to the point to share the idea with your team and there is someone who brings up half a dozen reasons that your ideas are not convertible or are fetched too far, it seriously decreases your and the whole team’s productivity. Assuming that your ideas will be vaporized by the naysayer anyway it narrows down your motivation to share them.
A reason for that might be, that at first sight the idea could be too overwhelming from the naysayer’s point of view. Explaining to break down the process into smaller steps, and explaining why that feature is important could be an approach to make everybody understand. The actual aim behind is to encourage every single team member being innovative and to come up with great individual ideas that eventually get implemented into the product.
In general, talking about the company culture regularly with the whole team empowers, connects and helps a lot to understand the reason why and how features are being implemented.
Have you made an experience based upon one of the topics mentioned above? Do you know some Lean Anti-Patterns everybody should be aware of? I’d love to hear your opinion.