Tuesday, October 13, 2015

PMI Global Congress Wrap-up

I'm at the Orlando airport, departing from this year's PMI North America Global Congress. I've attended at least part of every North America congress since 1999, and even a few of the ones in Europe. While I did enjoy it, this year's was definitely not among my favorites.

I missed the first day's activities due to a personal commitment. I heard mixed/negative reviews of the opening keynote, Drew and Jonathan Scott, HGTV's Property Brothers. When past keynotes have included Malcolm Gladwell or Colin Powell, I can see how this year might be a bit of a letdown.

The second day keynote, David Robertson, was very good. He talked about how innovation evolved at Lego, based on a book he wrote on the topic. A key to Lego's current success was their ability to do more with less. They cut their inventory of parts in order to have better focus after almost going bankrupt in 2003.

The final keynote, Stacy Allison, was also very good. She was the first American women to summit Mt Everest. Some of her key points:
  • Know how your story - your passion - is relevant to the organization and the mission
  • Learn to laugh at yourself
  • Know when to let go (she had to abandon her first attempt and come back a year later)
  • It's our personal vision, not the organization's, that picks us up when we get knocked down
  • Recognize your daily and weekly successes, not just the big one at the end
  • When resolving a problem, focus on the solution without blame

I didn't see any of the paper presentations. I delivered one myself, plus participated in a panel discussion so I spent my time focused on those activities. The feedback I heard was typical...there were some really good sessions and some weren't so good. I know PMI spent more time preparing the speakers and working with them on the presentations, so I would think this would have had to helped the quality of the presentations.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Stories and Maps

I conducted a user story mapping session with my client last week and it proved to be a very effective way to help them see the big picture. The idea came from Jeff Patton. You can find more about it here.

If you're not familiar with user story mapping, it is something like this: first you think about the high-level functions and features you're going to be delivering and you prioritize that horizontally from left to right. Then you take your user stories for each of those features and you prioritize them top to bottom. Here's a picture to help you see it.

What I had seen with my customer was that we had gotten too focused on one of the features and spent almost a whole iteration getting it perfect, rather than prioritizing all the stories across all the features. By setting up a story map they could see all the work that still had to be done, which help them decide on what stories were really needed for the first release and which were just window dressing.

There's this idea of the walking skeleton, which is the bare-bones minimum that you could include into a release and still have it functional. Story mapping helps you identify the walking skeleton because you're looking across all the features. Going back to our picture, we would draw a horizontal line through the user stories. Everything above the line is part of the walking skeleton and would be delivered in the first release with the stories below the line coming in future releases.

So if you're having trouble prioritizing your stories try using the story mapping approach to help you get the big picture.