Agile MVP Model, cont.

The Agile MVP model serves as a template for the kind of Agile coaching and training work that I’ve most enjoyed doing. Most recently, I’ve been able to use it to deliver agile transformations successfully in an Agile way. In other words, create sustainable Agile cultural change by having people experience the journey in the most holistic Agile manner.

These are the five steps I use. As I mentioned before, the key to this model is that the steps happen in a time-boxed period and result in a visual deliverable that drives the cycle.

  1. Work Ideation — identify the nature of the work activity or process. What is our goal? What is value? Where do we want to be?

Sometimes clients have strategic plans or priorities or other artifacts that we can use. Or, I schedule a 2- hour workshop to visually capture the results. The outputs could be Lean Canvas, A3 template, or any kind of roadmap.

  1. Work Intake

The work intake process captures the reality and the context of a given environment — all the unplanned, ad-hoc work as well as management and other operational activities.

Serves as a “reality check” to the vision represented in the Ideation step. Enables decisions to be made on actual data, not just planned work.

I’ve done this process in a variety of ways, but the most successful has been something we call the Agile Kaleidoscope. I adopted this technique from my partner-in-crime at the US Courts, Roland Cuellar, and it became one of my favorites instantly.

3. Work Sequencing — another time boxed workshop to create either a process or activity map that answers the following questions:

  • What does done mean? In other words, do we know what the output would be? Who makes the decision? Proof of concept or final, polished output?
  • How do we approach our work? How do we make decisions on what to do next?
  • Do we have a plan for how we do things? Standardized work, for example

Basically, determine how to chunk the work to obtain early and frequent value delivery.  Identify definition of done for overall deliverable as well as incremental deliveries, so that high-value, high-risk work items can be done first.

Value Stream Mapping is one useful visualization process/output to help with work sequencing; but remember to tailor the level of effort to the value provided by the process.

  1. Work Delivery — this is where most current Agile efforts happen. The goal is to get end product done and verified (tested) in small batches within time-boxed periods.

Use visual representation of work to monitor progress and issues, most often a Kanban board or task board to represent current work and its status serves the purpose.

  1. Work Validation

Finally, the inspect and adapt step that is standard in all Agile frameworks. Use frequent demonstrations and retrospectives to improve transparency and to drive continuous improvement. Should validate that what we’re delivering is value to our customer as verify that our process is effective. Again, capture the result of each work validation cycle in a visual format that feeds back into the ideation step.




Agile MVP Model

The Agile MVP model is a light-weight framework that is designed to apply the essence of Lean-Agile principles to deliver value for any type of work activity or process.

This model is a distillation of work I’ve done over the years, though I’ve only recently combined and refined the components into a cohesive whole.

The basic question this model answers: what would be the ideal way for me to do my work, if I could do it in the most Agile way. The what and how really boils down to maximizing the percentage of value-added work on my work and minimizing the level of resource commitment/cost on the client’s behalf.

As you will note, there is no mention of project in this model or of information technology. And that is quite deliberate.

One of my pet peeves as an Agile coach is the myth that Agile is an “alternate project management method”. This myth is often reinforced in the federal space, since most Agile coaching contracts are embedded within the project management division or aligned with a specific software development project.

And even though the Agile manifesto specifically refers to software development, there is nothing in the core Agile values that is specific to information technology.

So I’ve always operated from the conviction that just because Agile’s most visible successes have been within the domain of software development projects, that doesn’t mean that Agile is limited to those domains. After all, Agile to me is “early and frequent delivery of incremental business value”. And that concept can be applied to any activity or process, even thinking!

This model can be used to streamline process such as logistics, operations, quality, sales and customer service, procurement and inventory management and finance that are staples in virtually any industry. Even more valuable is that this model can enable these entities to be strategic partners in their enterprise’s success instead of just being support services or overhead.

I’ve used variations of this model for years, initially prototyping elements of it in my personal life, with my teams when I was a ScrumMaster, with non-profits where I volunteered as a way to assist with strategic planning, etc. And more recently, I was able to deliver the model within the government sector, with some positive results.

The model consists of five steps – ideation, intake, sequencing, delivery, validation. It is possible to start anywhere in the cycle, but for maximum value, the steps should be done in this sequence. The Minimal Viable Product (MVP) part of this model is that four of the five steps can be done in with minimal time and resource commitments.

Most often, customers resist setting aside to “create” new process as they’re swamped with existing work. Recognizing this reality and other constraints, I have been able to complete each step in as little as four hours; work delivery being the obvious exception since that is time-boxed for 1-4 weeks. A single half-day workshop for each step results in a visual output that can drive the next step. There are no other documents or deliverables required; these five visual outputs (usually about a page or two each), are enough to drive the transformation or improvement effort.

Obviously the model can be scaled with more time and resources as the need and value necessitate. There are occasions where I’ve asked clients to do “homework” – preparatory work to get the most value from the workshops, since they do represent a significant resource cost for the client – the time of their people, the opportunity cost of not doing other “work” as well as the cost of my efforts.

I’ll detail the model in the next post, but the five steps are ideation, intake, sequencing,  delivery and validation.