The Joys of Designing Agile Solutions for New-Age Problems


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My talk at the first regional Scrum Gathering India in Pune, July 26-27, 2013

Published in: Business, Education, Technology
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  • @PerumalManivannan Perumal, you make a fair point. However, we also need to consider the fundamental difference between an existing and a new product. By definition, an existing product has crossed the stage where several of uncertainties and assumptions about the opportunity, market, product and customers, and if the product is already in steady-state, then chances are high that most of these assumptions have already been validated. However in case of a new product, most of these are simply hypothesis and hence embarking on a full-fledged mission to develop them without invalidating those assumptions or testing those hypotheses is fraught with risks - even if we were to potentially 'develop' the product, chances are high that we will falter in addressing the right market, or meeting the expectations of the intended customer segment, or we might have made wrong assumptions about the product functionality, architecture, performance or even its pricing. So, I think we are talking about two different things here.

    That said, there are enough challenges with existing and legacy products. Most of them pertain to ongoing corrective maintenance and any event-driven preventive maintenance (e.g., enhancement, extensions, tech upgrades, etc.). These require a different approach compared to NPD (and I am not disputing that these are any 'easier' compared to NPD), and there is a rich body of knowledge on this subject. Perhaps I will address this in a separate talk in future.
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  • @krishnacr22 Thanks Krishna
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  • @JohnnyDark Thanks Johnny
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  • Several pointers here can be applied to complex products which are in the market for 10+ years, however how do we extend this to existing and even legacy product development. In my opinion they pose lot more challenges than new developments. I would love to see this presentation covers complex proucts which are in the market for a decade or so..
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  • Business schools tend to focus on inductive thinking (based on directly observable facts) and deductive thinking (logic and analysis, typically based on past evidence)," he writes. "Design schools emphasize abductive thinking—imagining what could be possible. This new thinking approach helps us challenge assumed constraints and add to ideas, versus discouraging them = Lafley Wikipedia: As a style of thinking, design thinking is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context. This differs from the scientific method, which starts with defining all the parameters of the problem in order to define the solution. Rather, the design way of problem solving starts with a solution in order to start to define enough of the parameters to optimize the path to the goal. The solution, then, is actually the starting point. Design thinking is a solution-based approach to solving problems, and is especially useful when addressing what design thinkers refer to as Wicked Problems. Wicked problems are wicked in the sense that they are ill-defined or tricky, not wicked in the sense of malicious.[16] For ill-defined problems, both the problem and the solution are unknown at the outset of the problem-solving exercise. This is as opposed to "tame" or "well-defined" problems where the problem is clear, and the solution is available through some technical knowledge.[17] The design thinking process is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. There are three spaces to keep in mind: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Think ofinspiration as the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions; ideation as the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas; and implementation as the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives. 
  • The Joys of Designing Agile Solutions for New-Age Problems

    1. 1. Tathagat Varma VP, Strategic Process Innovations [24]7 Innovation Labs The Joys of Designing Agile Solutions for New-Age Problems
    2. 2. Discussion Topics New Product Development (“NPD”) What’s new? Why it sucks? How to make it joyful…
    3. 3. How it all started?
    4. 4. With the advent of mass production …
    5. 5. then somewhere down the line…
    6. 6. …and now!
    7. 7. • Task: Visualize your creative / innovation / new product development process • Time: 2 min • Tip: Keep it simple
    8. 8. Does it look like this?
    9. 9. Or, like this?
    10. 10. Why is NPD such fun  Problem: Design an effective lighting solution for Dharavi homes.
    11. 11. Problem: How to help farmers get best prices for their products?
    12. 12. and a world of exciting new ideas…
    13. 13. New Product Development: Old vs New Old NPD Developed markets Industrial Enterprises Large R&D $$$s $(Technology) >> $(People) Closed Innovation Technology-driven Forecast based Production Long gestation period Top 3 / Land grab Mostly Commercial Slow upgrade cycle New NPD Saturated + emerging markets Knowledge-based enterprises Small Startup $s (and ¢) $(Technology) << $(People) Open Innovation User needs-driven Feedback based Design Short experimentations Long tail / Zero Billion $ Often Social Innovations Fast upgrade cycle
    14. 14. Our Charter? Build next Gen Faster, Better, Cheaper… mousetrap!!!
    15. 15. Our challenge… Design, Develop and Deliver Successful Products and Services Continuous Innovation • UX • Features • Performance Deliver at Speed • TTM • Support • Upgrades Manage Total Costs • Idea to Launch • Sell „Free‟ • Protect investment Images:,
    16. 16. Our Odds…
    17. 17. Many reasons, but my 2¢… Uncalibrated assumptions about the constantly changing opportunity, market, products and customer needs Stealth mode mindset that gives no opportunity to get early real-world feedback for course correction Poor collaboration among internal stakeholders leading to conflicts, delays in decision-making and execution, duplication of efforts and diffusion of responsibility, among others Premature Scaling up too soon before all aspects of opportunity, market, products and customer needs have been validated
    18. 18. Sample these beauties…
    19. 19. How to make it better? There’s a way to do it better… Find it. Thomas Edison
    20. 20. What are we trying to solve?
    21. 21. How about the scientific method… “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses”
    22. 22. Would it solve all problems? The scientific method is a pattern of problem-solving behavior employed in finding out the nature of what exists, whereas the design method is a pattern of behavior employed in inventing things of value which do not yet exists. Science is analytic, design is constructive.” (Gregory, 1966)
    23. 23. …and how does our product development process look like? “The Stage-Gate system assumes that the proposed strategy is the right strategy; the problem is that except in the case of incremental innovations, the right strategy cannot be completely known in advance. The Stage-Gate system is not suited to the task of assessing innovations whose purpose is to build new growth businesses, but most companies continue to follow it simply because they see no alternative.” Clayton Christensen, “The Innovator’s Dilemma”
    24. 24. Does Agile help?...yes, but… What if you didn’t know if you wanted a painting, a sculpture or a mousetrap, a Monalisa or a Facebook or a Porsche? How would you design and develop something the world hasn’t known yet?
    25. 25. So, what else can we do?
    26. 26. Learn from children!
    27. 27. How Children Learn? Holt observed hundreds of children and came to an interesting conclusion. He found that the best learners are also the ones that are having the most fun. The best learners are the ones that like to play with the noise around them. Play doesn’t work if it isn’t fun, which means that learning in times of chaos and change will tend to work best when it is fun as well. Play minus fun equals labor, which doesn’t have the same learning benefits.
    28. 28. Customer Development
    30. 30. Minimize TOTAL time through the loop Instead of making complex plans that are based on a lot of assumptions, you can make constant adjustments with a steering wheel call the Build- Measure-Learn feedback loops. Through this process of steering, we can learn when and if it’s time to make a sharp turn called a pivot or whether we should persevere along the current path The MVP is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort or development time. The MVP lacks many features that may prove essential later on. MVP is not a minimal product!
    31. 31. Validated Learning • Validated learning about customers is the measure of progress in a Lean Startup – not lines of working code or achieving product development milestones. • Process in which one learns by trying out an initial idea and then measuring it to validate the effect. Each test of an idea is single iteration in a larger process of many iterations whereby something is learnt and the lessons applied to the succeeding tests.[1] • Typical steps in validated learning: – Specify a goal – Specify a metric that represents the goal – Act to achieve the goal – Analyze the metric - did you get closer to the goal? – Improve and try again
    32. 32. Pivot
    33. 33. In the end, it‟s about “Double-loop Learning”
    34. 34. To conclude… Solving a problem makes us happy  Happy minds are better learners Continuous feedback amplifies learning Experimentation is a great way to solve problems and get feedback
    35. 35. References and Pictures • Cover slide: • • put-reading/ • • • • • • • started-in-stealth-mode-and-launched-to-success/ • • about-it/ • • • • • • • •
    36. 36. And remember…in the end, there is no such thing as a „problem‟ 
    37. 37. Thanks…