Enterprise Metrics Portfolio Management Product Management Quality Scrum Software

Senex Rex at Work: April 2014

Senex Rex is an agile and lean product consulting, coaching and training company. We tend to focus on metrics. We teach teams and managers how to measure, experiment, learn, improve and win. We help clients become highly profitable long term. When our clients make more money, they have greater freedom to innovate and their employees and shareholders have more freedom to enjoy life. We think agility helps in many cases, so we often teach and coach agile theory and practice. Few contractors teach clients how to sustainably retain and improve agility; we specialize in that. We have many other tools in our tool box. Here’s a snapshot of the work Senex Rex did in April of 2014.

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Two-Hour Scrum, Lean Startup Overview

We often offer a free 2-hour overview of Agile/Scrum, Lean Startup and Catalytic Leadership to company leaders in active client locations (currently San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City). In exchange, we ask an executive to write a LinkedIn review (positive or negative). This April, we spoke with a well-known logging and operational intelligence company. The attending vice-president wrote furiously during the session and followed up strongly with his teams. We evidently made an impression. Our highly empirical approach to Scrum and Lean Startup inspires executives, especially when they see how these practices radically reduce market, quality and delivery risk. Would your company benefit from our overview? Contact us.

Market Insights, Lean Innovation, Product Analytics

A large online retailer hired us to “hang out” with them, to observe email marketing, personalization, web analytics, product and agile team management, and to provide insight on possible improvements. We concluded that innovations often arise organically, but with a strong customer insight program innovations can be better driven by solving unrecognized customer and user problems. We are starting to develop a theory; the best innovations follow a maturity path from customer insights (where promising product hypotheses arise) to lean startup (where we test hypotheses and adapt our product plans based on qualitative truths) and finally to analytics and business intelligence (where we confirm the discoveries and monitor future business disruptions). Each stage requires increasing statistical rigor. In every case, highly profitable product management starts with curiosity rather than assertion, hypotheses rather than guesswork, market testing rather than long high-risk project cycles. The next step is to test this theory, we hope with our client.

Want Sustainable Agility? Train Your Execs

One client is moving toward self-coaching agile, a practice we encourage. Senex Rex supplies training and coaching material to its corporate clients (with a non-transferrable license) to promote self-training and self-coaching. With growing experience in this area, we are discovering that creating agile-savvy executives is the remaining frontier to ensure long-term agile sustainability. We did this once before, with dramatic results: the company re-organized, spinning out some projects as separate companies, shutting down some projects, and dramatically increased staff on other projects.

These reports show that training and coaching agile executives is key. We’ve held executive roles in the past and have seen the fragility of agile in companies whose executives don’t understand the experimental principles of agile. Unfortunately, many executives have the false impression that “agile is an engineering thing,” reinforced by “army-of-coaches” agile companies who understand only team-level behavior who seek to increase their total billable hours. In Senex Rex, we were vice-presidents, startup leaders and statisticians first, and that background informs our high-level approach. We feel the pain, and we provide thoughtful solutions.

Breaking agile into bites

Finding a way to allow teams and companies to share prioritization has been a growing topic of importance for our clients. For one client, we distilled agile into 50 tweet-sized fragments to more easily create solutions during retrospectives. We found describing solutions in this way a great method for teams digging deeper into larger and more complex topics.

Prioritizing product opportunities

We helped a large software company create a Product Portfolio process and custom tooling that enabled them to rapidly prioritize hundreds of product opportunities across 100+ scrum teams. We brought in Senex Rex tools to help prioritize their enterprise backlog, expedite the process of creating “bulky” estimates at the Epic level and collect historical team throughput data to establish a capacity baseline. They used our new visualization tools to quickly identify and untangle key constraints, easily seeing the teams that created the biggest blockers. With this high visibility, leaders and teams could maximize the high value projects that could finish rapidly by making a relatively small number of adjustments to teams and scope.

We also helped two internally-focused groups at the same company learn and apply Lean Startup techniques to their groups. One group focused on organizational transformation and coaching while the other ran cross-company product planning. Both groups learned to establish a vision, identify key customer segments, identify an “internal currency” they could use to measure returns, establish value and growth hypotheses for internal customers, establish a set of minimum viable products (MVP) and services to deliver, propose actionable metrics, and prioritize their backlogs based on the most valuable impacts to their organization. Both groups came away with a much more focused charter and a clear path to validating the impact they will have on their customers and company.

In May…

  • Dan Greening and Troy Magennis spoke at the  Modern Management Methods North America Conference in San Francisco.

This is a typical month for Senex Rex. Our consultants are former corporate leaders—CxOs and Vice Presidents. We consider ourselves organizational scientists. We contribute not only to process improvement and software, but also human resources, finance, organizational development, product management and management training. If we can help you in these areas, please drop us a line.

  • Dan Greening spoke at Scrum Gathering 2014, New Orleans on May 5, on the topic “Metric-Driven Enterprise Coaching.” The session was overflowing, there were lots of great questions, and the audience seemed to be happy.

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