Migrating the blog: Al Shalloway

Thank you for joining us on this journey!

You may know that Net Objectives has joined with Disciplined Agile and is now part of the Project Management Institute. Here is the press release: https://www.pmi.org/about/press-media/press-releases/project-management-institute-announces-acquisition-of-flex-from-net-objectives

As part of this migration, Al is now blogging on ProjectManagement.com. Here is the address of his blog: https://www.projectmanagement.com/blogs/581099/Manifesting-Business-Agility

We invite you to join in following him on that site.

On 30 September, the Net Objectives Thoughts blog will be officially closed.

If you have any questions, please contact Al at al.shalloway@pmi.org.

Does your approach utilize the concept of identifying the smallest deliverable chunks of value that can be realized in order to achieve alignment and the quick realization of value?

One of the cornerstones of Flow, Agile and the Lean Startup is quick delivery of value to customers. This reduces waste by focusing on what’s of greatest value while enabling pivoting and creating a tight bond between the organization and its customers

We call this the Minimum Business Increment (MBI). The intention is to answer the question “what is of highest value that I can deliver quickest?” MBIs lie between epics and features in size and are what calculating cost of delay (CoD) should be done on. Calculating CoD on epics infers delaying the most valuable part of an epic or the rest of it. Calculating CoD for a feature that can’t be delivered by itself is meaningless. Continue reading “Does your approach utilize the concept of identifying the smallest deliverable chunks of value that can be realized in order to achieve alignment and the quick realization of value?”

One of the most valuable concepts in Agile is missing

Agile has moved from the team to the enterprise with the goal being business agility. We need a system that takes us from strategies to realization. This has two tightly connected phases – the discovery of what to work on and developing it.

Business has the responsibility of discovering what these small pieces are – both who is being targeted and what value is to be delivered. These are presented to the development group in the product backlog.

What these pieces are is the missing concept I am referring to. Many people are using the term MVP for this, but an MVP is about discovering if a new product is viable. It starts small and grows.

Most large organizations have strategies and initiatives for extending existing products and services. This requires going from big (an initiative) and making it small. This is accomplished by ‘asking what part of an initiative can we deliver sooner?’ This is not just about being small, however. It must also contain all of what’s needed. That is, what shared services, ops, marketing, support is required to achieve value? So it can be thought of as the smallest container of what is needed to provide the quickest realization of value.

We call this the ‘minimum business increment.’

For more on MBIs and how they relate to MVPs, go here.

Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) are very different from Minimum Business Increments (MBIs)

MVPs are used to discover when a product is useful. MBIs are used to define the smallest increment of value that can be built and released that realizes value for the business. Although both of these are about doing a small amount of work and releasing it, they are quite different in both intent and method.

An MVP is intended to create a new product without an existing customer base. It is built by taking the smallest step possible to determine if it is viable. An MBI is for building the smallest enhancement to an existing product. Continue reading “Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) are very different from Minimum Business Increments (MBIs)”

Be careful with SAFe’s use of the MVP

Eric Ries defined MVPs as “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

If you are an established company, you already have a customer base, know a considerable amount about your product and you have competitors you are trying to either keep ahead of or catch up to.

You probably spend more enhancing existing products than creating new ones with an unknown market.

Product development in established companies usually starts with initiatives and then seeing “what is of the most value that we can deliver sooner.” This is where the concept of the Minimum Business Increment is useful. MBIs are the smallest part of an initiative that will realize the most value when delivered. It also includes any steps needed for release and support. This is a far cry from the MVP where we start small and extend.

Both MVPs and MBIs are conceptually about value sooner. But confusing their different intentions and implementation approach causes problems if you don’t attend to that they are different.


See more at Minimum Business Increments in my book on FLEX.


How Using MBIs Ties Strategies, the intake process, ATDD, and planning together

This is an excerpt from Introducing FLEX – FLow for Enterprise Transformation: Going Beyond Lean and Agile (online book). If you are looking for an alternative to SAFe, this is it. To those who’d like to study along with me as I publish this on linkedin, please ask to join the True North Consortium Linkedin Group where I will be happy to answer any questions or, even more importantly, discuss things you disagree with in the book. S

If you want to learn more about FLEX you can watch a webinar on FLEX, take an online course at the Net Objectives University or take a live course in Orange County, CA May 6-8 or in Seattle in June (both led by Al Shalloway). If you want to learn about how to adopt FLEX in your organization please contact the author, Al Shalloway

The concept of the minimum business increment (MBI) is key to Agile software development because it provides us with a container for all of the items required to realize value for a business increment. Its focus on being “minimal” provides us with the smallest batches possible, a practice proven to be effective. This alone would make them worthwhile. But they have another value, they tie strategies to the intake process, facilitate the use of ATDD and assist in planning. This chapter discusses both how and why this is so important.

Tying Strategies to the Intake Process

Business stakeholders and product managers provide the development group what to work on. Very often this is with the development group as they may be the originators of what to work on. By using MBIs, the development group gets smaller batches than they would otherwise. This is one of the best ways to manage work in process – have smaller chunks of work come in. The content of the MBI, that is, all of the tasks required to realize value, also provides the development group insights on who they will have to work with to get the software out the door and realize value.

Using MBIs to feed ATDD

ATDD is our recommended way to decompose and refine requirements. MBIs are containers of all of the features and stories that will be developed. By peeling off vertical slices from the MBI using ATDD, the MBI can be used to see what’s left to decompose while ensuring all necessary components of it are defined. By decomposing MBIs into features and then stories, teams also avoid features and stories that are bigger than needed. Without the MBI, team often work on an entire feature even though only part of it is needed for the first MBI.

Planning with MBIs

Big room planning in SAFe has people focus on getting features completed. However, features by themselves may not be releasable where they will provide value on their own. It is therefore possible to schedule features to be completed but not have something to release until the end of the program increment. It is better to schedule the completion of the MBIs, not the features. This manages work in process in a natural manner.

A Simple Solution to Agile at Small-Scale

I keep running across organizations with 4-10 dev teams struggling with Agile. They look to the two most popular frameworks out there for a solution (Scrum & SAFe) to solve their problems. On one hand they see something that can work at the team but doesn’t help them with their product management. On the other they see something much bigger than they need. They’ve fallen into a trap–looking for a solution instead of solving their problem

What are their problems? Most have trouble Identifying what has the greatest value to deliver, breaking it down into the right size business increments to give to the teams, coordinating their teams’ work, teams not being able to decompose the business increments they’re given into small stories, and building, validating and releasing the code quickly. These abilities should be their focus

When Agile Product Management provides guidance in what’s important, coordinating teams is straightforward. It’s easier to pull a rope than it is to push it. 2-3 days working on prod management, ATDD, a little Scrum and a little Lean is all you need. Invest here, it returns more value. And it’s less expensive. Proper training &coaching methods can get your product folks, 6 teams & their coaches working with Agile methods for less than $40k

The missing piece of Lean Portfolio Management

I am often asked how to do Lean Portfolio Management. Let’s consider what’s needed to do this effectively. The real issue is when different programs require the same limited capabilities. How do you decide which one is more important? Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) is commonly used. But ‘business value’, a  key component of WSJF, means different things to different groups.

How can we decide what the business value is when people in different divisions have different views? Continue reading “The missing piece of Lean Portfolio Management”

A missing piece in SAFe product management

Lean suggests that we work with small batches, be able to deliver value quickly and to drive from a business perspective (typically through delivering value to the customer). ‘Deliver value’ means not just to deploy something but to ensure that value can be realized by the intended customer. In other words, we need a definition for the smallest increment of value that delivers value from a business perspective. In other words, it can’t be too small (we may not want to be delivering all the time) but it has to be sufficient (have all the components (e.g., marketing) required to realize value. In other words, minimum yet sufficient. It also must have measurable value from a business perspective. Continue reading “A missing piece in SAFe product management”

The first step in Lean Portfolio Management

Lean portfolio management is an important aspect of enterprise Agility. Organizations always have more options than capacity. One therefore needs to be able to understand what is the most important value to deliver. But what is value to one company may be waste to another. The first step in Lean Portfolio Management therefore, is determining what’s of value to the organization.

This, of course, is typically oriented around value to customers. or example, a financial company might focus on: Continue reading “The first step in Lean Portfolio Management”