Starting Your Journey from Project to Product: Treat Improvement Like a Series of Experiments and Continuously Improve

Danny PrestenPosted by

Early on in a project to product journey, people often feel compelled to “do it right”, which leaves them stalled on the start line. It’s impossible to imagine any organization getting it “right” the first time. I strongly encourage you to consider the improvements you make to be “experiments” with a hypothesis that you can validate or invalidate. Using this approach takes the pressure off, and acknowledges that the team is doing what they think is best given the experiences and information they have at that time. As new information emerges, it’s ok to change direction and adjust without having to lose face, while you continuously improve.

Use outcome-based metrics

It’s essential that you have a set of outcome-based metrics in place to track your journey. After all, how do you know where you need to go if you don’t know where you are? Many of our customers are using Flow Metrics to baseline the current state of their product value streams  and establish targets for improvement for the future state. These value stream metrics measure how value-creating and value-protecting software delivery work (features, defects, debt and risk) flow across the value stream to help you identify and solve the system’s bottlenecks, eliminating inefficient local optimizations.

The teams that improve the fastest are the ones that start the fastest. Avoid the temptation to ensure all the data is cleansed and high quality. The focus should be just starting the journey and making improvements, not starting the perfect journey.

Evaluate alternative solutions

Once you have baselined the data and know where your opportunities are, we recommend rapidly implementing and evaluating alternative solutions. This is where the experiments really provide value. With Tasktop Viz® — the only turnkey Flow Metrics tool that can draw insights directly from the toolchains that underpin your value streams — you can see improvements in real time. As you evaluate approaches, make sure you use data to validate your hypothesis or propose a new one. Keep alternatives open and encourage teams to track Flow Metrics and own their change.

As you embark on this journey, emphasize that this is all about how you can continuously improve. There is no end state where you finally arrive and stop. I highly recommend leveraging key agile ceremonies, such as retrospectives at both the team and program level, to encourage this mindset. 

Teams should have the bandwidth to explore and implement improvements and the organization should be transparent about what changes are being made and what learnings are generated. Finding opportunities in the program as well as executive readouts to highlight and celebrate these learnings will ensure focus and momentum.