Tag Archives: review

Review: The Professional Product Owner

poDon McGreal and Ralph Jocham wrote the book The Professional Product Owner – Leveraging Scrum as a competitive advantage.

This book gives you the insights how you, as a product owner, can identify, measure, and maximize value throughout your entire product lifecycle.

The authors explain that you can call yourself a professional product owner if you can excite, can envision, can cause the product to emerge and you can manage and administer the product as it matures.

The chapters in the book are clustered into three parts strategy, Scrum and tactics. Every chapter starts with a little quiz (statement: agree/disagree) and at the end of each chapter you will find the answers.

The first part – strategy focusses on proper agile product management and maximizing the return on investment (ROI of a product by looking at the three Vs (vision, value, and validation) as a way to achieve this.

Vision creates transparency, value provides you with something to inspect and validation causes adaptation. The authors explain why the world of product management is a lot bigger than Scrum. There are many types of product owners starting with scribe, proxy, business representative, sponsor and entrepreneur. Going from left to right the expected benefits from the product owner type will increase heavily. We get an explanation of the business model canvas, the added value of a good vision and what it means to deliver value. Evidence-based management with current value, unrealized value, ability to innovate and time to market is illustrated (in grey boxes you will find the corresponding text from the EBMgt Guide (see review on my blog). In the last chapter – validation, the authors discuss feedback, the usage of different types of MVP’s, the Kano-model and the build-measure-learn feedback loop (based on Eric Ries’ book Lean Start-up).

Part II – Scrum explains empirical process control and how Scrum is a tool for managing complexity and continuous delivery of value. In the text you will find, in grey boxes, corresponding text form the Scrum guide too.

It starts with an explanation of complexity. You get a certainty quiz to measure the uncertainty of your own environment/team. To visualize complexity a modified Stacey graph (categorization model) is explained as well as the usage of Dave Snowdon’s Cynefin model (sense-making) with the five domains obvious, complicated, complex, chaos and disorder. The empiricism of Scrum helps to address risks (misunderstanding of requirements, lack of top management commitment and support, lack of adequate user involvement, failure to gain user commitment, failure to manage end user expectations and changes to requirements and lack of an effective project management methodology). For the rest of this part the focus is on Scrum itself. The pillars (transparency, inspection and adaptation), The Scrum roles (product owner, development team and scrum master) and stakeholders, the Scrum artifacts (product backlog, sprint backlog and the increment) and not official Scrum artifacts (Definition of done, burn-down, burn-up charts), and Scrum events (sprint, sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review, sprint retrospective). For every element the authors explain the relation with the product owner.

qrc (backlog items, 190121) v1.0To download: qrc (backlog items, 190121) v1.0

The last part – tactics introduces more concrete practices and tools for managing product backlogs (see the attached QRC) and release plans and concludes by examining what it means to be a professional product owner.

It starts with an explanation of a requirement and you get an explanation of the different items on a product backlog (feature requirements, non-functional requirements, experiments, user stories, bugs/defects, user cases, capabilities, …) and an example of a product backlog item template with acceptance criteria and common ways of writing acceptance criteria (Test that …, Demonstrate that …, Gherkin syntax (given, when, then)). How you can order a backlog based on business value, risk, cost/size and dependency including measuring value, risk and size is a next topic. The definition of “done” is defined as well the meaning of ready. A lot of other techniques are discussed e.g. story mapping, impact mapping, specification by example and agile testing. Release management is the next big chapter in this part. What are release management, reasons to release, release strategy, major, minor and functional releases? How can you use estimation and velocity to answer the question when will I get it? Scaling in terms of more products or more teams as well as a brief overview of the Nexus framework are introduced. This chapter ends with some more techniques like the Monte Carlo simulation to estimate a product backlog, velocity breakdown by type (features, bugs, technical debt and infrastructure), budgeting, governance and compliance, release kick-off and quality (definitions, product and technical quality, keeping quality). This part ends with the skills and traits of a good product owner.

Conclusion: If you are a product owner this is absolutely a must read. You get explanations, techniques, examples and real-life cases from the authors how you have to and can play your role as a professional product owner.

To order: The Professional Product Owner

Review EBM Evidence-Based Management Guide

schermafdruk 2019-01-19 17.32.18The Evidence-Based Management Guide was developed by Ken Schwaber, Christina Schwaber, Scrum.org, the professional Scrum Trainer community and the Engagement Manager community.

EBM is an empirical approach that provides organizations with the ability to measure the value they deliver to customers and the means by which they deliver that value, and to use those measures to guide improvements in both.

EBM consists of four Key Value Areas (KVAs):

  • Current Value (CV): Reveals the value that the product delivers to customers, today
  • Time to Market (T2M): Expresses the organization’s ability to quickly deliver new capabilities, services, or products
  • Ability to Innovate (A2I): Expresses the ability of a product development organization to deliver new capabilities that might better meet customer needs
  • Unrealized Value (UV): Suggests the potential future value that could be realized if the organization could perfectly meet the needs of all potential customers

qrc (evidence-based management, 190119) v1.0To download: qrc (evidence-based management, 190119) v1.0

To produce genuine and long-lasting improvements the guide explains a five-step learning loop:

  1. Quantify Value
  2. Measure KVMs (Key Value Measure)
  3. Select KVAs to improve
  4. Conduct practice experiments to improve targeted KVAs
  5. Evaluate results

In the appendix an overview of KVMs, clustered by KVAs, and how to measure them.

Conclusion an easy to read guide to get a better understanding of business value, how to measure and how to improve it.

To download the guide (for free): Evidence-Based Management Guide

Quick Reference Cards in 2018

As a result of my book reviews I created several Quick Reference Cards to summarize what I have read.QRC 2018

My 2018 book reviews

2018 was a fruitful book review year. I wrote more than 50 book reviews including corresponding quick reference cards and several personal insights, and views on specific topics in the field of project, program and portfolio management and I wrote the book Directing successful projects with PRINCE2 by Henny Portman

Book reviews 2018.pngAgility

Management

Project/Program/Portfolio management

Review: Out of the maze

9780525537298-480x600Spencer Johnson wrote Out of the maze, the sequel to the #1 bestseller and global phenomenon Who moved my cheese?

This stunning little sequel will help you unlock the riddle of whatever mazes you may be facing in your own life. And not only your own life. Think about the VUCA world where business agility is key. Things that may have been true yesterday suddenly are no longer true today.

In this little book we follow Hem (the one in Who moved my cheese? who believed that the old situation would return) and his new friend, Hope, on their journey, by thinking outside the box, to find their way out of the maze. Believes are put central in this fable. It’s not only cheese you can eat; an apple will work too and when they are gone you have to choose new beliefs. During their journey we learn the following particularities about beliefs:

  • Notice your beliefs
  • Don’t believe everything you think
  • Let go of what isn’t working
  • Look outside the maze
  • Choose a new belief
  • There are no limits to what you can believe

the way out of the mazeBeliefs are powerful things. A single stubborn belief can take down an entire company (Kodak?, Nokia?, BlackBerry?). People believe that how things have always been is how they’ll always be. But it never is.

You can read this little book in less than an hour and it gives you a multitude of hours to notice, exam and test your own beliefs and not necessarily discard them to find the way out of your own maze.

To order (Managementboek.nl): Out of the maze

To order (Bol.com): Out of the maze

Nederlandse versie: Breek los uit het doolhof

Spenser Johnson passed away in July 2017.

Review: PRINCE2 2017 Edition Practitioner Courseware – English / – Nederlands

Voor de Nederlandse versie van de courseware naar beneden scrollen.

9789401802253-480x600This book PRINCE2 2017 Edition Practitioner Courseware – English was created by Douwe Brolsma and Mark Kouwenhoven and can be used as a replacement for a syllabus that training organizations provide for each attendee when following a PRINCE2 practitioner training class.

What do we get:

  • A timetable for a four-day training class with the exam at day 4 (starting with an overview and the principles, the project lifecycle including PRINCE2 processes and themes, tailoring.)
  • A print of all slides to be used during the training class. In the slides you find all the figures as provided by AXELOS, the preferred content of all products including references to the official manual
  • Two PRINCE2 Foundation sample papers from AXELOS (Question Booklet, Answers and rationales. 1 hour, 60 questions, to pass you need 33 correct answers) to be used at the start of the training class
  • The PRINCE2 Practitioner Examination Specification from AXELOS (learning outcomes, examination design and the weightings (number of questions) across learning outcomes, assessment criteria and ‘Bloom’s level’
  • Two PRINCE2 Practitioner Sample Papers from AXELOS (Scenario Booklet, Question Booklet, Answers and rationales. 2 hours 30 min, 68 questions, to pass you need 38 correct answers, open book, you can use the Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2)
  • 14 assignments to be used throughout the training with different types of exercises (create a product, explain a role, perform an assessment)

Conclusion: The courseware contains all the needed material for a training but could be of much more value when each slide is accompanied with an explanation of the content of the slide. In that case you could use the material as reference material after the training class/exam too.

To order: PRINCE2 2017 Edition Practitioner Courseware – English

Recensie: PRINCE2 2017 editie Practitioner Courseware – Nederlands

9789401803458-480x600Dit boek PRINCE2 2017 Edition Practitioner Courseware – Nederland is gemaakt door Douwe Brolsma en Mark Kouwenhoven en kan gebruikt worden als vervanging van een syllabus zoals die door opleidingsorganisaties aan elke deelnemer wordt gegeven bij het volgen van een PRINCE2 Practitioner cursus.

Wat krijgen we:

  • Een tijdschema voor een vierdaagse training inclusief examen op dag 4 (de training begint met een overzicht en de principes, vervolgens volgen we de levenscyclus van een project met daarbinnen de verschillende PRINCE2-processen en thema’s, en het op maat maken)
  • Een print van alle PowerPoint slides die tijdens de training gebruikt kunnen worden. In de slides vindt u alle figuren/tekeningen zoals verstrekt door AXELOS en de gewenste inhoud van alle producten inclusief verwijzingen naar de officiële handleiding
  • Twee PRINCE2 Foundation voorbeeld examens van AXELOS (vragenboekje, antwoorden en toelichting, 1 uur, 60 vragen, om te slagen hebt u 33 correcte antwoorden nodig) die gebruikt kunnen worden aan het begin van de training
  • De PRINCE2 Practitioner Examination Specification van AXELOS (eindtermen, examenontwerp en de wegingen (aantal vragen) over leerresultaten, beoordelingscriteria en ‘Bloom’s level’
  • Twee PRINCE2 Practitioner voorbeeld examens van AXELOS (scenario-boekje, vraag-boekje, antwoorden en toelichting) 2 uur 30 min, 68 vragen, om door te geven hebt u 38 correcte antwoorden nodig, open boek, u kunt het beheren van succesvolle projecten met PRINCE2 gebruiken)
  • 14 opdrachten die tijdens de training gebruikt kunnen worden met verschillende soorten oefeningen (een managementproduct maken, een rol uitleggen, een beoordeling uitvoeren)

Conclusie: het cursusmateriaal bevat al het benodigde materiaal voor een training, maar kan van veel meer waarde zijn wanneer elke slide vergezeld gaat van een uitleg van de inhoud van die slide. In dat geval zou je het materiaal ook kunnen gebruiken als referentiemateriaal na de training / examen.

Om te bestellen: PRINCE2 2017 Edition Practitioner Courseware – Nederlands

Review: The culture map – Decoding how people think, lead, and get things done across cultures

9781610392761-480x600Looking back at my week in Tokyo with all its cultural differences, e.g. the punctuality, the group culture, the clean streets but no garbage cans, the mouth caps to protect others and yourself, Japanese people skipping a lot of words, and to understand them you need to know the context, et cetera, I think reading The culture map – Decoding how people think, lead, and get across cultures written by Erin Meyer was a good way to use my time when I flew back at an altitude of 38000 ft from Tokyo, Narita airport to Amsterdam, Schiphol.

It’s an easy to read and entertaining book with numerous examples from her own experience to understand how cultural patterns of behavior and belief frequently impact our perceptions (what we see), cognitions (what we think), and actions (what we do). The purpose of this book is to improve your ability to understand these three aspects of culture and to improve your effectiveness in dealing with them. If you want to build and manage global teams that can work together successfully this book will be a great tool with lots of strategies and advices to support you.

The author developed an eight-scale model to help to improve your effectiveness. Each of the eight scales represents one key area that managers must be aware of, showing how cultures vary along a spectrum from one extreme to its opposite.

The eight scales are (see the figure with Japan and the Netherlands plotted on these scales):

  • Communicating: low-context vs. high-context
  • Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
  • Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
  • Deciding: consensual vs. top-down
  • Trusting: task-based vs. relationship-based
  • Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoids confrontation
  • Scheduling: linear-time vs. flexible-time
  • Persuading: principles-first vs applications-first (does not plot all world cultures as the concept of applications-first and principles-first only applies to western environments. Asian cultures, for example, are Holistic and neither Applications-first nor Principles first)

Schermafdruk 2018-11-11 15.06.57The culture map (source: www.erinmeyer.com/tools)

When examining how people from different cultures relate to one another, what matters is not the absolute position of either culture on the scale but rather the relative position of two cultures. It is this relative positioning that determines how people view each other. E.g. Japanese people see Dutch people deciding more top-down. But if you compare deciding between the Netherlands and Belgium, the Netherlands are more consensual and Belgium more top-down.

Each scale is described in a separate chapter with many, many examples to explain the different extremes from the spectrum and strategies and actionable advices how to cope with these people. Sometimes very specific rules or behavior are given. E.g. the “Law of Jante” (leading, Denmark),Ringisystem (deciding, Japan), Guanxi(trusting, China).

Mapping the communication scale against the evaluating scale gives four quadrants. Particular cultures can be found in each of these quadrants and the book explains different strategies for effectively dealing with people from each.

Mapping the disagreeing scale against a second scale that measures how emotionally expressive a culture is will help to understand that emotional expressiveness is not the same thing as comfort in expressing open disagreement.

To order: The culture map – Decoding how people think, lead, and get across cultures