Transition to agile: pre-sprint planning

So, I’ve spent my last days sending out calendar holds, mini 1-on-1s, and completing rough documents that begin scope out the vision and “really big” stories for the project. Since we are approaching the holiday season most of the next weeks will be spent planning and setting up a workspace so we are ready for Sprint 1.

Digital handwriting w/ iPencil

My digital writing is no more legible than pen and paper. 😉

The planning call today covered some basics that we’ll need in this project. As previously stated we won’t run this as a traditional software development sprint, but rather apply agile to an innovation product management sprint, with a cross-function team of 4 core members. I’ve created the checklist below that should help you get things running if you’re new to this process.

  • Define each work streams and verify an owner of eacH – Ours are defined as technology/design, content development and production, business, and marketing
  • Setup pep-talks with the owners, mini 1-on-1s
  • Define a commitment goal for the core group – We won’t be looking this group in a rooo for 2 week sprints so we agreed that a commitment for 35-40% of each persons total time will be our sweet spot. (There is no sweet spot in agile. The goal is for the team to be motivated and be able to deliver in short chunks.)
  • Set a start date and an end date for the first release – we’ve pick a national event in March where key influencers will be. Goal is to create awareness for the pilot project and have influencers recommend it to our target users.
  • Setup baseline configuration – we will be use JIRA
  • Import rough (really big)  stories to start building a backlog, pick a few that may be relevant for the first sprint and analyze these to ensure we have what is needed to put them into the first sprint – budgets, specification, business support, etc
  • Decide how to size stories – points or hours – being a cross-functional team with non-software expertise we’ve chosen to use hours rather than story points.

I hope this helps give some guidance with the pre-sprint planning process. I’m not brand new to agile, but adopting it as a new innovation tool for managing this project introduces some new challenage and hurdles. Feel free to ask me any questions along the way and follow me to stay updated.

So I’ll leave you with two last points that may help you until the next post:

  1. Always just focus on the current sprint – the next two weeks.
  2. Create stories that can be completed to help the team perform at their best.

you may want to read the previous post A Transition to Agile

Using the Lean Canvas to Track the Product Hypothesis

I recently came across a presentation from Stanford University that suggested students of E145 use the Lean Canvas tool when beginning their startup business model journey. Of course we all have worked with the business canvas model (if not have a look here), but as a product person I had never thought to use the canvas model in the prototyping and pilot phase of a product. I thought I’d share my adaptation of the lean canvas so you may better validate key findings which later become the drivers for your value proposition.

Product Hypothesis Lean Canvas

Create better product hypothesis using a Product Hypothesis Lean Canvas

Note to color coding: Green/Validated, Yellow/Assumption, Red/Invalidated


The canvas below uses the principles of the business model canvas. One area that I have changed is the middle block from Value Proposition to Key Finding. I did this because as we worked with customers with prototypes I realized we were collecting valid hypothesis on their needs and pain. Instead of calling these value propositions at this stage in the game I found it better to document the key findings and attempt to validate or invalidate as we tested with customers.

When findings are validated across multiple groups we can them form a hypothesis around these that drive the value proposition in the business canvas. At this point we can save all validated field and begin testing this these final assumptions and key value propositions by repeating the process.  

If you are looking for some more canvas tools here are a few that may help:

Lean Canvas – from Lean Stack – Lean Canvas is the top choice for entrepreneurs, universities, accelerators, and groups inside big organizations.

Steve Blank – startup tools – Steve wrote the book that launched the Lean Startup movement.

Wikipedia – Business Model Canvas – and while you are on Wiki its a perfect time to make a donation!

Agile Leadership: Trust vs. Control – Scrum Inc

I came across this simple visual example of a complex adaptive system, a scrum, on Scrum Inc’s blog and wanted to share it you. Follow the link at the bottom to read the whole post.

Exerpt: I Listened to Spotify enterprise coach and Agile thought leader Henrik Knieberg’s keynote and loved his analogy on Trust vs. Control. He uses the concept of traffic regulation, specifically a traffic circle vs. an intersection controlled by a stop light.

Trust leads to control. It doesn’t work the other way, controlling behavior results in a lack of trust and trust is the essence of Agile leadership.

Source: Agile Leadership: Trust vs. Control – Scrum Inc