Interview with Ash Maurya – Running Lean

With the increase in the consumer demand and change in the market dynamics, the number of new products that are launched in our market have increased tremendously. The passion of these young entrepreneurs have inspired thousands of young minds to develop new solutions to new/existing problems. However the success of these products are largely driven by the consumer expectation and passion is only a driving force.

Ash Maurya, a serial entrepreneur is running a 2-day workshop about building successful products at Agile India 2014. In this 2-day hands-on workshop, you’ll learn a systematic methodology, developed through rigorous testing of Lean Startup, Customer Development, and Bootstrapping techniques on hundreds of products, that will show you exactly how to build what people want.

Ash Maurya

He is the founder of Spark59 and also the author of ‘Running Lean’. Currently he is working on his new book ‘The Customer Factory’.

Running Lean

We had a short chat with him to understand his views about building successful products.

1. What is one important lesson that the large enterprises should learn from startups and vice versa?
Bringing a new product to market, whether at a large enterprise or startup, is riddled with extreme uncertainty. Most products fail.
The key to raising these odds is prioritizing learning around what’s riskiest (not easiest) in the business model.
The first phase of the journey is getting to a business model that works. This can be characterized as a “search” problem where speed is key. The best mode of operation here is the startup. Enterprises that want to explore new or disruptive innovation should model themselves after startups.
The second phase of the journey is scaling that business model. This can be characterized as an “execution” problem where systems and processes become increasingly important. Here the startup needs to mature it’s practices and can learn a lot from existing enterprises.
2. How does Lean Startup help companies to deliver a customer centric product?
The job of a business model is to create, deliver, and capture customer value.
The Lean Startup embodies the customer in every part of the process. All experiments have to end in customer learning and you aren’t making progress until you can demonstrate customer value.
It is through this continuous feedback loop with customers that we break the product development silo and build more products that people want.
3. Your Lean Canvas is an excellent tool to help companies articulate their business model in a simple format. Are there any gotchas that companies should be aware when using the Lean Canvas?
The biggest pitfall with any kind of modelling is falling into the analysis/paralysis trap. I recommend time-boxing business model creation to no more than a day and then shifting all the effort to business model validation using the other tools in the Lean Stack suite.
4. India has a budding Startup culture. What would be your advice to startups?
I truly believe we are going through a global entrepreneurial renaissance which represents an incredible opportunity for all of us.
But while we are building more products than ever before, the sad reality is that the success rate of these products hasn’t changed much.
The odds are still heavily stacked against starting a new business and most of these products will unfortunately fail.
The good news is that a lot of these big bang failures can be outright avoided and instead replaced with a more systematic approach to building successful products.
The number one reason why products fail is not because we fail to build what we set out to build but because we waste needless time, money, and effort building the wrong product.
I attribute the entrepreneurs unbridled passion for their solution to be the top contributor to this failure.
The key is shifting your perspective from having more passion about just your solution to having as much (if not more passion) for your customers and their problems.
5. What is the take away from your Running Lean workshop ?
This will be hands on workshop with part lecture and part  hands-on exercises where you will work on moving your business forward using lean techniques.
The first day will be all about modelling your business into a more more manageable and testable framework. While the second day will be all about stress testing this business model through carefully designed experiments.
By the end of this 2-day workshop, you will have an actionable plan for what to do next to move your business or product idea forward.

This workshop has limited seats. Book early to avoid disappointments: http://booking.agilefaqs.com/agile-india-2014#workshops

Interview with Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd – Coaching Agile Teams

The need for an Agile coach and a right channel for coaching has become imperative for many Agile organisations. This forces us to nurture a community of coaches who understand the role requirements and goes beyond the usual to tackle the implementation challenges. Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd are pioneers in coaching the Agile coaches to handle large enterprise problems. Their experience in life coaching and expertise in the industry gives them an edge. They have more than 15 years of experience in leading projects and organisations.

Lyssa is also trained as a Co-active coach and leader. She authored ‘Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition’ in 2010.

Lyssa Adkins

Lyssa Adkins Book

Michael is trained as a Team and Organizational coach, in co-active leadership and in executive coaching.Currently he is writing a book called Coaching in the Agile Enterprise.

Michael Spayd

Lyssa and Michael are running a workshop at Agile India 2014 for Agilists who wants to increase their overall Agile coaching skills, including in the areas of Teaching, Mentoring, Facilitation, and Professional Coaching.

We had a short chat with them to understand their views about Agile Coaching

1. What is the role of an Agile Coach in the Agile transformation journey?

Lyssa Adkins: You know Agile coach is a word that we just use generically because almost every corporation has their own version of these words. They’ll say “XP coach” or “Scrum Master” or “Agile Project Manager” or something like that. And we’re not really religious about which form or the word we use. What we care is about how the coaches help teams move beyond just getting the practices up and running and, into helping teams on their joyful and deliberate pursuit of high performance. It’s really going beyond what we would consider as a basic Scrum Master or XP coach for example.

Michael Spayd: It is, as Lyssa is saying, a pretty broad range of definitions. The word “coach” is interesting too because it’s such an overloaded term. You know, it means sports coach to some people, it means professional coach – like a life coach or an executive coach to some people, and it means kind of you having coaching by your manager which really means telling you what you need to do or you are going to get fired.And that’s created some confusion around what Agile coaches do and a really wide range of activities they do.

We’ve done some writing about that and talked about all the competencies that Agile coaches need to have. But basically they stand in a position or work in a position that’s kind of like a team leader in a certain way and kind of outside the team, helping the team, serving the team, and helping the team become a better team. Not like doing things for the team, not getting and making all the decisions for the team – anything like that, but really trying to help the team become a better team.

2. What does it take to be an effective Agile Coach?

Michael Spayd: Well this is where the term Agile coach is both overloaded and really big actually, there’s a lot of things to do as an Agile coach. So we look to impart facilitation, like professional facilitation and having skill at being a neutral facilitator of meetings and events (you know games whatever it is in the Agile environment). And help leading teams through that without getting involved in the content without voting on “Oh you should do this way” but actually helping the team get better themselves.

The thing that most people think about when they think about an Agile coach is what we call an Agile-Lean practitioner, so knowing about the Agile processes, knowing how the values relate to the principles, relate to and generate the practices, how you innovate, how you modify them in a consistent way – that sort of thing – so all the world of knowing all about Agile and Lean. That’s one big, big piece but it’s definitely not the whole shooting match.

Lyssa Adkins: The predominant role we’re playing now is to help coaches create awareness in themselves of which of those disciplines (we didn’t even go through all of them but we’ve gone through a good number of them) they have solidly and which they don’t. And how at any given moment they will choose which one serves the purposes of the transformation best.

Michael Spayd: So making for an Agile coach in terms of transforming or working with a team they have to draw on this pallet, if you think about this, because coaching, facilitation, teaching, mentoring, Agile Lean practitioner. It’s like a pallet of colors that you are painting with so to speak, and the art of it, in a lot of ways, is which one do you choose at which time to help an organization make this transition.

Lyssa Adkins: We recognize that transformation is about “transformation”. Which means you can’t consult your way into it, you can’t cajole someone into it, you can’t make them do it. It’s a lot about each individual person and how that radiates out to a whole organization. So, in the center of all of those disciplines is this thing we call the coaching stance. Which is very much just like a home base that an Agile coach comes back to as a way to help activate in other people their next positive steps towards the transformation they see needs to take place. And that’s how the results stick. That’s how an organization continues to transform once the Agile consultants have left the building. And that’s an important thing for us. I guess the higher calling of why we’re together is that Agile is this incredible positive transformation virus. It is unleashing a wave of positive change everywhere that it goes. And we believe that Agile coaches when they are well equipped are powerful transformation agents to help that virus spread in a positive and useful way. Not only for people but also for products.

 3. What are the key take-aways from your workshop?

Lyssa Adkins: Well instead of us telling you about the take-aways from our workshops, you can find the testimonials from our participants on ‘Our Impact’ page in our website.

This workshop has limited seats. Book early to avoid disappointments: http://booking.agilefaqs.com/agile-india-2014#workshops

Interview with Dean Leffingwell- Leading SAFe Workshop

Enterprise solutions for Agile have always been a challenge for many organisations. Dean Leffingwell, software industry veteran and creator of Scaled Agile Framework (pronounced as SAFe) is running a workshop at Agile India 2014. This workshop will introduce the participants to the principles, values and practices of SAFe.

Dean Leffingwell

His deep rooted expertise and his pragmatic solutions to real time problems have resulted in successful enterprise level implementation of Agile across organisations. His hands-on approach and practical examples make him as one of the sort after expert in this domain.

Dean Leffingwell

He is also the founder and CEO of ProQuo- a consumer marketing identify company, and the author of Agile Software Requirements, Scaling Software Agility, and Managing Software Requirements.

Dean Leffingwell's Books

We had a short chat with him, where we discussed about SAFe and his experience with various kinds of organisations.

1. In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge companies are facing while scaling agile methods at their org. level?

Primarily, educating ALL the stakeholders to the new process, and bringing everyone to understand the benefits, and the changes necessary to achieve the new common, SAFe/ Lean|Agile way of working.

2. ‘Enterprise Agile’- Is it an oxymoron?

No. SAFe has been successfully applied to enterprises with hundreds, and even thousands, of practitioners.

3. There is a common misconception that Leadership has no role to play in Agile. What do you think is the role of leadership in implementing SAFe ?

In SAFe, Leadership is not excluded. Indeed, leaders assume the primary responsibility for successfully implementing the new way of working. Training is provided to help them on this new learning journey.

4. In your experience, is SAFe more suitable for Services or Product Company? Is there any difference?

No tangible differences. The principles and values of SAFe, and the underlying principles of product development flow, apply in both contexts.

5. Are there any gotchas that teams should be aware while implementing SAFe?

Any transformation of this scope is hard. If enterprises could have achieved the benefits via their old way of working, they would have already done so. Lean, Agile and Scaled Agile change most everything! But SAFe is powered by Agile, so the personal, team and business benefits are well worth the effort.

6. What is the key take away from your 1-Day SAFe workshop?

This workshop is a distillation of the popular two-day “Leading SAFe” course. While it lacks the depth that the two-day course provides, it covers all the foundational elements and is delivered by Dean Leffingwell, the creator of SAFe.

This workshop has limited seats. Book early to avoid disappointments: http://booking.agilefaqs.com/agile-india-2014#workshops

Interview with Dave Thomas – Advanced Ruby Workshop

Dave Thomas is one of the keynote speakers at Agile India 2014. Many of you might know him  as one of the 17 original authors of the Agile Manifesto or the founder of Agile Alliance or the person who brought Ruby programming language to the western world or the co-author of The Pragmatic Programmer or the co-founder of Pragmatic Bookshelf.

Dave Thomas

Besides the keynote, Dave is also running a one-day workshop about the advanced features of Ruby 2.0.

Dave Thomas Books

We did a short interview with him to understand his views about Ruby and programming in general.

1. Tell us a little bit about your first introduction to Ruby? What was your reaction?

I am a programming language nut. I love trying new languages. Back in the 90’s, I’d download languages from Usenet (ask your parents) and play with them—normally several a week.

Back in 1997 or ’98 I downloaded Ruby. I think it was version 1.4.

Normally when I try a language, I stop after an hour or so. Very few are different enough to warrant the time. With Ruby, I was still playing hours later. At the end of the day, I called my business partner Andy Hunt and told him he should try it too.

And I’m still using it today.

2. How do you think Ruby has changed the way we program today?

I think Ruby has done several things.

First, the Ruby community has really lead the way with  testing. Andy and I were among the authors of the Agile Manifesto, and so we helped spread the word about Ruby among the early Agile crowd. In turn, those folks used Ruby to experiment with agile concepts. The result is that the Ruby world probably has more commitment to testing than any other language.

Second, I think Ruby has shown that dynamic languages can be used in the real world. In the early 2000’s, there was a lot of skepticism—sure these “scripting languages” were fun, but to write real programs, you needed grown-up languages with type checking.

Of course, these people were wrong. They were wrong firstly because, at least back then, Java, their language of choice, was effectively dynamically typed—the majority of runtime objects were help in collections, and were untyped in those collections.

And secondly, they were wrong because type checking, at least as they meant it, didn’t really catch the kinds of errors people actually made.

So I think Ruby has made a fundamental difference to the way we see programming today.

3. What are the advantages of Ruby over other programming language?

It makes people happy.

4. After reading your book, Pragmatic Programmer, it changed the way I thought of my career as a developer. Recently Chad wrote another book, Passionate Programmer. How is it different?

Thank you for the kind words.

The Pragmatic Programmer was largely about programming—our advice was aimed at helping developers become better programmers.

The Passionate Programmer is a truly great book because it takes a different, and in a way more important, tack. It is not about programming. It is about  programmers. Chad writes about how you, as a programmer, can become a better, more rounded, and happier individual. Yes, it will make you a better programmer. But mostly it will make you a better person.

I think everyone should read this book (even non-programmers).

5. With power comes responsibility- How do you think the Ruby community is utilising the power of this languages responsibly?

We touched a little on this when we talked about testing and agility. But let’s flesh it out.

Let’s start with “with great power comes great responsibility.” That (I think) is a quote from Spiderman – Peter Parker’s Uncle is giving him advice. And look how happy that makes our hero. He is weighed down by the burden.

So, while the quote may be true, I don’t necessarily believe it is a good thing.

In general, great power is a burden – people with power constantly need to be exercising it or they feel that they are wasting a gift. It is also a curse, because people become scared of losing that power, and as a result tend to stagnate rather than try risky things. It is true of people, and it is true of communities.

So I’m proud of the Ruby community for taking a middle road. In general, I think that are pretty responsible and mature (with certain glaring exceptions :). But I also think that they remember to have fun. They do take risks, they do explore, and they do exhibit whimsy.

6. Are you happy with how Ruby, as a language and as a community has evolved? Where would you like it go?

I think I answered the first part of this.

The second part – well, I don’t think I have a direct answer.

You see, I don’t think programming languages are special things. They don’t exist because someone came up with a syntax, or because someone published a book.

Programming languages are simply tools. They let developers like us solve problems. The better languages help us to feel good while we are doing it.

So we need to be careful to avoid the trap of becoming religious about one particular language. We need to have the breadth to choose tools that are appropriate to the task at hand. Ruby is a particular tool, with strengths and weaknesses.

Maybe you’re a carpenter. After many years of searching, you’ve found a great hammer. It fits your hand, it’s the right weight, it drives all kinds of nails. And then you come across a screw.

There are two reactions to this. One is to say “my hammer is a great tool. Let’s see if I can adapt it to drive screws, too.” Maybe you weld a blade to it, or maybe you grind a ridge into the top that fits the screw slot.

Or maybe you go out and find a screwdriver.

That’s how I feel about Ruby. It is a fantastic tool, and one I still use daily. But I don’t want it to become something where developers say “I am a Ruby programmer.” Instead, I want to hear “I am a programmer, and I use Ruby in many jobs because it means I can deliver stuff better.”

So, what do I want Ruby to become? Anything that helps people be better developers.

7. What is the key takeaway from your Advanced Ruby workshop?

Ruby often seems magic. That’s part of the fun. But, in reality, the magic comes from some simple but subtle underlying principles. Understand this, and you master Ruby. And that’s where the _real_ fun is.

This workshop has limited seats and only few are left. Book early to avoid disappointments: http://booking.agilefaqs.com/agile-india-2014#workshops