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Why adding Lean UX to Scrum with Kanban is integral to the future of agile?

In a previous article, I wrote about how Scrum with Kanban can help deal with complex problems.

Scrum with Kanban helps people discover and deliver outcomes faster, whether related to the customer, organization or reducing risk. Adding Lean UX techniques to Scrum with Kanban allows teams to discover and address unmet customer needs, reduce stress, and cope with unpredictability.

Teams incorporating Scrum with Kanban already have a significant advantage regarding delivering value on a regular cadence. The signaling systems built into Scrum with Kanban make where work is getting stuck visible, giving Scrum Teams an opportunity and clear direction for improving the system in which they operate.

Using Scrum with Kanban, a workflow can have several cycle times, including end-to-end customer cycle time and time-in-process. By monitoring throughput, Scrum Teams can prioritize within their capacity. By actively managing work item age, they can shorten feedback loops and increase throughput.

So, what does Lean UX add to these advantages? It helps make sure we’re delivering what we should be delivering. 

Product development is becoming increasingly complex with the emergence of 5G, AI, the metaverse, and other quickly evolving technology landscapes. One result is that it’s easier than ever to misunderstand or misinterpret customers' needs amid many new potential product options. That reality alone is reason enough to integrate Lean UX techniques into a Scrum with Kanban approach.

I think of Lean UX as a strategy for maintaining humility about our product development ideas. We get it wrong most of the time. A recurring Standish Group report, the CHAOS report, says two-thirds of features are rarely or never used. Think of the expense of all of these wasted products and features.

 

The Lean UX canvas is an indispensable tool that aids the discovery of product/market fit. With the canvas, product backlog refinement produces Product Backlog items for UX research, design, interviews, and experiments to test our assumptions about the business problem, the customer/end-user, and their problems/jobs-to-be-done and solutions. Alternatively, there is an option to blend UX/non-UX Product Backlog items in the refinement process.

 

Box 1 frames the business problem to be solved; one could use the business problem template, the elevator pitch template, or free format. Box 2 is specific about the percentage or numeric improvement achieved if the problem was solved; the pirate metrics AARRR (#acquisitions, #activations, $revenue, %retention, #referrals) metrics are often used. Box 2 metrics are about what's better for the organization with the customer/end-user in mind.


Box 3 is about our best guess on who might be interacting with the problem we’re trying to solve. Box 4 is about the observable outcomes and longer-term benefits for the people from box 3 - at least our best guess. Customers/end-users should be at the heart of product management.  


It’s only when one gets to box five that solution possibilities are considered. We do, after all, want to avoid looking at the problem through the aperture of a solution.


Box 6 clicks together hypotheses from the assumptions from boxes 1-5; it’s as easy as clicking together Lego bricks. 


We believe that [a specific business outcome from box 2]

will be achieved if [a specific user from box 3]

attains [specific outcomes & benefits from box 4]

with [a specific feature from box 5].


Box 7 is about figuring out the assumption that if wrong could lead to catastrophic failure. We want to tease that out in box 7, and then in box 8, what experiment/research/interview(s) could we do in 30 minutes, one day, one month, one month to learn the next most important thing.


Lean UX proposes data-informed decision making; in practice, a mixture between looking at analytics and talking to customers and end-users. 


Lean UX practitioners learn humility fast. Our best guesses are usually wrong and pivot or stop. If we’re lucky, we persevere. I love Lean UX because we discover we should not build most of our ideas, and we discover better ideas or stop wasting money.

Scrum with Kanban combined with Lean UX design techniques improves customer satisfaction and time-to-market and allows experimentation to address unmet needs. 

Apart from delivering more value, Lean UX combining Scrum with Kanban provides the foundation for more rewarding work. Up-and-coming workers are demanding more work-life balance and professional satisfaction. Using Scrum with Kanban, people estimate less, learn/build more, and make problems immediately visible resulting in a more relaxed, satisfying work environment. Because trust often increases with more effective, efficient, and predictable delivery, Scrum with Kanban reduces team drama through better focus and slack. Slack allows people to think and be ready for the unexpected.

The future of agile includes Scrum with Kanban and UX. This winning combination allows us to focus more, learn more, finish more, collaborate more, and see the bigger picture. It enables us to set better customer expectations, more often improving overall satisfaction.

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