Tools and Techniques

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Tools and Techniques that are worth learning

  • Product Based Planning
Used in PRINCE2 and defined in the manual. Much better than work-based planning. Uses plain English and is a doddle to learn. Quicker and easier than planning tasks and dependency planning is far less effort. Instead of trying to imagine everything someone might need to do to complete the project, collaboratively break down the outcome into its components parts. Keep going until each part is an item that can be described and defined well enough to be delegated to an individual or team to produce, with agreed specifications and acceptance criteria. The plan is then the sequence of production and construction. Anything that is not making or checking part of the final product does not end up in the plan, and every component is in the plan. It is also a great method for project progress reporting by ticking off each component.
  • Meeting agenda
Every meeting should have an agenda which is distributed in advance to all attendees. Then stick to it. That way people know what to expect, what to bring and whether they need to attend.
  • Action minutes
Don't record meetings verbatim unless there is legal need to do so. Instead, action minutes record who is going to do what and by when. Also recorded should be decisions.

Introducing a 'Government as a System' toolkit

I have had this Government as a System tab open for a very long time thinking it must be useful.

I keep going back to it and concluding that possibly the most useful part is the 7 x 8 table. That gives 56 ways government can influence behaviour, ranging from soft to formal powers and from influencing to controlling. I think it could serve as a checklist when looking for ideas on ways to change behaviour.

Product Vision Box technique

When someone says it is hard to gather words for use with current and prospective customers to describe your product, this is an answer. It is actually a lot of fun and better than working!

There are some really complicated methodologies for doing this, but don't worry about them, they just take the fun out of it, which I think defeats the point.

You get a bunch of people in the room - physical or digital - and between you you design the box for your product or service. So, imagine your prospective customers in the supermarket and there on the shelf is "Rosa". What does the box look like? What does it say? What would you expect it to have, bearing in mind you have seen thousands of boxes in shops in your life, so you know what you want to see.

For example, the top might have a picture of a happy person in an office using a PC with a scary but frustrated person in a mask outside the window looking in. One side has the 'contents': what you get for your money ("This box contains: ..."). The underside might have more explanation, perhaps some cartoon people sitting at computers joined by dotted lines all with the same thing on the screen and joined to a big filing cabinet and all surrounded by a big fence. One end might list the benefits: "Improved risk assurance and greater efficiency!" while the opposite end has features: "Secure Mail, video conferencing, document collaboration and storage, cross-government working". Another side might be the typical customer, or technical requirements or what problems it can fix. Disagree with me? Design your own box!

But you do it as a box for sale in the shops because that is something that we are all familiar with; you don't need any marketing specialists in the room. If done in the office, lots of crayons and coloured pens are needed. And doughnuts. If done online, you'll need to find a suitable collaboration drawing tool.

It can be one together, or as a competition.

It can be applied to the entire product, i.e. Rosa, or to one component, e.g. Rosa Meet or Rosa Docs.

It is something you could do with each of the Product Owners to work with them to find the words to describe their product in business jargon, plain English, security-language-speak and as benefits.

Then imagine, if you will, a shelf in one of your offices with a series of these boxes, one for each of the products and services. It gives a very quick and light way of showing what Rosa is that is memorable and easy to understand. If nothing else, a valuable tool for anyone new to the organisation to understand what it is we are making and selling. I would put that shelf in the communal kitchen, the canteen or the biggest breakout room.

And if anyone tries to tell you it's not proper work, it is a technique from the APMG's Agile BA framework. It's proper professional Business Analysis.  :-)

Since pictures speak better than words:

Be warned: once you have done one of these workshops, you will never look at boxes as boxes ever again. And you will forever be thinking of how to package enhancements so that they can sell themselves.