You are hosting a dinner party in 8 weeks from now, and you wonder how to make it a great dinner party for you and your guests.
First, what is the meaning of “great” for you in that context? If the party is a success what will happen? The answer could be: the guests will be relaxed, they will enjoy tasty and original food and drink while making or renewing connections with people from various backgrounds.
Answering that first question define the vision that you have of your party. How will you measure that it has been a success? It is a dinner party, so surveying your guests after the reception is probably not a viable option, maybe you could try to remember what your guest will say about it, or perhaps you will receive “thank you” cards. Yes in this exercise, you remember the future! What will your guests say or write after the party if it’s success? They could state that they felt welcomed, that they enjoyed the food, that it was a pleasure for all senses. They could elaborate on the decoration, and specific small attention to details, on the relationship they built or renewed during the event.
Imagining, how your guests will remember the event will help you to empathize in advance with each of your guests, and refine your success criteria. It will help you to remember who has specific needs, or to remember to ask in the case that you realize that you don’t know enough about some of your guests.
Of course, you understand that the dinner party is a pretext to learn how to work on delivering any products or services. The product owner would probably indeed conduct and survey “users” to understand what are their success criteria. Empathy map could help to get what they see, hear, smell, feel, taste, say, think.
Now, that you have a refined vision and have a better understanding of your success criteria, what needs to come next? There are only seven weeks left. What is your backlog?
Your backlog is not a list of activities or a list of things to do. Each item of your backlog is a story in which the personas (your guests or yourself) are the hero.
To define the backlog, you will use your vision and imagine what your guests will experience from beginning to end. It is convenient to use post-it notes for this exercise and to record one story per note. You are building a map (a story map) of their experience.
Let’s try to capture some of the stories from a guest perspective!
– As a guest, I receive a formal invitation to the party, so I know about the specific details,
– I know how to dress, and what to bring,
– I know how to get there and where to park, so I am relaxed and confident,
– I switch in a party mindset from the moment I arrive,
– I know where to sit,
– I enjoy a variety of delicious appetizers, and I can choose and adjust the quantity I eat according to my preferences,
– I appreciate the pairing of the drinks and food.
And we can imagine a lot more of those stories. We will keep some of those, while we will just ignore, delete, rewrite or put at the bottom of the backlog others.
If we look at the first one about the invitation, we can define the conditions of satisfaction for the card. What are those details? Why are you organizing the party? Where? When? Does the guest need to reply? Can the guest come with someone else?
You can already see that a story card is a way to capture the conversation that will clarify it. The conditions of satisfaction are a way to carry the details and to ensure that the solution we will choose, will satisfy the story. At this stage, we know why we want this story, we know what it is, but we still don’t know how to realize it. Is the invitation printed and mailed? Is the invitation sent via email? Is it texted?
This distinction between why and how is crucial to enable creativity and innovation. Let’s illustrate that with another example. Let’s imagine now that as a host you want to delegate the realization of this story to a team:
– I want a sweet and original dessert with season fruit, so my guests can finish the meal on a sweet note.
When the team clarified the story with the host, the team learned that individual portions are a must, different textures are essential, and so team presented the results of their work during the demo of that week: a strawberry rhubarb meringue tartlet. Yes, me too, now I want one 😉 As a host, you tasted the tartlet, loved it, asked for slightly smaller size. So now, the team just need to get ready to prepare the tartlets for the event. On that day, the team is not able to find the fresh strawberry that will compensate the acidity of the rhubarb. The team tastes raspberry that appears to be delicious, and so as it will still satisfy the conditions of satisfaction, the team can make the decision. Remember, the dinner party is a pretext to learn, the primary point here is by knowing “why” we are doing something we can adjust the “how” to the circumstances and find more creative solutions.
If we look back at this dessert story, during the grooming of the backlog, we first decided to conduct a spike for one sprint, demoed it to the user, and got some feedback. Then, during planning, we were able to decompose that story into more specific tasks that the team will do to realize the story. And we have been able to adjust to the circumstances by switching to raspberry at the last minute.
Grooming your backlog at the “story” level, and then planning for the sprint and decomposing into tasks only when you will work on a story is a compelling approach.
Let’s recap the approach. We started with a high-level vision. We refined the concept by identifying the different personas and empathize with each of them from the beginning to the end of their involvement in the project. In our case, we probably have the host, the host family members, the guests, the children of the guest.
We captured the stories for all the personas in our backlog. We refined and sorted the stories during grooming sessions. The conversations enabled us to define the conditions of satisfaction for the stories at the top of our backlog.
We continued our work during our weekly sprints, starting with a planning session, in which we checked our understanding of each story, decomposed into tasks if it was possible, or choose to conduct an experiment or a spike in the case of more significant uncertainty or our ability to meet the conditions of satisfaction.
We reviewed and demoed our work at the end of the sprint. We welcomed the feedback and adjusted our plans accordingly.
We now need to invest some time in a retrospective to improve our way of working as a team, so we will be more efficient and enjoy the weeks to come approaching the great dinner party.
What do you think about using a dinner party to explain practices?
I am refining the use of this analogy, among others, in the book to come during Spring 2018, Changing Your Team From The Inside. I am looking for reviewers, let me know if you would be interested.
The header picture is our Thanksgiving table created by my spouse Isabel 🙂