MVP: Minimum Validation Phrase – How I know I’m making a difference

MVP: Minimum Validation Phrase – How I know I’m making a difference

September 17, 2015 Corporate Life Personal Productivity Retrospective 6

I received a text message last night from one of my developers around 8:15 pm. “Do you want to talk shop?” it said. My first thought was, oh dear, what is broken now? (it’s release week as it is every other week and it’s been a rough month or two). When he called me and what he said next completely blew my mind.

I facilitated a meeting yesterday to dissect our workflow in the sprints both using our tools and identifying hand-offs between team members. The point was to make the team think about how they were doing things and challenge the assumptions they had about the ‘who does what’ mentality. It was to identify gaps and over complicated parts of the workflow that were tripping us up. I had no idea I would get a call about it, hell I’ve been trying to keep things low-key before the holiday freeze.

“Natalie,” he said, “that meeting really made me think.” This baffled me a bit; I’m getting called about a meeting at 8:00pm at night. The website is not blowing up, the release builds are not failing, but my meeting made someone think enough to call me at 8:00pm at night to talk through it. Wow.

We discussed his thoughts and questions. He identified that he had not realized how complicated our process was. He hadn’t realized that QA was swamped or that they were WAY behind in testing. He hadn’t realized how this all rolled up together to cause the fire drills that have plagued us for the past month or two. He didn’t realize how it all fit together and while he did not have a solution to it, at least he was identifying that there WAS a problem (or a few).

The team had gotten so lost in their assumed maturity and the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality that the whole picture had evaded them. Things were in a worse state than they had realized (yes I did realize it, but I wanted them to get that realization, too). He wanted to know why I hadn’t told them it was this bad. He wanted to know why I wasn’t telling them what to do.

I responded that I didn’t have all the answers. I had some suggestions, but I was not going to flood the team with them at this time, and I wanted the team to arrive at them mostly independent of me because identifying the problem was only the first step. Finding and trying a solution was the next step and it would have a much better chance of success if it was derived at least in part from the team and implemented with some team backing versus a mandate from a coach/ScrumMaster/project manager (or manager in general).

Then he thanked me for having the meeting. He said it was one of the most valuable ones he had been to in a while. That was great feedback that is few and far between these days as we get caught up in the pre-holiday retail blizzard before the freeze. That was my minimum validation phrase (MVP) and it validated that I am providing some value, at least to one person when sometimes it feels like I’m providing none.

It reminds me that while I try to ‘encourage the heart’ of the members of my teams, it is so nice to get some validation and encouragement back. It was at the right point in the week and in the year, too. I have gotten some rotten feedback in the past few weeks and it was dragging me down. This simple statement and conversation was the ray of light I needed to get me through the week, or at least a few subsequent weeks after and into the storm of the holidays. Hopefully it can last through them or there are some other rays of sunshine to launch the team and me into the calm after the holiday storm.

The moral of the story – feedback is always a gift, but good feedback can really go a LONG way and everyone needs it. Actually there are a lot of morals here: create your own!

–image source: DataCU Credit Union



6 Responses

  1. Jane Marie Rief says:

    I’m very glad you are appreciated and that a team member took the time to talk to you about it.

  2. Sarah says:

    That is AWESOME! Congratulations!

  3. Hazel says:

    Hey, sounds awesome – well done 🙂 I’d be really interested to hear more about the meeting layout ‘dissect our workflow in the sprints both using our tools and identifying hand-offs between team members’ – my team is just going through a bit of trouble at the moment similar to what you describe and this sounds like it would be a really useful exercise.

    Congrats again!

    • Nikki says:

      I just came across this today which is so odd because I just suggested doing something similiar with my Dev lead. I know I’m asking you to dig deep into your memory banks, but can you provide some details on your format. If it rocked their world, I’m assuming you’ve mastered the formula by now.

      • Hi Nikki – Basically what I did was draw out step by step through discussing with the team what the process was. We made a happy path on a white board and then branched off into the ‘what-if’ scenarios. It is similar to what I would do in a story mapping session. Using various colors was helpful as well as swim lanes and columns to indicate WHO and WHERE the hand offs are as well as automated and manual processes.

        This relates nicely back to contextual inquiry (when you watch someone do their job). There are so many things we forget we do and when asked about it just assume they are known. Another good idea is having someone outside the team facilitate it so that they can ask those questions without having any context. The answers tend to be richer that way.

        Thanks for asking and apologies for the slow reply!


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