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In Agile product development everything starts by forging an idea into a product vision. The vision describes the intension for creating the product. It guides everyone involved in the product’s development and is a source for motivation when things gets tough.

Examples for product visions are:

  • LinkedIn: To connect the world’s professionals and make them more productive and successful.
  • Google: Provide access to the world’s information with one click.

How about having such guidance for our lives? If we consider our life as a product, what added value would it bring to us and people around us?

Coming up with such a vision for our life may not be easy at first. We do lots of different things, often not even with a greater plan in mind. And we don’t do those things only for us, but for others too. Sometimes it’s even difficult to distinguish our own goals from those that are imposed on us by others. …

There is a product vision. There is a budget. We form a small team and start building our product. As we show our progress to the customers, it's getting clearer: Our product is on the path to success. The Product Owner is proud of her innovative idea. Our Development Team, highly motivated and rushing in new features, takes credit too. Everything seems fine.

A few Sprints later the customer attends our Sprint Review. As we ask for feedback, there is a long-reigning silence. “I’m afraid that’s not what we need.” The team members are looking at the Product Owner, waiting for a response. “I think the changes support the products overall appearance and usability. Do you need more explanation?” She goes through the changes again, more selling than explaining. “It’s perfectly clear what you did”, the customer responds. …

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Children ask “why?” all the time. In doing so, they rarely settle for a single answer, creating long “why-chains”. Best case such a chain results in a satisfactory answer. But more often it’s stopped by a “Therefore!” or “That’s the way it is!” or “Stop asking questions!”. Later in our lives, we keep asking “why”, especially when analyzing or solving a problem.

Asking “Why” for Complicated Problems

The “five why” technique is a popular tool for problem analysis from lean manufacturing. Starting with a problem, ask “Why?” five times. Each answer is the starting point for another “why” question.

Wikipedia provides us with an example:

An example of a problem is: The vehicle will not start. …

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I’m a strong advocate of inbox zero. Inbox zero is an approach for keeping your inbox empty all the time. It helps me staying on top of things. For each mail you read, you decide between delete, delegate, respond, defer and do. And read each mail just once. If you deal with an email more than once, it’s not only a waste of your time but your brain power.

If I’m stressed (in a positive or negative way), I don’t realize it immediately. Mostly it’s my girlfriend, family or peers who notice my changed behavior.

Over time, I realized a astonishing reliable metric for my personal stress level: my unread email count. It seems to be natural for me that if I’m very engaged with something or stressed at work, even if I would have enough time in between to deal with email, I wouldn’t have enough mental resources left to do so. …


Thorben Egberts

Agile Coach & Scrum Master. I write about my work, my personal philosophy, and everything in between. See what inspires you or makes you want to copy.

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