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Product Innovation: Scrum Teams can use Kanban and Product Discovery to make Innovation Transparent

March 14, 2024

Can your Kanban practices fuel innovation within your team? From my perspective and experience, the answer is a resounding yes. By integrating Kanban methodologies with product techniques that encourage experimentation, your team can embark on a journey of continuous innovation.

Kanban serves as a powerful tool for visualizing workflows and making experimentation transparent. As the Professional Scrum with Kanban course teaches, your Scrum Team can utilize these practices within the Scrum framework.  When combined with Product Discovery and Validation techniques, it becomes a catalyst for exploring various innovative solutions that resonate with your customers. By incorporating hypotheses and testing into your team's workflow, you pave the way for rapid innovation fueled by valuable customer feedback.

To illustrate this in a practical context, let's envision a Scrum Team embracing Kanban principles for workflow management. In this scenario, the team has established a Kanban board dedicated to delivery tasks while the Product Owner oversees a separate board for discovery work. This sample answers the question around the mechanics of the Product Owner effectively tracking work that falls outside the current sprint. One solution lies in implementing a Kanban board specifically designed to track the discovery process.  Something like the following image:

Sample Discovery Kanban Board

In the example provided, Value Qualification is pivotal for ensuring that each identified item delivers value. This involves validating its alignment with the current or future Product Goal and providing a more detailed description, possibly breaking down the story into smaller, more granular pieces of value. The other parts of the workflow, like Tech Qualification and AC Refinement assume that the story has value, and add more refinement opportunities for the Product Owner along with other team members.

Within your product discovery process, consider employing techniques such as a Landing Page or Feature Fake experiment.  These techniques can be invaluable in discovering the customers actual preference for that innovative idea. These experiments allow you to gather information by implementing a portion of the feature and assessing its resonance with customers.

But how do we integrate the results of these experiments into the visualization of our workflow? While there are various approaches, one effective method is to introduce a policy within the Value qualification column. This policy should align with the intentions of your experiments. For instance, your policy might state: "Verify if your experiment has generated sufficient interest to warrant further development of this story."

By leveraging the Kanban definition of workflow, your team can ensure that its innovation efforts remain transparent. Integrating Product Discovery activities into your workflow promotes innovation within your Scrum Team. Encourage your team to self-manage the best way to incorporate these activities into their workflow. Making innovation part of the flow of your Scrum Team is possible.

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