Addendum – An Agile UX Story

Addendum – An Agile UX Story

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In my previous post I shared about experience I’ve had in “connecting” UX activity into Scrum development teams. I tried to explain a pattern of collaborative partnering over either embedded UX in the teams or independent UX outside of the teams.

I thought I’d share another story that illustrates an aspect of these ideas.

Not that long ago I was working with a client helping them understand and practice release-level planning across their Scrum teams. Some of the challenges they were having revolved around incorporating UX design work and cross-team dependencies in their projects.

They had hired a Harvard educated and incredibly gifted designer. I’ll call her Sue. Sue reported directly to the Chief Product Owner and had been given the assignment of redesigning some of the legacy application as well as designing some new components.

She took this role to heart and for the next 5-6 months developed an entire view towards a redesign and design of a specific area in their product line. There was one problem though.

She did this entirely independently and hadn’t vetted any of it with the development Scrum teams. Not one bit.

Now the Chief Product Owner was incredibly enamored with the new design ideas. And she began “pushing” the teams towards them in all of her conversations. Yet, the teams still hadn’t “seen” anything, nor been asked to provide any feedback.

This is where I came into the picture.

Release-level Planning

I’d been asked to do some Product Owner training for the organization. This included the role, backlogs, story writing, and some release planning & story mapping work.

When I heard about this situation, I asked the Chief Product Owner if we could engage the designer in a release planning exercise. I thought it would be a good way to

  1. Allow the designer to present her ideas to the team
  2. Allow the team to brainstorm their own design ideas and story reactions
  3. And allow everyone to create a “merged” or “shared” view of the work – via user stories.

We did just that.

The Chief Product Owner set the big picture of the redesign effort. She spoke in terms of the WHY behind the effort and what she’d asked the designer to think about.

The designer took about 30 minutes to explain her design ideas and goals. But she didn’t physically share the designs themselves.

Then given this information, everyone began writing stories that capture aspects of the work effort. This included functional and non-functional stories. It also included user story research spikes and simple design ideas.

What they wanted to do was allow for the team, including the designer, to come up with a shared view.

It worked beautifully. Once we had our story map, the designer then shared her physical ideas. In some cases, they were identical to what the team had come up with. In others, they were new, but quite complimentary. In others, she changed her ideas towards the teams, because of the simplicity or implementation effort associated with them.

I guess the key point is that we entered the room with:

  • A team who was essentially clueless and uninvolved with the new design, and
  • A designer who was running with everything in parallel.

And we exited the room with:

  • A team and a designer who had a shared view of the work. They had listened to each other and collaborated towards a design vision that everyone could get behind…because they had created it together!

I felt this was much better than simply “throwing the design over the wall” to the team. Don’t you?

Stay agile my friends!


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