AoAD2 Chapter: Discovery

This is an excerpt from The Art of Agile Development, Second Edition. Visit the Second Edition home page for additional excerpts and more!

This excerpt is copyright 2007, 2021 by James Shore and Shane Warden. Although you are welcome to share this link, do not distribute or republish the content without James Shore’s express written permission.


Optimizing teams make their own product decisions. How do they know what to build?

Whole Team

Partly, they know what to build because they include people with product expertise. Those team members have the background and training to decide what to do.

But the fact is, at least at the beginning of a new product, nobody is 100% sure what to do. Some people pretend to know, but Optimizing teams don’t. Their ideas are, at best, very good guesses about what will lead to success.

The job of the Optimizing team isn’t to know what to build, but to discover what to build.

So the job of the Optimizing team isn’t to know what to build, but to discover what to build. Steve Blank, whose work was the basis for the Lean Startup movement, put it this way:

[T]he task is unambiguous—learn and discover what problems customers have, and whether your product concept solves that problem; understand who will buy it; and use that knowledge to build a sales roadmap so a sales team can sell it to them. And [you] must have the agility to move with sudden and rapid shifts based on what customers have to say and the clout to reconfigure [your team] when customer feedback requires it. [Blank2020a] (app. A)

Steve Blank, The Four Steps to the Epiphany

Steve Blank was talking about startups, but this quote applies equally well to Optimizing teams. Even if you aren’t selling your software! No matter who your customers and users are—even if they’re Keven and Kyla, who sit in the next cubicle over—your job is to figure out how to bring them value. And, just as importantly, how to do so in a way they will actually buy or use. continue reading, buy the book!

In this Section

  1. Discovery
    1. Validated Learning
    2. Adaptability
    3. Experiments and Further Reading

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