Bulletins

Planning for Uncertainty and Discovery: The Agile Roots of RLCs

posted Aug 17, 4:43 pm (6 days ago), permalink

Types of Knowledge Gaps

When I talk to general audiences about the Rapid Learning Cycles framework, I often tell people that they can think of it as 'Agile for Hardware."   

Program managers who have been trained in Agile development can often spot things in the framework that look and feel famliar to them.

That's no accident. Scrum is the best-known of the Agile methods, with a comprehensive set of practices and well-designed training programs to teach them.  At a key point in the development of the Rapid Learning Cycles framework, a team in an Advanced R & D Lab asked me for help in adapting Scrum to fit their work.  I invited Kathy Iberle, an Agile software expert, to do the project with me. This group went on to become one of the first four to implement the Rapid Learning Cycles framework, and many of the adaptations I describe in this week's Knowledge Brief had their beginnings in that project to adapt Scrum to a team that was doing nothing like software development.

Key Takeaways

  • Agile is not sufficient for programs with high cost-of-change and complex dependency chains, yet Agile’s tools become necessary in environments with high uncertainty.
  • Rapid Learning Cycles adapts Agile’s tools to help teams make better decisions when those decisions must stick — but the work inside a Learning Cycle is much different.
  • Agile Software Development integrates well with the Rapid Learning Cycles framework because the foundations are well-aligned.

 

Planning for Uncertainty and Discovery: The Agile Roots of the Rapid Learning Cycles Framework

Agile-Roots-RLC-Letter.pdf

Agile-Roots-RLC-Tabloid.pdf

 

 Read this Knowledge Brief as a LinkedIn Article:

Planning for Uncertainty and Discovery

This Knowledge Brief may be freely distributed without modifications in its original PDF form, including all authorship, copyright and contact information. Other uses require our explicit permission.

 

Rapid Learning Cycles Throughout the Enterprise: Where Else to Use RLCs

posted Aug 2, 2:51 pm (21 days ago), permalink

Types of Knowledge Gaps

Last week, I described how we used Rapid Learning Cycles to update our web site, and why that led to some other important insights about our business.

Since then, some of you have written to me about other uses for Rapid Learning Cycles, to support strategic deployments, culture change programs and IT software platform evaluations.

So I started to wonder, "When would I want to use RLCs, and where would I not need it?"  The 2 x 2 matrix on the left was the result.

I've been writing for awhile that "just use Agile" isn't enough for hardware programs because of the high cost of change, and that traditional project management breaks down in environments of high uncertainty. The matrix pulled all of that together, clarifying when to use Rapid Learning Cycles, when to use Agile, and when to use traditional project management tools, such as complex Gantt charts.

 

This week's Knowledge Brief describes this model, and outlines some situations where Rapid Learning Cycles could be used outside of product development to get better results for a program that has high uncertainty and high cost of change.

 

Key Takeaways

      • Rapid Learning Cycles can help any program that has high uncertainty and high cost of change, because those are the conditions where the RLC framework was developed.
      • Agile Software Development breaks down in environments of high cost of change.
      • Traditional Project Management breaks down in environments of high uncertainty.
      • While uncertainty and cost of change can be decreased, they can’t be eliminated.

 

Rapid Learning Cycles Throughout the Enterprise: Rapid Learning for Any High Uncertainty / High Cost of Change Program

Where-Else-RLCs-Letter.pdf

Where-Else-RLCs-Tabloid.pdf 

 

This Knowledge Brief may be freely distributed without modifications in its original PDF form, including all authorship, copyright and contact information. Other uses require our explicit permission.

 

Better Decisions Lead To Easier Implementations: How RLCs Helped Us Get Our New Site Up in Half t...

posted Jul 25, 9:57 pm (29 days ago), permalink

Types of Knowledge Gaps

What is the best architecture for RLCI's public and community web sites? What does someone who's just purchased a book need from us to encourage them to go further?

Do the Rapid Learning Cycles workshops work TOO well?

After a disappointing website launch in 2016, we regrouped this year and turned to a proven framework for managing a program with high uncertainty: Rapid Learning Cycles.

This week's Knowledge Brief describes how we used the Rapid Learning Cycles framework inside RLCI to prepare for the release of our new web site - in half the time we'd planned.

We achieved these results despite a major business disruption, questions that turned out to be a lot bigger than we thought they were during our Kickoff Event, and expanding scope.

Don't worry—we are not going to make the workshops less effective.  But if you've been on the fence about Rapid Learning Cycles because you think your programs are too small, too fuzzy or too broad, read about how we used Rapid Learning Cycles to develop new solutions to our most important problems at RLCI.

Key Takeaways

      • No program is too small for a few Rapid Learning Cycles.
      • Better decisions lead to faster implementation because we did not get stuck in long, slow loopbacks and ran into few unanticipated problems.
      • We dropped Rapid Learning Cycles once we moved into Execution Mode, but continued to use Agile project management methods that enabled us to capitalize on opportunities to move faster.

 

Better Decisions Lead To Easier Implementations: How Rapid Learning Cycles Helped Us Get Our New Site Up in Half the Time 

How-We-Used-RLCs-Letter.pdf

How-We-Used-RLCs-Tabloid.pdf

 

This Knowledge Brief may be freely distributed without modifications in its original PDF form, including all authorship, copyright and contact information. Other uses require our explicit permission.

 

Three Types of KGs to Close: Learning Activities to Establish Facts, Develop Alternatives and Fin...

posted Jul 21, 11:48 am (33 days ago), permalink

Types of Knowledge Gaps

This Knowledge Brief describes the three types of Knowledge Gaps that we see within programs: Knowledge Gaps that ask questions to establish the facts, Knowledge Gaps that ask questions to develop alternatives and Knowledge Gaps that ask questions to find the boundaries or limits of the system. 

These three types of Knowledge Gaps require different learning activities because they have different objectives.

This week's Knowledge Brief describes the learning activities that are appropriate to each type, and how to find the reusable and extensible knowledge so that all of them capture knowledge that leads to better decisions now and faster development for future teams.

 

 

 

Key Takeaways

  • Some Knowledge Gaps ask questions to establish facts; others explore alternatives or seek limits and boundaries that constrain the solution.
  • Each type of Knowledge Gap needs different learning activities to close them and different approaches to make the knowledge more reusable and extensible.
  • For all types, it’s important to capture the things that fail, as well as the things that work, because the failures help everyone build deeper understanding of the product design.

 

Three Types of Knowledge Gaps to Close: Learning Activities to Establish Facts, Develop Alternatives and Find Limits

Types-of-KGs-Letter.pdf

Types-of-KGs-Tabloid.pdf

 

This Knowledge Brief may be freely distributed without modifications in its original PDF form, including all authorship, copyright and contact information. Other uses require our explicit permission.

 

“The Best Obtainable Version of the Truth”: How to Close a KG That Has a Fuzzy Answer

posted Jul 21, 11:41 am (33 days ago), permalink

Closed Knowledge Gaps

All Knowledge Gaps have factual answers, but not all Knowledge Gaps can be easily closed with the same degree of certainty. What can we do when a Knowledge Gap has a fuzzy answer that is open to interpretation?

"The best obtainable version of the truth" is one principle to guide us in these situations. This principle helps to clarify the value of partial information and constraints, realistic standards and our evolving understanding as we strive to close these challenging Knowledge Gaps.

This week's Knowledge Brief describes how "the best obtainable version of the truth" can help us avoid analysis paralysis to know when we've closed a Knowledge Gap sufficiently to support a Key Decision.

 

 

Key Takeaways

  • While all Knowledge Gaps have factual answers, not all Knowledge Gaps can be closed with a clear, certain answer.
  • “The best obtainable version of the truth” is a principle that recognizes the value of partial information, constraints, standards and our evolving understanding.
  • A Knowledge Gap is closed when the knowledge is sufficient to support a Key Decision.

 

“The Best Obtainable Version of the Truth”: How to Close a Knowledge Gap That Has a Fuzzy Answer

Closed-Knowledge-Gaps-Letter.pdf

Closed-Knowledge-Gaps-Tabloid.pdf

 

This Knowledge Brief may be freely distributed without modifications in its original PDF form, including all authorship, copyright and contact information. Other uses require our explicit permission.

 

The Power of Purpose: Why Purpose Statements Bring KDs and KGs Into Focus

posted Jul 21, 11:33 am (33 days ago), permalink

The Power of Purpose

Every Knowledge Gap and Key Decision Report contains a section to describe the purpose of the Key Decision or Knowledge Gap. What is this section and how do we use it effectively?

The purpose statement is the reason why we consider the Key Decision to be so key to the program, and why we need to close the Knowledge Gap to make the Key Decision. The process of writing these statements brings the questions into clearer focus and sometimes exposes the fact that we've been asked to work on the wrong questions.

This week's Knowledge Brief describes the purpose statement and the role it plays in bringing Key Decisions and Knowledge Gaps into focus.

 

 

Key Takeaways

  • The purpose is the reason why something needs to be done: why a Key Decision is high impact / high unknown and why a Knowledge Gap needs to be closed.
  • Purpose statements tie these reasons back to the overall program’s Core Hypothesis.
  • Write the purpose statement early to sharpen the Key Decisions and Knowledge Gaps, and sometimes expose the fact that you’ve been asked to work on the wrong question.

 

The Power of Purpose: Why Purpose Statements Bring Key Decisions and Knowledge Gaps Into Focus

Power-of-Purpose-Letter.pdf

Power-of-Purpose-Tabloid.pdf

 

This Knowledge Brief may be freely distributed without modifications in its original PDF form, including all authorship, copyright and contact information. Other uses require our explicit permission.

 

Our Permanent Resource Collection

posted Jul 5, 2:01 am (49 days ago), 0 comments, permalink

We call the posts below this one the "Starter Kit" for Rapid Learning Cycles.

The best way to begin learning about Rapid Learning Cycles is to purchase my book, The Shortest Distance Between You and Your Product: How Innovators Use Rapid Learning Cycles to Get Their Best Ideas to Market Faster.  While you wait for your copy to arrive, these Knowledge Briefs will give you a basic introduction.

The posts below will be permanently available to the public, or at least as permanently as this site exists. The  Knowledge Briefs above this line will become private approximately 90 days after posting.  We migrate them under the Knowledge Brief Library that is a benefit of registering your copy of the book.

If you already have a book, please register it by signing up for an account. You'll need your copy of the book handy.

 

All Knowledge Briefs may be freely distributed without modifications in its original PDF form, including all authorship, copyright and contact information.

Other uses require our explicit permission. Examples of uses requiring our consent include use as a student resource in an academic setting, republishing to a magazine, blog or other offline or online publication, translating or reformatting the article.

 

Simple, Flexible and Forgiving: Why the Rapid Learning Cycles Framework Has Staying Power

posted Jul 5, 1:52 am (49 days ago), permalink

Simple, Flexible, Forgiving

I've been working to improve product development for a long time.  Trends in product development and innovation have come and go - but three things have proven to stick: Agile Software Development, Phase Gate PDPs - and now Rapid Learning Cycles.

What these three have in common are that they are simple, flexible and forgiving.  A Phase Gate PDP is just a set of phases with management reviews in between.  Agile is easy to launch, and easy to re-launch if a team gets off track.  All of these methods may be heavily adapted to meet the needs of a specific organization without a lot of extra time and work.

This week's Knowledge Brief describes why Rapid Learning Cycles are simple, flexible and forgiving, and how that leads to changes in product development that stick. 

Key Takeaways

  • It's easier to stick with a new idea that is simple, flexible and forgiving, because teams have a lot of room for error and the ability to adapt the idea to their specific challenges.
  • Rapid Learning Cycles are simple and flexible: the number of elements that must be done exactly right are few, and there is a lot of room for adaptation.
  • Rapid Learning Cycles are forgiving: it just takes a replanning session with the team to get them back on track if they’ve made a mistake or encountered a surprise.

 

Simple, Flexible and Forgiving: Why the Rapid Learning Cycles Framework Has Staying Power

RLC-Why-Sticky-Letter.pdf

RLC-Why-Sticky-Tabloid.pdf

 

This Knowledge Brief may be freely distributed without modifications in its original PDF form, including all authorship, copyright and contact information. Other uses require our explicit permission.

 

The Structure to Grow Ideas into Solutions: The RLC Framework as the Engine of Innovation

posted Jul 5, 1:49 am (49 days ago), permalink

RLCs as the Engine of Innovation

Eric Ries' book, The Lean Startup describes how start-ups grow faster when they release a "minimum viable product" as quickly as possible - and then rapidly iterate it to improve it. This approach helps them attract both early customers and investors, maximizing their chances at success.

My own clients tend to be large, established companies with internal systems that throw up a lot of barriers to innovation. "Minimum viable products" come with the potential to hurt the brand and disruptive innovations threaten existing business models. It's no wonder that these companies struggle with the Innovation process - the status quo is powerful.

The Rapid Learning Cycles framework provides a way to counteract the forces that drive out innovation, while generating pull to help the Innovation team make progress in the face of the needs of the current business. It provides structure and support for maturing your best ideas into tomorrow's innovative products.

This week's Knowledge Brief explains why the Rapid Learning Cycles framework is the engine of Innovation.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • The need to protect the status quo is a powerful barrier to Innovation.
  • The Rapid Learning Cycles framework provides a structured process to help companies override their tendency to kill off new ideas and protect the status quo.
  • The Rapid Learning Cycles framework help teams fail fast to learn fast and build the knowledge to overcome objections while giving leaders visibility to progress and frequent check-ins.

 

The Structure to Grow Ideas into Solutions: The Rapid Learning Cycles Framework as the Engine of Innovation

RLC-Engines-Innovation-Letter.pdf

RLC-Engines-Innovation-Tabloid.pdf

 

This Knowledge Brief may be freely distributed without modifications in its original PDF form, including all authorship, copyright and contact information. Other uses require our explicit permission.

 

The Idea Is the Unit of Knowledge: Why Sharply Focused KDs and KGs Build Knowledge

posted Jul 5, 1:45 am (49 days ago), permalink

Single Focused Idea

How big should a Knowledge Gap or Key Decision be?

In the early stages of product development, Knowledge Gaps are big and fuzzy, but we expect them to come into focus as the team learns more. It's easier to close these Knowledge Gaps if we break them down into smaller ones. That makes the knowledge we build more useful in the present and more reusable and extensible for future teams.

But how far do we break them down? In our experience, the idea is the unit of knowledge.

I wrote the first version of this Knowledge Brief all the way back in 2011, when we were first starting to grapple with the problem of how to manage Knowledge Gaps that were big and fuzzy, if part of the goal was to create reusable and extensible knowledge.

After a discussion I had at our workshop last week in Boston, I decided it was time to give this Knowledge Brief a fresh look.

 

Key Takeaways

  • The single, focused idea is the unit of knowledge.
  • It’s much easier to capture knowledge, reuse it and extend it if it is maintained in small pieces that are easier to write about, read about and experiment with.
  • Big, fuzzy Knowledge Gaps can be difficult to break down but it helps to start with some learning to establish some scope boundaries and understand the current state of the knowledge.

 

The Idea Is the Unit of Knowledge: Why Sharply Focused Key Decisions and Knowledge Gaps Build Extensible Knowledge

Single-Focused-Idea-Letter.pdf

Single-Focused-Idea-Tabloid.pdf

 

This Knowledge Brief may be freely distributed without modifications in its original PDF form, including all authorship, copyright and contact information. Other uses require our explicit permission.

 

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