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A Culture of Continuous Experimentation: Learnings from QCon New York

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At QCon New York 2023 Sarah Aslanifar presented Building a Culture of Continuous Experimentation. She showed how fostering a culture of continuous experimentation and leveraging the principle of continuous learning can drive efficiency, eliminate waste, and improve product outcomes.

Aslanifar started her talk by stating that learning is change. It needs time and practice to do it, she mentioned.

Agility is not limited to a specific methodology or framework, Aslanifar said. She presented an approach called IDEA which stands for Imagine, Decide, Execute, and Assess.

Imagine starts by questioning what problem you want to solve, exploring profit opportunities or cost benefits, and deciding if you can afford to explore a new idea. Open-mindedness and creativity are important elements in this phase, Aslanifar mentioned.

Next, you Decide on the scope, Aslanifar said, where the team agrees the idea is worth exploring and unifies around it. This includes defining an MVP or MLP.

Journey maps can help you to make sense of a problem, Aslanifar said. They describe the typical use of your product by the users, including pains, rewards, and further context to better understand and emphasize with users.

During Execute, the team builds the product. While the focus changes to development, it’s important to keep communicating with the stakeholders and expect adjustments, Aslanifar said. You have to ensure learning by balancing exploration and exploitation, she added.

Value stream mapping is a visualization tool to help identify process inefficiencies from start to finish. It can show you where is the waste, using data that you have, Aslanifar mentioned.

In Asses, the team collects feedback from stakeholders, users, and the system. The feedback informs decisions on how to continue, Aslanifar said.

A Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) goes beyond building a functional prototype. It’s a product that users not only find functional, but also love; there’s measurable user engagement, Aslanifar mentioned. This includes a combination of attractive design, intuitive user experience, meaningful branding, and unique features that delight.

When you are in doubt about what to do, Aslanifar suggested flipping a coin to decide, or do both solutions in parallel to learn, experiment and make it easier to decide.

With a premortem you anticipate and prepare for potential problems. It helps you to plan ahead on what to do if your plan fails. Aslanifar suggested to not wait for the postmortem.

Aslanifar summarized their path to agility. They adhered to the agile software development values, but skipped some of the activities like story writing sessions, grooming sessions, and estimations. What they kept were things like standups, feedback, and demos.

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