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  • Writer's pictureDušan Pavić

Agile Transformation - Setting up the basics: Part 1


Embarking on an agile transformation journey can be a transformative experience for individuals and organizations. In simple terms, an agile transformation means adopting a new way of thinking and working that emphasizes collaboration, adaptability, and iterative improvement. Let's imagine we're explaining this concept to a five-year-old child using a real-life example:


Imagine you have a big Lego project to build—a huge spaceship! Instead of following a fixed plan from start to finish, you gather your friends, and you all work together to build different parts of the spaceship. You constantly communicate, make changes as needed, and show each other what you've built so far. By working this way, you can create an amazing spaceship that is better than anything you could have built alone!


a rocket lego
Credit: Nik Unsplash

Now, let's delve deeper into the various aspects of an agile transformation.


In an agile team, there are different roles and responsibilities, as you probably already know. These roles include:

  1. Product Owner: They represent the customers and stakeholders, define project goals, and prioritize the work.

  2. Scrum Master: They ensure the team follows agile principles, remove obstacles, and facilitate collaboration.

  3. Development Team: They are responsible for designing, developing, and testing the product.

  4. Stakeholders: They provide feedback, contribute to decision-making, and help shape the product.


To better understand the product development journey, we can break it down into three key phases:

  1. Discovery Phase: In this phase, the team explores the project requirements, identifies customer needs, and creates a shared understanding of the product vision. The goal is to define the problem space and set clear objectives for the project.

  2. Delivery Phase: Once the discovery phase is complete, the team transitions to the delivery phase. Here, the team builds the product incrementally, delivering small pieces of value at regular intervals. This iterative approach allows for early feedback and helps to ensure that the product meets customer needs.

  3. UAT Phase: After the delivery phase, it is highly recommended to conduct User Acceptance Testing (UAT). This phase ensures that the product functions as intended meets quality standards, and is ready for release (to learn the best techniques and/or best practices feel free to contact me or sign up to be notified when I cover that topic in some of the next blog posts).

In this blog Part 1 we will explore the first phase in more detail and give you a concrete example.


The Discovery Phase and Transition to Delivery


Starting the discovery phase during an agile transformation process requires careful planning and a collaborative approach. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to initiate the discovery phase effectively:

  1. Define the Objectives: Clearly articulate the goals and objectives of the discovery phase. Identify what you aim to achieve during this phase, such as understanding customer needs, defining the problem space, and establishing a shared product vision.

  2. Assemble the Team: Form a cross-functional team that includes key stakeholders, product owners, user researchers, designers, and developers. Ensure that the team has a diverse range of perspectives and expertise to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the project.

  3. Conduct Stakeholder Interviews: Engage with stakeholders to gather insights about their expectations, pain points, and desired outcomes. Conduct interviews, workshops, or surveys to understand their perspectives and gain a holistic understanding of the project's context. Here I recommend using techniques that give you a better understanding of what to focus on most and what is nice to have.

  4. User Research: Perform user research activities to deeply understand the target audience. Conduct interviews, surveys, usability testing, and other research methods to uncover user needs, behaviors, and preferences. This research helps in creating user personas and identifying user stories. The book Inspired by Martic Cagan gives some nice techniques on how to conduct this research.

  5. Define the Problem Space: Analyze the information collected from stakeholders and user research to define the problem space. Identify the core challenges, pain points, and opportunities that the product aims to address. This step lays the foundation for identifying potential solutions. Remember that not all problems are worth solving, some pick your fights wisely.

  6. Ideation and Prioritization: Conduct workshops or brainstorming sessions with the team to generate ideas and potential solutions. Encourage creativity and collaboration to foster innovation. Prioritize the generated ideas based on their alignment with the project goals, feasibility, and potential impact. One great technique I tried so far many times is the Design Sprint. If done right, you could potentially get the needed proof of your MVP pretty quickly

  7. Create a Shared Vision: Collaboratively create a shared product vision that aligns with the objectives of the project. The vision should clearly articulate the desired outcomes and the value the product aims to deliver to the users and stakeholders. This shared vision serves as a guiding compass throughout the agile transformation. And remember, communication is the key! Always keep your peers, team, and stakeholders up to date!

  8. Build a Product Backlog: Work together as a team to define a product backlog. Break down the high-level vision and objectives into smaller, actionable user stories or features. Prioritize the backlog based on the project goals, values, and dependencies. Hint: think about using the MoSCoW technique for prioritization, it served me well many times!

  9. Continuous Improvement and Learning: Agile organizations understand that the discovery process is not a one-time event but an ongoing journey of exploration and refinement. They encourage a culture of continuous learning, where teams actively seek feedback, embrace new ideas, and adapt their approaches to achieve better outcomes. Product managers facilitate this by encouraging regular retrospectives, where the team reflects on their discovery practices, identifies areas for improvement, and implements actionable changes. They promote knowledge sharing and learning through internal workshops, external training sessions, and participation in industry events. By fostering a mindset of continuous improvement, organizations ensure that their discovery efforts remain aligned with the evolving needs of customers, industry trends, and emerging market opportunities.


Let me share a real-life example from the experience with one of my clients, and how I addressed it. The client operating in the e-commerce area used a mix of Kanban and Scrum approaches, attempting to deliver outcomes but struggling to do so effectively. Many promises were left unfulfilled. The issue stemmed from a combination of factors:

  • Three-week sprints acted more like a To-Do backlog, encompassing implementation, discovery, and business testing tickets with not enough defined stories to cover a full sprint.

  • Epics were hidden within stories, resulting in never-ending sprints with repeated tickets.

  • The team felt a sense of unfinished work, while stakeholders faced unclear goals and open questions.

Recognizing the problem, the first step was to eliminate such sprints. We introduced a dedicated discovery board and recurring meetings involving the product trio (PO, UX, Lead dev) and relevant stakeholders (business unit PM). This approach served two main purposes:

  1. Focusing on the right problems to solve.

  2. Ensuring all necessary information (detailed acceptance criteria, UX sketches, designs, prototypes, etc.) was available for refined stories.

dual track agile

The following key actions were taken here to kick off the Discovery process:

  • We established a weekly 30-minute session dedicated to discussing current and upcoming problems.

  • Kept the focus only on the Why and What (as per the book "Start w Why" by Simon Sinek).

  • Ensured stories were ready for team refinement before involving the entire team.

  • Discovery techniques are established to ensure continuous discovery.

  • Streamlining the handover process from discovery to delivery.


In conclusion, by addressing the challenges of mixing discovery and delivery within sprints and implementing a dedicated discovery phase, the team was able to enhance focus, improve collaboration, and ensure readiness for the delivery phase. The structured approach helped streamline the process and avoid unnecessary time wastage.


To support your product discovery journey, feel free to explore the templates I have prepared for you here.


If you require personalized assistance or wish to learn more about our courses, please don't hesitate to reach out to us using this form.


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