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Cupcakes are agile, what about you?

As a foodie, I don't mind hearing out some cool food references from time to time. This time let me be the one to share. Hopefully, it's not too corny.

How would you create your product?

For quite a while now, in the IT industry especially, we all talk about agile, no startup or modern tech enterprise ever says they do anything close to the waterfall approach, we just go with the flow and use the fancy buzzwords and role titles. But at the end of the day, when the masks fall off, are we really agile… are we even close to it?

Think about how do you build your product.

Even if it might seem agile with all the constant feedback on questions you might have for certain functionalities, or modules, or design perks, they are often just ingredients. If you choose to build that product in a way that you push all (or most of) the ingredients your product may be consisted of, then at least don't be surprised with outcomes that might not get as you would wish for.

"I suggest we don't commit to the entire product or project upfront. Instead, I suggest we focus on a single feature or value component first and measure its impact. We can then always decide to do more and iterate." - Peter Merholz

As Peter Merholz pointed out, if you go and focus on all the ingredients you may (or may not) need for the final product, up until the very end there is no real customer value.

With no customer value, it is really hard to have any valuable feedback. Actually, most of the feedback one might get on such inquiries will be bringing more noise than useful pieces of information the team might use to improve the product because it's way too abstract in any other way.

Cupcakes are great.

Foodie reference spotted. Yeah, cupcakes, everybody loves them (we're just going to imagine they are also gluten-free).

Cupcake vs cake base approaches visualised

Cupcakes can be baked in a way to have the same base mass texture as your final shiny cake would have, you can use the same filling as you would on its final form and the same icing. The only things you cannot put into your cupcake to show resemblance to its fully evolved stage of that big final fancy cake is, if you think of it, just decorative things.

Find your core, that part of your product that we mentioned above, that single value component. Find it, work it out top-down, bake your cupcake, and take it to degustation!

Everyone enjoyed the degustation?

If it worked - bingo! You did all you had to do and scored a touchdown with close-to-zero effort, now just keep repeating the steps until their final shape.

If it completely failed… well, when you think of it - it's not that bad either. You pitched your cupcake to the client (an edible portion of the product, something of value), used a couple dozens times fewer resources than you would need to get anywhere close to getting valuable feedback in the first approach, and saved yourself and your team much, much, much of your/their precious time.

You can expect to receive valuable feedback because you provided something of value to the client as well.

So next time you start working on something, you might want to scale it down. Agile is not just about keeping the stakeholders in a loop and constant "feedback" gathering. It is also about saving time and resources on trial and fail until success loops, and products are about giving an actual value, so scope it down and start delivering it from the very beginning of the process.

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