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Culture of Challenging Assumptions

Blog: Agile Adoption Roadmap

 When you calculate the value of an idea, epic, or feature (e.g., revenue, cost of delay, etc.), many assumptions are made. As part of transforming toward an Agile culture, it is important to apply a discovery mindset that includes positively challenging assumptions so that you can better understand the value of an idea or adapt the value accordingly for the greater success of your company.

For example, a new idea is recorded that states a value of $1,000,000. The first step in challenging assumptions is using open-ended questions.  Open-ended questions allow you to ask questions in a non-confrontational way. Examples of open-ended questions include: What led you to that conclusion?; What do you think the level of uncertainty is?; What is your riskiest assumption?; and What information do you need to validate this?

The second step is to validate the answers. For example, if the revenue value of an idea is $1,000,000 and based on a conversation rate of 6% but the average conversion rate for products in the field is 4%, then the calculation of value should be adjusted lower accordingly. Alternatively, if the idea uses the same potential population of potential customers as the first product that entered the field, then it is less likely that the second product entering the field will have the same potential customer size. 

The third step is that you must challenges the assumptions of all ideas fairly and equally. By having reasoned conversations about those assumptions and ironing out the differences, you can get a consensus on the value so they can be fairly ranked. When the value is subjective, gut feel, those discussions can turn negative and the organization may end up putting their valuable employee effort onto lower value ideas.  Inversely, the more willing and the more objectively you challenge assumptions, the more likely you will put your employee effort to good use on high-value ideas and greater success for your company

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