The Power of Customer Feedback in Prioritizing Work

Welcome to the third post in our value stream identification in practice blog series. You can read the first post here about preparing for a successful workshop. And the second post here with helpful tips for identifying value streams. 

The Scaled Agile Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a community of our most inspiring customers. All of whom are driving measurable change at their organizations. 

This group of individuals comes together—virtually and twice a year—to share, connect with each other, and give us feedback to help us prioritize our most important work. Pretty simple, right? But very powerful in practice.

That power resides in how the VoC has been designed to promote continuous exploration and customer centricity. Each time we meet, we do exercises that encourage our community to look both backward (this is what we built based on your previous feedback) and forward (defining what our epic priorities should be). For example, at our last VoC event, Dean Leffingwell spent some time reviewing what we had worked on over the past six months.

We also went through an exercise called “Prune the Product Tree,” which is designed to reveal the features most important to our customers. Participants place apples, which represent features, onto a tree. Items nearest the trunk are a higher priority than those placed farther up the tree. 

From our customers, we heard quite clearly that organizing around value was the top rated epic. The overwhelming agreement within the community around this feature kicked off a renewed internal focus on Principle #10: organizing around value. Although we now had our purpose, we weren’t sure how to get started, nor what part of organizing or mapping value was the biggest challenge. So before jumping in and creating new tools and materials, we went back to our community to gain more clarity.

We asked some of our participants to spend 30 minutes with us in an empathy interview. We wrote a script of eight, open-ended questions designed to help us understand how organizing around value applies to their context. The questions were intended to uncover the obstacles they faced in organizing around value. Some of the biggest challenges were related to preparing for the workshop and getting executive buy-in to attend. One aha moment was when we learned how many organizations stand up ARTs without relying on the Value Stream Identification Workshop. So, our new guidance would actually need to reflect that reality. 

Now that we had a sense of next steps, we knew it was important to bring our customers along for the journey to keep us moving in the right direction. We created a study group representing a smaller subset of our VoC community. As the name implies, this group’s purpose is to gather and apply a critical eye to new intellectual property and how it serves the challenges they identify. 

This VoC study group has been critical in helping us understand the complexities large organizations face as they organize around value. But we’re not finished yet! With this group’s help, we’re developing new pre-workshop guidance. Our goal is to create new tools that will better serve our internal champions by:

  • Generating buy-in: getting executive level and internal support for holding the workshop. The 10 Tips for Value Stream Identification blog post is a good place to start. 
  • Preparing for the workshop: tasks that should be completed to ensure a more successful workshop. Read more in the Three Steps to Prepare for a Successful Value Stream Workshop blog post.
  • Facilitating the workshop: guidance for creating an interactive and action-oriented event.
  • Taking action: tips for implementing workshop results. 

In fact, we’re testing it out this quarter with the study group. And, as always, keeping the customer at the center as we design, test, and iterate. 

Want to see the impact of the group’s feedback on early guidance? Some of the updates include:

About Jennifer Roberts

Jennifer Roberts

Jennifer Roberts leads the Voice of the Customer community within the Marketing Enterprise Solutions team. Prior to joining Scaled Agile, she worked at Cisco where she led the global social selling and demand generation team. She lives in Boulder, Colorado and does not believe chili has beans.