The secret of running a marathon with Sprints.

In Agile product management we run neverending marathons. The roadmap is our way to plan the path of 42.195 kilometers iteration. The roadmap is a great tool, an abstract plan that will indefenetly change along the way. The road is long and the finish line is just a blurry timestamp with no real directions on a map. Careful or you might end up running with no cause.

Product managers are a part of this neverending marathon. If your run ended it means that your product died and you have failed. So a product manager needs to maintain the best shape possible at all times. And while we see this run as “neverending”, others see it as a marathon with one clear goal – Launch. Product managers plan the roadmap- sure it has a starting point but we know that if successful it will never end, it will just improve….we will run faster, smarter and more efficiently, driving business and revenues to new records quarter after quarter.

The main reason for uncertainty in planning the roadmap is the business landscape, it’s changing and at a fast pace. If we want our product to be successful (which we do) we need to be able to constantly adapt to the everchanging landscape. Personally I “check the pulse” of the business once a day. in one heartbeat we can miss a tectonic change that will make my product obsolete.

In order to gain traction and “start running”, we need to keep the process up to date, step by step. How do we do this? With Sprints. Sprints have a lot of technological purposes that can and should be done even without a product manager in the team. They help to clarify the plan and short term goals and can be measured and improved over time. The case for sprints is clear, we need them, if we want to get things done. Running a sprint is hard, it requires a lot of effort from the team, laser focused effort.

In general – Minimum viable product (MVP) is the best way to start planning the road map. Know what’s your near future goals are before the run. Don’t start before you know what you want to achieve in version 1, Viable is the key word here.  I see the MVP as version 0.5, it should be halfway to a product you feel is valid. Remember what Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn said: “If You’re Not Embarrassed By The First Version Of Your Product, You’ve Launched Too Late”

Sprints are a good way to run a business oriented product in the modern age. Just remember that they are a part of a bigger picture, a  longer run… the neverending marathon and improvement along the way is key. My tip (based on a famous quote of Krembo from Mivtza Savta) “You start as fast as you can, and very slowly you increase the pace”. The secret is to always know and plan the next step, if the next step is accurate – you will never stop running.


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