This post is a continuation from the last post in this series. Please start there if you still need to read it.

Generating the Possible Increments

There are countless ways to generate ideas for valuable increments. The book suggests a few, including:

  • Cluster Mapping
  • Impact Mapping
  • Prospective Analysis
  • User Story Mapping

It also references an exciting-looking book, Innovation Games, which could be a great resource if you’re looking for more ideas on… how to generate ideas! For this post, I’ll demonstrate Cluster Mapping, as it’s one of the simplest and most effective approaches. Generating increments via cluster mapping can be done in a few steps:

1. Brainstorm stories:

Review your team’s purpose, and use simultaneous brainstorming (also covered in the book!) to generate stories that fit that purpose. Try to generate as many as possible, but keep them high level as we’re just going for the big picture here. Start by providing the team with a blank canvas to dump their ideas into, along with some stickies in case they need help with how to add them. You should start with something like this:

Possible Valuable Increments Blank

After a few minutes of simultaneous brainstorming with everyone on the team contributing their ideas, it should end up looking more like this:

Possible Valuable Increments Full

2. Cluster stories into increments:

With your high-level stories in hand, use affinity mapping to cluster the stories; similar stories should be close to each other, and dissimilar stories should be far apart.

Possible Valuable Increments Clustered

Some of these stories will be valuable increments by themselves, and others will only be valuable when done as a group. At this point, we should identify the valuable increments, either by changing the colour of a sticky or creating a new sticky when the increment is a group of stories. I find that on a virtual whiteboard, a black sticky is a convenient way to indicate a valuable increment. Also, feel free to remove any stories that don’t fit the purpose of the team or, for some other reason, aren’t going to be part of the valuable increments discussion.

Possible Valuable Increments Valuable

3. Organize increments

Reflect on how what you’ve drawn up accomplishes the team’s purpose, and consider the following edits:

  • Parking lot any increments that aren’t relevant or are too far into the future to even contemplate
  • Add any potential learning increments that will help you choose between options
  • Add any increments that aren’t directly related to the purpose but are necessary for whatever reason

At this point, you should have a board with all the possible valuable increments for your team, organized in a way that makes sense to you. It should look something like this:

Possible Valuable Increments Organized

4. Review and Refine:

You want to be able to use this map as a visual aid to explain how your team is going to achieve its purpose, both within your team and to customers and other stakeholders who didn’t participate in the planning. Add notes, links, images, or whatever else will make this map more useful when communicating this high-level plan. One great advantage of a virtual whiteboard is the ability to include other digital content directly on the board. Take advantage of this! With Miro, you can embed all forms of Google Docs, images, YouTube videos, and other media types easily and directly. Also, indicate what are the highest priority increments.

You should end up with something like this: Possible Valuable Increments Refined

Before proceeding further, give yourself and your team a break and get feedback on what you’ve developed so far from customers, stakeholders, and anyone else who might be interested. Once you’ve gained support for the approach, we’re ready to fill out the next window in the planning horizons.

Next: Finding the Smallest Valuable Increments

Please join me soon for the next post, where we’ll explore how to break these possible valuable increments into the smallest valuable increments and fill out the next window in the planning horizons.