Before the Summer I introduced the “Circle of Life” to my teams, a way to visualize the whole lifecycle for products. How did that go?
Background and introduction
The first (and most obvious) comment was that they didn’t understand and wanted me to explain more. This type of visualization is quite rare, I have not seen or heard about it anywhere else in the Agile community. Teams are used to work with boards (Scrum and Kanban) for their short-term work. This is a visualization that is much more long-term and therefore questioned. After that I have explained more, some saw the benefits and others didn’t (someone even thought it was a complete waste of whiteboard space…).
However, one person thought it was good but needed a representation of time, a timeline if you like. I remembered an old idea, the “Product radar” with circles. The circle closest to the middle represents “now” and circles further out from the middle represents “later”. I combined the two visualizations on top of each other and The Circles was born!
The metaphor I was looking for are the tree rings seen when sawing off a tree trunk. They surely represents time! In the following paragraphs I will introduce the concepts and functionality of The Circles.
Post-its usage and colors
Try to use the same color on the post-its to group ”product families” together. Put up intended releases, with version number and intended release date, on smaller orange post-its on your products (I cut them to that size with a scissors).
We have a number of products in the example above going through different phases. Some products are ”young” and in the early phase of their lifecycle, while others are ”old” and phasing the end of their life. The way you work with them is really different depending on which phase in the lifecycle they are.
We have divided The Circles into three different phases:
- Build-up – Your product is brand new and you have started to build it up. You add feature by feature to make it compelling to your customers out there.
- Serving – Your product is so ready that you can start to make money on it, you have your first customer! You continue to add functionality to attract more customers to make even more money. You want your product to be in this phase as long as possible!
- Retirement / termination – For some reason it’s time to retire your product. You take it off the market, minimize the maintenance, and migrate over customers to other (new) product(s).
Movement and timespan
How does the products move within The Circles? We have set up the following rules:
▪ 1st Customer – When the product have the first customer, it moves into the ”serving”-phase.
▪ End of Sales – When we stop selling the product, it moves into the ”retirement”-phase.
Products with releases that are planned in the ongoing quarter are placed in the “inner circle”. Things for the next quarter are placed in the “middle circle”. Product releases for the next half year are placed in the “outer circle”. This way we can visualize all product releases for a full running year! You can of course alter the timespan to suit your needs.
This is the current version of The Circles we have visualized inside our “control room”. As you can see (with sharp eyes) we have also added team avatars (magnets) to high-light which team that is working with which product/release.
No-one is questioning The Circles anymore! To discuss and update it is a natural and appreciated thing we do on our weekly planning & prioritization-meeting. Would you like to try The Circles? I would love to hear more about your implementation and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!
All the best,
Tomas from TheAgileist