Did you have a wonderful Thanksgiving? We did! By far our family’s favorite part of Thanksgiving is pumpkin. The sights, smells and flavors of this wonderful orange squash – pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bagels and especially pumpkin cheesecake– totally “make” the holiday for us. Thinking about pumpkin has me wistfully recalling one of MY favorite pumpkin experiences: an event thrown at the office a few years ago by a former employer: dubbed, simply, the “Fall Harvest Contest”.
My team insisted we should enter; they figured it would be a chance to “blow some steam” while demonstrating spectacular design talents. I could see a much greater purpose as well: a chance to “walk the walk” instead of just talk, to prove that business analysis held the keys to success; to illustrate that when you take the time up front to plan for a successful product, you will in fact architect the best solution. We identified our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for success!
Key #1: Identify needs, drivers and desired outcomes
Why did the team want to enter the contest? Just for the team fun? We talked about this for a moment. Sure, they the team was excited to have some fun. But thinking about it … the REAL reason to enter the contest was recognition – and BRAGGING RIGHTS. Hands-down, there was no better prize to be had. Now that we were all aligned to the goal, it was time to go and WIN.
Key #2: Identify success criteria as the basis for product vision and strategic approach
After choosing ‘winning’ over ‘entering’, the irony for me was that the first thing team members focused on was the solution: should we paint it? Perhaps we should carve it – “I have carving tools at home!” …WAIT! Isn’t this what happens in development situations? Teams start to design screens and buttons, they figure out code and architecture. We reminded each other: “What are we trying to achieve?! Is that the best way? “
We can’t just go decorate a pumpkin any old way and enter it in the contest if we expect to win. We analyzed: the winning pumpkin must be so appealing that the judges would be drawn to it, love it and compelled to judge it the winner. So, what does appealing “look like”? It couldn’t just be about decoration, since ALL pumpkins would be decorated and potentially appealing in their own way. No … the team needed to identify why the judges would choose one pumpkin over another. What would sway or drive their decision? We had to consider our audience!
The team determined the trick was to choose a theme that would really resonate with the judges, a theme they could relate to, a theme that mattered to them. Since this was a work competition, the team decided to choose a work-related theme. With the focus of the firm’s work in the last year on returning to market-leader status and outplaying the competition, the final choice was to design a pumpkin reflecting the firm doing exactly that. The “Smashin’ Pumpkin” would depict that we have stomped the competition and won the market.
Key #3: Translate strategic approach into concrete delivery goals – design and define requirements
Once the vision was clear and the team understood the goals, it was easy to define the product and make progress quickly. The team brainstormed and visualized, reviewed prototypes and created innovative designs. Product requirements included the company logo, and smashing competitors; they supported the vision. The team later agreed that their planning enabled their collaboration and accelerated their delivery – and made for a ridiculously fun time.
Key #4: Deliver and evaluate success
Cutting to the end result, the team submitted their pumpkin entry, and amidst the 10 or so other entries, theirs did in fact stand out. Many others had good concepts for their pumpkin, but none were so relevant to the business as the one smashin’ the competition. In the end – success was ours! Just as the team architected it from the start.