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Principal Job Title
Agile and Lean Coach
1 Line Summary
I help organisations discover and deliver awesome products that are useful to customers and feasible and viable for businesses.
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HiveRank: Affiliate (170)
United Kingdom
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Self Nominated & Interviewed by

Member since: 19-08-2018
My Background Details
James has been working with and helping agile teams and organisations for the last 7 years, having held a number of differing roles including Business Analyst, Product Owner, Scrum Master and Agile Coach.

Passionate about helping organisations with product discovery and delivery that results in truly inspiring products that customers love and Businesses can deliver.

Experienced working with and coaching co-located and distributed teams, I have excelled at enabling teams and individuals to identify and utilize the tools, practices, principles, values and mindset needed to achieve high performing, self-organising teams that deliver quality solutions whilst maintaining an exceptional team spirit.

I specialise in coaching product discovery and delivery (Innovation), helping teams use techniques such as Design Thinking and Lean Start Up (Build Measure Learn) in collaboration with agile ways of working, drawing from my own experiences (successes and failures) or discovering and delivering awesome products/services.
Current Role Details
Agile and Lean Product Coach at Labyrinth Insight providing Agile Coach services for Santander

Working for the UK's largest online insurance brokers providing commercial insurance such as Landlord, Shop and Business Insurance Policies. The Executive teams (CEO, COO, CFO, CTO etc) were looking to increase their market share in the UK (they also have a US branch) by potentially looking at targeting the traditional market place of insurance, e.g High Street insurance brokers.

The C-Suite wanted to validate/invalidate the market opportunity, strategic solution and potential implementation following some external market research they had conducted.

My task was to facilitate the C-Suite's desire to validate or invalidate the question of "How do we create a significant volume of customers in the UK from customers who would normally buy their insurance offline (High Street Broker, Bank etc).

I was given 5 full days of the C-Suite's time to work towards testing this hypothesis.

Having utilised Jake Knapp's Google Ventures Design Sprints before and had some great success, I realised that this technique could potentially help facilitate a desired outcome.

So for the next 5 days, I facilitated the process of GV's Design Sprint, which looks something like this;

Monday (Mapping): The group works with experts from across the organisation to identify the ultimate goal of the sprint and map out the challenge for the week.

Tuesday (Sketching): The team starts exploring a variety of solutions by looking at sources of inspiration and sketching various approaches that they could take.

Wednesday (Decision Time): The group looks at the solutions explored on Tuesday and decides which ones have the best chance of fulfilling the target for the week. The team then expands those sketched solutions into storyboards.

Thursday (Prototype): The group turns the storyboards into a working prototype designed to mimic the final approach and have it ready for testing.

Friday (Test): The final prototype is shown to prospective users and its viability is tested.

Over the course of those 5 days we aimed to answer some more specific questions linked to our over arching question "How do we create a significant volume of customers in the UK from customers who would normally buy their insurance offline (High Street Broker, Bank etc).

These questions were;
- Can we change customers to change providers?
- Can we understand this group of customers needs?
- Can we replace the trust customers get from buying locally?
- Can we adapt our proposition to meet the demands of these customers?
- Can we sell this profitably?
- Can we get to the customer quick enough?

Using the method described as above, I was able to foster together a group of highly opinionated C-Level Execs, getting them to engage with the process for the full 5 days. This in itself is a major achievement and a testament to their investment into answering this question. It costs the organisation a lot (in terms of time cost, of these individuals).

We were able to reduce the business case decision timeframe from an average of 9 months to only 5 days using Google Ventures Design Sprints, this delivered value immediately. The ability to invalidate an existing hypothesis in days saved the company a potential waste of £millions and many months or years as would have been experienced through their traditional experimentation.

Going further than validating/invalidating the hypothesis, as part of the day of prototyping, we had arranged for some customer interviews. We used an external agency in conjunction with an in-house customer insights team to avoid biases and making sure that we targeted a customer segment that would provided valuable insight into the question we were trying to answer.

As a result the business were also able to redefine their understanding of their customer's perceptions of them in the same 5 days. This will enable them to avoid misaligned future initiatives and missed opportunities.

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Working for a leading personal financial services company in the UK, the newly appointed COO wanted to break the trend of traditional product development in order to find ways to challenge and keep up with the “challenger banks” such as Monzo, Starling, N26 and Revolut.

Recognising that if the company doesn’t adapt to newer ways of working and experimenting with products and services that are Useful, Viable and Feasible there is a very real chance that “traditional” banks will become a thing of the past.

The COO sponsored a pilot scheme for 40 participants over a 6 week period that would encompass the use of innovation techniques that would ultimately lead to the participants pitching to the board for funding to develop their product/service.

The board were looking for participants to demonstrate their understanding of innovation by showing evidence based pitches, for example they would like to see a prototype that has been created and tested with potential customers along with the back story that generated their idea.

As part of the COO sponsored Innovation Challenge, our initial task was to design and deliver a one day master class on Innovation with an introduction to some tools and techniques.

We were soon asked to also provide mentorship and additional coaching support to the 40 participants over a 6 week period.

Helping the organisation firstly to understand that innovation and entrepreneurs aren’t made over night and require the opportunity to embrace learnings, we set to work to design a learning experience that would combine the perfect balance of theory, practice and case studies.

With the limitation of one day to introduce participants to innovation and help them learn and experience some tools and techniques, we took a deep dive into some topics and a lighter touch on others.

As we had the opportunity to support the participants beyond the one day training, we knew that we could provide more depth to those topics that got a light touch in the future.

With this in mind some of the tools and techniques we covered were;

Design Thinking

Lean Start Up

Lean Canvas

Customer Feedback through interview techniques

How to collect and use data

Hypothesis Writing

The most important element was to help participants understand that innovation is not a linear process. Some of the tools and techniques on the face of things will look this way, but it was important to understand that you shouldn’t be constrained by these tools and to embrace your creative nature.

The pilot was not only to design a learning experience that facilitated the development of products being developed in a more innovative, incremental manner whilst being customer centric. It was also to understand whether the organisation should further investment into the “innovation” process.

After 6 weeks, the candidates presented their ideas to the board, where they were pitching for additional funding in order to turn their prototypes into reality.

10 teams ended up being successful with their pitches. This has created 10 new unique opportunities for the bank to explore.

Not only did this process create 10 new unique ideas, it provided a platform for 40 members of staff to experience innovation, growing the companies knowledge and skills.

It has also drastically reduced the time and cost involved at the exploratory stage of their product development cycle compared to their “traditional” methods. Typically this can be anywhere from ~3 months to +1 year and in this particular case it was reduced to 6 weeks.

The organisation has requested 2 further days of training to assist the teams in their next steps, where we will go further than “experimenting with innovation” to some more concrete actions and hopefully end up with real products in the market being used by customers.


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The organisation has recently undertaken a 6 week innovation challenge, as designed and facilitated by us. You can read more about that case study here.

For the last 6 weeks, the teams had been utilising various methods, tools and practices to explore ideas and embrace innovation through a test and learn culture. With their ideas now somewhat validated, they presented to a panel of judges who would either give them the green light to continue exploring their idea or unfortunately end their participation in the challenge this time around.

With the ideas now moving into the second of three phases in the programme, we were invited back to deliver a Product Management Master Class.

10 teams have made it through to the second phase and are now ready to test the Desirability, Viability and Feasibility of their ideas further, in order to pitch for funding to bring their ideas to life and put them into the hands of the customer.

To deliver a “Product Management Master Class” helping participants learn and understand different types and ways of prototyping and ways of gaining customer feedback and insight as part of a hack week. This is following on from the success of the 6 week innovation challenge previously documented in our case studies as listed above.

The hack week is designed for teams to accelerate their idea to prove that it has commercial viability and is technically feasible, whilst of course not forgetting the customers desire for their product/service.

Along with delivering the master class, we were asked to provide our expertise with hands on engagement in helping participants design and build appropriate prototypes in order to test and validate or invalidate their biggest risks and assumptions.

Building upon the success of our previous engagement with this group of participants we wanted to help grow their knowledge on product development a little further, in order to help them learn and understand why some of the below topics are so important to delivering products that customers love and are of value to the business.

We broke our master class into 2 parts, covering a varying range of topics listed below. In between the two halves of our class we worked with participants to understand the risks they were facing and help them identify what types of prototypes they could use in order to help them validate or invalidate identified risks.

- Introduction to building products; The 10 route cases to failed product development
- Product goals; Why goals orientated outcomes help achieve the product vision and business objectives
- Why design is important; Understanding that good design makes a product understandable and useful
- Creating prototypes; Helping identify the types of prototypes available such as Feasibility, Fidelity, Live Data and Hybrid prototypes to start exploring their ideas weaknesses and strengths further
- Metrics and what to measure and making it part of your prototype; Growing the understanding that we measure to learn, with the right metric giving us an understanding of the health of our product
- Getting feedback from your customers; The biggest waste in product development is obtaining feedback from your customers too late or not frequently enough, Leading to missed opportunities. We explored the ways and styles of getting the right feedback to help learning

Taking the 10 teams through the importance of obtaining feedback from customers frequently and early, combined with light weight prototyping techniques helped all 10 teams explore and validate/invalidate their biggest risks to product development in just 5 days.

Typically the end to end process for this organisation takes them around ~3 months to +1 year with prototyping and customer validation not taking place well into the product build.

By brining this process to the beginning of their development, we have managed to reduce the time spent on building unvalidated products from ~3 months to +1 year, down to 5 days.

This has saved the company £millions in product development costs (attributed across all 10 product ideas) and given them an opportunity to invest the time and costs that would have been spent on the additional 30 product ideas that didn’t get to this stage, into ideas that follow this new way of working

We received some nice feedback from the Innovation Lead that had organised the event too;

"A huge thank you for joining us last Monday to run a fantastic master class on building products and prototype. I know the teams have benefitted enormously from you, there were lots of discussions during the rest of the week annotated with “remember what James said about…..”

Really appreciate all the time and effort you put into creating a great talk and for sending through the links to interesting examples, it has been amazing working with you and having you as part of our Innovation experiment, you have certainly helped bring it to life.

Thanks again so much for all your support really appreciate it."

James Clark

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active 3 weeks, 5 days ago