About this podcast episode

🍕 Slice up your project to deliver more value! 🎯

Today, Anton Skornyakov, Certified Scrum Trainer, co-founder, and managing director of Agile.coach, will help you navigate the complexities of delivering value in your projects, regardless of the industry.

In this episode, Anton and Bill Raymond dive into the art of slicing work into manageable pieces to deliver immediate value. Drawing from diverse examples like software development, house renovation, and public housing projects, we explore how agile principles can be applied in various contexts to enhance adaptability, risk management, and prioritization.

In this podcast, you will learn the following:

✅ The importance of breaking down work into smaller, value-delivering pieces.

✅ Strategies for prioritizing tasks to address risks and uncertainties.

🎉 How to apply agile `principles beyond software development to achieve continuous improvement.


(transcripts are auto-generated, so please excuse the brevity)

[00:00:00] Introducing Anton Skornyakov

Bill Raymond: Hi, and welcome to the Agile in Action podcast with Bill Raymond. Today, I am joined by Anton Skornyakov. Hi, Anton. How are you?

Anton Skornyakov: Hi, Bill. Thank you very much for having me. I’m great.

Bill Raymond: Yeah, I’m excited about the conversation. We’re going to talk about effective value delivery. You are a Certified Scrum Trainer from Berlin. You’re the Co-founder and Managing Director of https://agile.coach, and you’re the author of the Art of Slicing Work. But with all that said, I’d love for you to just, in your own words, share a little bit about yourself with our audience.

Anton Skornyakov: Thank you. So I’m been a Certified Scrum Trainer for five and a half years before that. I had actually quite a journey, so I wasn’t always, the typical Scrum guy, I started doing maths and physics actually it’s statistical physics at some point, and then became an entrepreneur and built startups, then moved to becoming a coach for startup entrepreneur and other entrepreneurs.

Anton Skornyakov: And then at some point, met people from the Scrum community and realized what I was coaching there was actually very close to what these people were doing and then moved into this direction. And today I am, apart from giving trainings, I am working with organizations that are doing software, but many organizations also that are struggling with unpredictability and trying to organize themselves so that they are flexible and adaptive.

Anton Skornyakov: And at the same time, we can also learn, we can also learn from seeing all those applications of how people create flexible organizations. We can learn from them. And bringing back to this to actually software development, since I don’t have the feeling that all of our organizations are already perfectly agile. No one I’m talking to has ever said we are agile and the journey’s complete.

Bill Raymond: I absolutely agree with you. And it’s interesting because, the word Scrum must come up in almost every one of our podcasts. And very often we just by default say the software developer or, the QA person, a lot of people are adopting agility in their organizations in different ways.

Bill Raymond: But, Scrum provides a very lightweight model, if you will, for how a team can continue improving and continue delivering.

[00:02:14] The concept of effective value delivery

Bill Raymond: What this podcast is all about in this particular conversation is effective value delivery.

Bill Raymond: So I think it would be helpful is if you can share maybe a story or something that would help us understand what you mean by effective value delivery.

Anton Skornyakov: Sure.

[00:02:30] Illustrative story: Slicing work to renovate a house

Anton Skornyakov: So here is a story that I often tell in the class that I think is quite illustrative of what happens in many organizations. It’s a story happened to a friend of mine. So he and his family, they bought a house outside of the city that they’re living in. It was a rundown house in the hopes of renovating it and using it to have a place for vacations for the family to get out of this outside of the town and maybe to rent it out.

Anton Skornyakov: And once bought, they have this project, renovate the house, or renovate an old run down house, okay? And like every project, they start with figuring out what it is that they want, they find, who’s getting which room, and and so forth. Having done that, they look for contractors and an architect to create a plan of how they want to renovate it.

Anton Skornyakov: The plan is to start with insulation, reinforcing some of the walls, replace some of the windows, then move a little further in with the pipes and change the plumbing, then do the electrical wiring, then do painting and so forth.

Anton Skornyakov: So this plan cut or structured along the lines of the different experts that are going to be doing the renovation. Because these guys are the ones that are expensive, these are the guys that are hard to schedule, and so forth. And, they hope everything is gonna work out in six months, and, as the story goes, you basically expect it’s not gonna work out, but how?

Anton Skornyakov: How is it not gonna work out? So they start, the project starts, and actually, the insulation works fine. So for the first month nothing appears to go wrong. But in the second month, when they start opening up the walls for the pipes, they realize, oh, some of the pipes that were, in the documents, there is no water running in them. They’re actually not in use. There is other pipes, undocumented pipes, that are actually in use.

Anton Skornyakov: They then open up some other walls to find out that there is also some electrical wiring that is not you know, documented. And so they realize all the foundation of their plans, you cannot rely on it.

Anton Skornyakov: So in this way, my friend finds out that he has to reschedule. So he has to bring in the architect. He has to bring in the electrician, the plumber, and it’s all very expensive. And they adapt the plan. And in fact, so for many months, the whole project is scheduling and rescheduling, adapting the plan, changing, trying it out in a new wall, and at some point he just says, okay, no, stop it. I cannot do this anymore.

Anton Skornyakov: All of these plan changes just wait quite expensive six months over my family still cannot use the house at all. And then what happened and this was basically a little miracle to him. He found a different contractor and this contractor is basically having all of those different experts the plumber the electrician the person who would do the walls.

Anton Skornyakov: They have them all available in one place and with them, he basically started to work on the house at a room by room basis. So first they made sure that one bathroom was working and that they could completely use it. One, then the kitchen, then one bedroom. And the house is huge, but suddenly they had, with these three rooms, a minimal usable house, you could say, right?

Anton Skornyakov: So the family could suddenly use it and spend time there, even though it was, it was still it amassed the whole house, like 80 percent of it still needed some work, but they can already stay in the country, stay in the countryside. And from then on with this, new contractor that basically redid the rooms one after the other.

Anton Skornyakov: And if we compare this to project phases, right? The first one was basically structured along the lines of the experts, the second one was structured along the lines of the rooms, right? And this change is very simple to see in this renovation project. And it is the key thing to structuring work and to organizing in a way that my friend in this case was able to prioritize value. Because when we talk about effective value delivery, in the first phase, he didn’t know when is it going to end. He didn’t get any value until, the project would be completely complete in the end. And in the second phase, he could prioritize the rooms. At some point he could say I don’t have the budget anymore to do the last two rooms.

Anton Skornyakov: Let’s leave them unrenovated because we can still use the rest of the house and, if you are into software or product development, you will recognize this kind of principle, but in my experience, working with a lot of people who are interested in Scrum or interested in becoming a flexible organization, this skill of slicing work of breaking down work, not in this, along the lines of any particular expertise, but along the lines of generalistic, holistic, useful pieces.

Anton Skornyakov: So that’s the book. That’s the idea of the book is basically to give the readers a lot of different examples, a lot of different principles on how to slice their projects. And using those examples, understand also the value of slicing, how it affects delegation, how it affects value.

Bill Raymond: Yeah, I think that’s a great example because, it’s interesting. Very often we start off and we’ve seen this in so many times, right? We start off thinking it’s only going to take me this much time with this many people on this much budget. And maybe we even do some risk planning and say plus we have a little extra money and time just in case something goes wrong.

Bill Raymond: In this case, pretty much everything went wrong. Didn’t it?

Anton Skornyakov: Yeah.

[00:07:46] The Importance of adapting and learning from risks

Anton Skornyakov: The problem with surprises is you don’t know, a lot of people say if there is a part of a project that is completely independent of the other, can’t I just still do this and get the value? The problem with surprises is, you don’t know what the dependencies, you don’t see them until the surprise hits.

Anton Skornyakov: So often you would think something is completely risk free, and you can already deliver value, and you will deliver it, and afterwards you try out the risky thing and find out that it basically endangers the first thing that you created that delivers value.

Bill Raymond: I love this concept of, let’s get the bedroom and the bathroom done first, then we can start living in it. And then, we can start fixing up the rest of the house. So it’s a great example. I’m curious when you think about the house it almost falls right into place, right?

Bill Raymond: Yeah, you just have to say let’s do the things that matter the most. We need to eat so let’s get the kitchen done. We need to sleep, so let’s get the bedroom done. So that kind of a thing. But, sometimes it’s hard to see what we like to call the forest through the trees when we’re doing work on a daily basis and trying to get things done more effectively.

[00:08:58] Practical ways to start slicing work

Bill Raymond: So what are some ways that you can put your mindset into Slicing work when you’re trying to accomplish something and maybe you’re feeling it, you’re feeling like things just aren’t getting done in time, but your head space isn’t there yet.

Anton Skornyakov: Yeah, let me maybe first address a little something that you also said is because the difficulty with using this practice is very often and I imagine maybe our listeners would count to those people who are so close to work that they would recognize Anton, what you just described with the house project is exactly what I’m having.

Anton Skornyakov: But, I’m doing some, there’s digitalization of processes at this company or something like that. The problem very often is the slicing part or changing the perspective of my, on the project. It requires a lot of authority. It’s very often people say, whoa but my manager or the big general manager won’t see it.

Anton Skornyakov: And so when it comes to your question of How can I start with it? Most people need a way to start with it without, addressing the whole thing. Without saying, without telling their main stakeholders we need to change the whole thing that we set up, the whole way we’re setting up our project.

Anton Skornyakov: Let’s imagine our project fails in every possible way. And when you think about the whole project from this high kind of altitude, from the high perspective, it forces you to stay and look at the forest and not at the individual trees. And when you start the conversation with the risks, you automatically focus on things that are valuable, because in the conversation, automatically, once you think about what if we’re building something, for example, digitalizing processes, I’ve just read this article a couple of days ago, about a long five year old, long digitalizing project that only tried to do the new, to use the new tool. After five years, the project was almost over and then found out no one is going to use it. It’s just, it doesn’t work. People try to use it and they didn’t work. So that would be a risk. What if our project fails the way that we create the best tool ever, but people refuse to use it?

Anton Skornyakov: Or the best tool ever works, but it does not allow for all of those workarounds that people actually need. What if we have a hard time communicating? What if process changes within the time that we are building the project? And once we are built, it’s not over. So all of those are just examples of risks.

Anton Skornyakov: Once you come up with those risks, there is an inherent value. In addressing them, and it is obvious to whoever the managing director of the project is, whoever the sponsor of a project is, to everyone, it’s valuable to not fail due to this risk.

Anton Skornyakov: And then the second question you ask yourself, you ask the group is, so what is the little thing that we can deliver in order to show that this risk won’t hurt us? Or that this risk isn’t there, that we can diffuse it. And suddenly, you talk about something very valuable to everyone, and what you end up having is already a little slice. And very often, it’s still not little. Very often, when you ask these questions, the slice is still going to be half a year of work.

Anton Skornyakov: And then you need some more strategies to break it down even smaller because half a year is still too long. We need to have something that is a couple of weeks long and how to get there, there is further strategies. But once you, when you start with the risk, you have everyone on your side.

Anton Skornyakov: And that’s the most important part of this conversation of this process to have everyone. Thinking along with you, especially your stakeholders, the people with the money, deciding how to run such a project.

Bill Raymond: I’m thinking about some of the experiences that I’ve had over the years. Very often we’re really good at logging what the risks are. You know, If you are doing anything of any kind of importance, you probably have something along the lines of a risk register or a laundry list of things that you need to be aware of and you are keeping that somewhere, it might even just be in your head, but it’s probably down somewhere and saying, for example we have to make sure that this thing that we’re developing is secure, for example, or this thing that we’re implementing won’t impact our line of business, whatever it might be, but I think sometimes what we have a tendency to do is just pad.

Bill Raymond: So, okay, we know that if we want to implement this thing, then we’re going to have to pass it through the lawyers. And so that means we have to collect everything and then give that to the lawyers. And we know that they always take a month to get back to us.

Bill Raymond: Really what you could do instead of just saying let’s pad our project with this extra month, what you could do instead is say, let’s incorporate the lawyers into this effort. Let’s run by them, what it is that we’re building on a regular basis, and let’s continue incorporating them into the process. So that at the end, when everything in its entirety goes through legal, it’s already been mostly taking care of. And it’s just a stamp.

Anton Skornyakov: We even, we even proved that something works. And I would love to even build up on, on this, because very often what an organization will do, they will realize all those risks, and then this will lead to more planning up front, right? So we may even think about consulting with the lawyers before we even start working.

Anton Skornyakov: Because we realize, oh, there is a legal risk. So it will take us one more month to plan for the whole thing. But the lawyers will realize there may be holes, and they will ask us to be more precise about our plan. And so we will be more precise about our plan.

Anton Skornyakov: And then the whole project runs, and unpredictable surprises happen, right? And we fail. And what people what organizations very often take from this is, oh, we didn’t analyze enough. If we just analyzed more, we would have seen this risk coming, right? Because that’s the tricky part about complex environments.

Anton Skornyakov: Afterwards, you can see what you didn’t know in the beginning, but when you are making a decision, you cannot know what is going to happen. And so what many organizations are actually doing, they are reacting by increasing the amount of analytic analysis, increasing the amount of preparation, increasing the amount of planning, which the more you plan, the harder it gets to adapt any plan afterwards because of the sunk cost, right?

Anton Skornyakov: You’ve invested so much time in negotiating and creating your customers to agreement. And yeah, absolutely. So the normal way in classical project to deal with risks and risk mitigation strategies very often. Exactly what makes them even harder to adapt risk when we do, when we use Scrum, when we use empiricism, actually, it’s all about empiricism, what we try to do is we identify a risk, and then we do something about it to prove this risk is not be the going to be there.

Anton Skornyakov: And if we fail, if we realize this risk is there, we can adapt as fast as possible to change our project in a way that it, it’s addresses this risk. So this way, We talk about, when we look at our topic, effective value delivery, that is exactly what is happening there. Instead of, creating a lot of waste, we are focusing on the big, the main risk at hand.

Anton Skornyakov: And bit by bit, reducing the risk, we’re also delivering the project and the most valuable parts of it.

Bill Raymond: There’s another part to this where if you’re not breaking it down and you’re not getting that immediate value delivery first of all, you end up with teams that aren’t quite as happy, but also sometimes that commitment to the plan, almost turns into like a personal failure if it doesn’t work out, as opposed to just saying, let’s break this down into small parts. If we see failure coming, we can shift, as opposed to, oh no, I, I agreed to this plan and this is a plan that I’m standing on this hill and I’m going to die on it.

Bill Raymond: And we often see a lot of projects fail just for that reason. And I love this concept of trying to get ahead of that by simply doing smaller amounts of work, slices of work more effectively, and then trying to make sure that you’re adjusting for those risks as you’re going.

Anton Skornyakov: And it’s, and maybe one, one thing to add to this, from my point of view, it’s the most overlooked. It’s actually quite a basic skill, and everyone I know who’s been practicing Agile methodologies for over 10 years, they are experts at it implicitly. But it’s not something that we talk or teach a lot.

Anton Skornyakov: We talk about increments and delivering them, but what we need to understand is when you go to, for example, an architect or any kind of expert, and you ask them what if you had to deliver something in two weeks? What is it going to be? Their answer is not going to be a vertical slice. Their answer is not going to be something that you can, live in or even try out as someone who is, who’s going to be living in the building.

Anton Skornyakov: Or when we talk about software, you, it’s, when you ask someone what is going to be the result of your work in two weeks, when you build a large project of two years, it’s not going to be something a user can actually take into their hands and give any kind of meaningful feedback to. So the normal way specialists breakdown work is automatically horizontal.

Anton Skornyakov: That’s just a matter of being a specialist for something. So it’s really a different skill. And once you wrap your head around this, it’s actually easy to start using and applying these techniques, but you need to really understand why it’s so important. So to add to what you’re saying.

Bill Raymond: I really like that. It’s one of those things where you do have to, if you will, rethink what it is that you’re trying to accomplish, right? And if you can focus on that, and if you can focus on the immediate, while knowing that there is a, an end state that will give you a lot more insight into what’s going on.

Bill Raymond: I was just thinking, yeah, I was just thinking about this as well with a big software development effort that we’re getting into. I was doing this with one of my clients and they were purchasing off-the-shelf software, but then they were customizing it. And that customization meant that they needed software developers to customize it. Not, change the look and feel a little bit, add all these extra features to it.

Bill Raymond: The laundry list of everything they wanted was just so big. So we started doing what you said, which is breaking it up into these smaller pieces, but then the bigger question came up was "why are we trying to recreate all of our existing processes and then make the tool work for us?"

Bill Raymond: And so there you get more value out of that because the end result isn’t: "oh, we’re not doing this in five apps and with paperwork and scanning. Now we’re going to all, it’s all going to be in this computer system." That might not be your objective. Your objective might be: "Yeah, we’re in one system but also, we have efficiency now, so that we can take on 25 percent more work."

Anton Skornyakov: Yeah. And this is a great example of how the, if you just focus on the software and take the processes for granted, you’re actually not doing the work. So what was, what is the most important part for me of your story is what is the value is the efficiency of our processes. So we have, I don’t know, a hundred of people using some software today and we want them to be using a new software tomorrow but be able to do 25 percent more things with them or 200 percent more things, actually.

Anton Skornyakov: Because, when you reduce manual writing, you can actually, it’s not just 25%. Very often we’re talking about orders of magnitude. One way I see so many digitalization projects fail that they focus on the software instead of focusing on the actual outcome, the more effective process, the more the process that can actually be analyzed afterwards, right?

Anton Skornyakov: Because once you have data, you may have some more insights and so forth. And once people start to break this down, so not the software, but the process, the human process part, there is suddenly an alignment and you were speaking about, you know, motivated teams, teams very often, at least teams that I work with, are in the end, not motivated by having built just software, seeing someone using it, right?

Anton Skornyakov: And if your goal is to just, why don’t you just do a horizontal task? Meaning why don’t you just change this API? So it answers to different calls. Yeah, I can do this and maybe I feel great because I’ve had to, crack a difficult technical problem doing this, but seeing people use a tool and suddenly, being more happy and their faces light up, there is nothing compared to that.

Bill Raymond: Yeah, isn’t that great? And especially when you see it long term, too, when you see the results of that now, granted, I’ve mostly been in software or technology type projects, even if I’m working with the business side of things, usually I’m there because there’s a technical component. That’s what I like to do is work with technical people and business executives and get alignment and do those types of things.

Bill Raymond: But there are times when. You just have to, if you will, get rid of the baggage. I was thinking specifically about a project that I did. Oh I’m going to say it was about 22 years ago. It was one of my first technology projects where we used some AI and machine learning technology to scan in some very advanced research documents that this organization had collected, over 100 years of it, and bring that into some modern solution.

Bill Raymond: The original solution was to create all these fields where you could search for the author or you could search for the, the scientist that was involved or some specific formula and we had, we’re getting so convoluted with the fields and everything that we needed to create it.

Bill Raymond: And we just stepped back and said, hold on a minute, why don’t we just give everyone a search bar and that’s all they get. If you want to type "author: " and put the author name and you can and the search engine will try to do that for you.

Bill Raymond: You know what? People didn’t use half the fields that we asked for, they were looking for keywords that the search engine automatically pulled together for them and they got the data they were looking for. And I would say that project, aside from getting all that 150 years worth of information into a computer, the actual project went from a year and a half estimate to just three months in full development and another three months of refinement.

Anton Skornyakov: Great. And that’s a great example of this, principle that I guess everyone knows if you just consider the amount of features you use in any digital tool like in your spreadsheet tool, Excel or Google Spreadsheet or word processor. If you think about the amount of buttons that there’s there.

Anton Skornyakov: and the amount of buttons you actually ever click. The amount of features you ever use is most, most often less than 10%, meaning If you’re just able to concentrate on those 10 percent that are valuable, what is the leverage to your productivity? It’s huge. And even if you are not perfect and you’re not able to identify those 10 percent right in the beginning, if you still end up identifying the 20%, it’s still great.

Anton Skornyakov: It’s still you know, 20 percent of work for, I don’t know, the Pareto principle says 80 percent of the value, right? So it’s a four, it’s a quadruple impact. And that’s also something I’ve experienced in many projects that, that deal with, unpredictable things. Because whenever you are repeating something and doing something for the second, third or fourth time, you already know what the valuable pieces are and you can just leave out the others.

Anton Skornyakov: But if you do something unique for the first time, you always don’t know. You don’t know what the 10 or 20 percents are. And you will only be able to if you actually break it down in those vertical parts. And the funny thing is you cannot say, for example, oh, why don’t we do this 10 percent of database development that is useful and leave out the other 90%.

Anton Skornyakov: It doesn’t work. It’s just not going to work, right? So you can only use the Pareto rule to those vertical slices. But what if you only have one or two deliveries? There’s nothing you can prioritize, right? So slicing your work. Your large project into small parts actually gives you those units that you can prioritize.

Anton Skornyakov: It gives you those items on the list that you can decide to move up or throw away. And most projects just don’t have them. They don’t have those items that they could throw away.

Bill Raymond: This has been a great conversation about slicing work. You also have some good non-software development types of stories that you’ve shared.

Bill Raymond: Would you mind sharing one with our listeners?

Anton Skornyakov: Thank you. Because, yeah. And my experience is often that hearing a story that is not happening in this abstract software world, it just eases understanding of a lot of those abstract ideas.

[00:25:56] Real-world example: Housing project

Anton Skornyakov: So one of my clients is a public entity and their job is to house people. Especially people who do not have a house, do not have a home, homeless people and refugees and people who, who need to be taken care of.

Anton Skornyakov: And this is a general normal government process, so there is a lot of things that happen, tens of thousands of times in the same way. However, they have to deal with unpredictable things, because sometimes, for example, when war breaks out there are suddenly way more refugees than there were before.

Anton Skornyakov: And their ability to be flexible to this kind of demands isn’t simple. And sometimes they try out new projects. For example, they had this idea, they needed a lot of new new space for homeless people, and the standard way to deal with this when there is a sudden urge, a sudden need is to create containers, like places where people would live, but this is not great conditions.

Anton Skornyakov: And the idea was that since there are already existing buildings, and there are already people living in there, what if some of these people would welcome new refugees into their homes? Because there is the idea, for example, that if a single mother living with her kid in a flat is welcoming another single mother with a kid in her flat, they may even help each other by taking care of the kids while the other person is working.

Anton Skornyakov: They both would have fewer space, but if there is still enough space for them, they may benefit more from having each other than that they would lose out on the amount of space, right? So this is a risky project, but why not? So they would try it. And normally the way this would work in a government entity is that there would be a lot of planning where architects, facility managers, legal people would be involved.

Anton Skornyakov: At some point there would be an agreement and then they would roll it out and then it would find out, does it work or does it not? But these guys, they tried it differently. So what they tried was basically, they said how can we find out within just a week or two if this is a good idea at all?

Anton Skornyakov: And they take, taken a basically cross functional team like five people for someone who understands how to manage the facility, legal, architect, and some other disciplines that are typically involved. And they went basically to one building and tried to find space for five new people within an existing building.

Anton Skornyakov: where they’re with 100 flats or so. And after, after this one week, they were not successful all the time. They were successful only with one person. But they were already able to verify that their idea did not work directly. So some single mothers didn’t want to welcome anyone in. However, some elderly people were actually open to welcome other elderly people.

Anton Skornyakov: So next week, they tried this in the second building, and it worked much better. And with time, they were basically able to create some guidelines. If we want to try out to settle new people within new buildings, we have this categories of people who can live there, they have this minimal requirements, in this and this cases, this may work, and this approach may work, and they have to sign this kind of paper.

Anton Skornyakov: And all of this was developed kind of building by building. What you see there is a tremendous ability of adapt to what they learn from each of, from each vertical slice actually that they deliver every week and you have automatically the need for the cross functional team because otherwise you won’t, you wouldn’t be able. And you can see from the story the patterns that you can find also in the book of how to slice work.

Anton Skornyakov: For example, first If you want to slice it vertically, the first and greatest source of slicing is try to find a very narrow focus group or very narrow target group that you would address first. So if you digitalize processes for the whole agency, try to figure out what are some small groups of people that have very narrow needs that if you address them first, you can still, learn a lot from them.

Anton Skornyakov: That’s very often a useful thing. Another thing that they use is basically reduce the impact, because sometimes you cannot, get people to already live within, move into a new building within a week, but you can have them sign agreements that they want people to live in.

Anton Skornyakov: So they don’t get the full impact that they want to have, but they get already half of it, right? Before people move in somewhere, some people have to sign things. So those are some patterns that maybe our listeners can take away from this.

Bill Raymond: I love that, and, one of the things that you talked about at the beginning of this podcast was always focus on the value and think ahead to what you are trying to accomplish. They’re not trying to accomplish building homes. They’re trying to accomplish getting people into homes. And if you think about it from that broader perspective, that allows for experimentation and trying out new things as opposed to just building homes. It’s a great example.

Bill Raymond: As we’re wrapping up on the podcast, our listeners here might be thinking they want to use this concept of slicing their work. What are some of the things that someone could just go and start doing right away to, to start taking this concept and working through it.

Anton Skornyakov: So I think if you start with this with risk mapping, if you start thinking about your own project and what would be the ways it could fail and identify those risks, prioritize them. What is, what are some risks that are realistic? And then thinking about little results that could prove that the risk isn’t there.

Anton Skornyakov: That’s a great way to do it. Another idea could be just to look into what are the parts of my project that I’m most unfamiliar with or the or that most involve changing people’s behaviors. This is one typical source of unpredictability. Whenever I want to change people behavior, they won’t behave the way I want them. Or look for areas where there is competition.

Anton Skornyakov: If you do anything with business, there is always competition. How can someone outsmart me? How can someone adapt in the way that I don’t want them to? So look for those parts and try to figure out what are some small things that we can deliver that prove that, someone won’t unsmart us or someone will behave in the way that we want.

Anton Skornyakov: So those are typically the first steps to go. And if what you end up having as a result is still too big, narrow down the group. You can narrow it down even to five people or like, how can you make it so small that you can get something viable within a week or two?

Anton Skornyakov: That’s very often possible.

[00:32:18] Using the podcast as an example

Bill Raymond: Yeah, that’s really good insight there. And, I can definitely tell you when I started this podcast, I had this big plan for how I was going to do it. And I can tell you that most of what I planned never happened.

Bill Raymond: I can tell you that I never expected all these tools to become available for podcasters to make it so easy to release a podcast now.

Bill Raymond: I was thinking I’m going to have a team of three people doing this and, how we’re going to set up a website and all of these things, and you know what it came down to? Start recording the podcast and see what happens.

Bill Raymond: Just see what happens, see what the conversations look like. And if it’s not working out, then figure out how it’s going to work out better. But you learn that over time and, I guess I’ve taken on a little bit of what you refer to as slicing in order to accomplish that.

Bill Raymond: We built a website over time. We got our minimal viable product, which was just a place where we could post the podcast and then it turned into an actual website where people could see the transcripts and then we’re doing video now but all of those things can happen over a period of time and you can start delivering value immediately.

Anton Skornyakov: And if I can add one thing, which like in our conversation about it, before the before the podcast what is also the key thing of something that you do and something that I want our listeners to take out of it is you actually get the feedback. So you are in contact with your listeners, which if you weren’t, you could do all of those things that you just described, but we wouldn’t know.

Anton Skornyakov: Does it work or does it not? Maybe you would see some numbers of how many people have listened to something, but you wouldn’t know. Why? Why was this podcast good or why wasn’t it good? So this listening, and it’s something I know you do, Bill is maybe, this is the, maybe the most courageous part as well of all of this, because this is the moment when you open up to potentially negative feedback but can also get this amazing gift of positive feedback and extra motivation for why it’s worth doing what you’re doing.

Bill Raymond: Yeah. Because it can be negative sometimes I have received negative feedback about the podcast, but if I take a look at that as a gift that says, you know what, I can actually turn that around. I can do something differently and just take that on.

Bill Raymond: And I don’t think that there’s a big problem with that. I got a lot of grief because I did not have video for a long time, and I had promised it last year in January, and it didn’t happen until the end of 2023. But, I knew that it was there and I was hearing the feedback and people that are listening to the podcast now might now be watching the podcast, and they’re excited about that. I bit off what I could chew, when I could chew it off, and made sure that it was done well, and not just something that we slapped together. And it took a lot of steps to get there. But some things people saw, some things people didn’t, but it happened.

Bill Raymond: And also, in my mind, it happened in record time because there was a lot more that went on in order to properly produce the podcast so that we knew that we could deliver something of quality to our listeners.

[00:35:31] Conclusion and how to contact Anton Skornyakov

Bill Raymond: But before we wrap up, Anton Skornyakov, I am really happy to have had you on the podcast. But before we wrap up, how might people be able to reach out to you if they want to continue this conversation?

Anton Skornyakov: you can contact me and find everything out all about the book at https://slicingwork.com. Just go there, it’s a simple website. You will find a contact form and so forth.

Bill Raymond: Yep. And your book there is there as well, The Art of Slicing Work. I’ll make sure that website and the book title is on the https://agileinaction.com website. The full transcriptions are always there. And of course, if you are watching the podcast in YouTube, then just go down to the description and you’ll find links to all of that there as well.

Bill Raymond: Anton, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Anton Skornyakov: Thank you. This was a conversation, Bill.

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