Syllabus

LAPM is a one-semester course, taught in the form of 13 three-hour weekly classes, of which typically four are guest lectures. Eight of the nine remaining classes are detailed below. The final class is for final project presentations.

Unit 1. Introduction to the Product Lifecycle.

In our first class, we’ll discuss the various characteristics and types of products, paying particular attention to the product lifecycle. We’ll introduce the idea of a business model, and discuss the various risks that products might face in different parts of the product lifecycle. We’ll review a brief history of project and product management, and discuss the differences between the two.

Background study

Slides

Assignment

Write a 500 word essay on the difference between the lean/agile paradigm for product development and the traditional project management process.

Unit 2 - Introduction to Agile Software Development

In this class we’ll present the concepts at the heart of the agile approach to software development, using Scrum and Kanban as our guides. We’ll learn about iterative and incremental development, the various activities that need to be performed in the iterative model, and the key roles found in agile teams.

Background study:

Class exercise

Elisabeth Hendrickson’s WordCount simulation

Assignment

Write a 500 word essay reflecting on your experience with the WordCount exercise in class, and how agile development concepts were able to improve your team’s ability to release features and satisfy customers.

Some guide questions that can help frame your response (no need to respond to all):

Optional supplementary reading for assignment:

Unit 3. Getting to Know Your Users

This class will introduce the idea of a scientific approach to product development. We’ll focus on how to make sure we build products customers love, starting with how to frame hypotheses and perform user research.

Background study:

Slides

Further reading

Assignment

For this assignment, you’ll need to come up with an idea for a business. This could be for a project that you’re currently working on, or you can make up a business idea of your own.

For this assignment, complete the following exercises by filling out this template.

  1. Write a brief problem statement for your product (<100 words).
  2. Create a proto-persona for your product.
  3. Complete an empathy map for your proto-persona (the linked canvas has more detail than the template).
  4. Complete a value proposition canvas for your persona (the linked canvas has more detail than the template).
  5. Complete a business model canvas for your product (the linked canvas has more detail than the template).
  6. Fill out a Business Assumptions Worksheet for your product.

Unit 4 - An Experimental Approach to Product Development

This class will present hypothesis-driven development, the cutting-edge paradigm for evolving validated products. We’ll dive into how to frame hypotheses, design experiments, and use A/B testing to gather data to prove or disprove our ideas.

Background study:

Slides

Further reading

Assignment

Design an experiment to validate one of the key product hypotheses for your group project, using the template from today’s class. Describe your experiment, including:

Unit 5 - Planning Releases

Despite rumours to the contrary, there are planning activities in the agile model. In this class we’ll discuss how to plan releases, and present story mapping and impact mapping as effective tools for design, ideation and planning.

Background study

Slides

Further reading

Assignment

Create a user story map for one of the personas you created in your Unit 3 assignment. If you were excused from that assignment, feel free to use a project you’re working on this semester and create a persona to use in this assignment.

Identify three activities the chosen persona might want to carry out with your software, and map out the activities, backbone, and tasks like we discussed this week in class. Expect to spend about an hour on this, not including reading the resources. You may use a tool of your choice to turn this in, such as turning in a PDF document or a URL to an online tool such as stickies.io or Trello (If using Trello, please add the course TA to your board.)

Please leverage the following resources (in addition to the readings for this week) in creating your user story map:

Unit 6. Economic Frameworks for Portfolio and Product Management.

This class presents the idea of using economic frameworks for portfolio and project management. We’ll begin with an overview of the three horizons model, and discuss the economic models that are suitable in each horizon. We’ll then discuss and experiment with economic tools that can be applied in each horizon, including the Value of Information, Monte Carlo and Cost of Delay.

Background study:

Slides

Further reading

Assignment

Decision tree problem set

Unit 7 - Managing Teams

This class will discuss how to build effective product development teams. We’ll discuss the lifecycle of teams, recruiting, effective line management including how to motivate and develop your people, and practice conflict resolution techniques. We’ll also cover what is expected of a product manager, including the skills, responsibilities and key activities product managers must perform.

Background study

Slides

Further reading

Assignment

Choose one of Deming’s 14 points for management, and write a 500 word short essay on its implications for product management.

Unit 8 - Managing Work

Scrum and Kanban are frameworks designed to help manage work and perform process improvement at the team level. In this class we will explore Scrum, Kanban, and what XP has to say about work management. We’ll discuss the key practices involved in applying these frameworks, the differences between them, and which situations to use them in.

Background Study

Slides

Further Reading

Assignment

Choose a principle from the Agile Manifesto, and a practice from one of the agile frameworks we’ve studied (Scrum, Kanban, and XP) and write a 500 word short essay on how the practice helps achieve the principle. Make sure you discuss the contexts in which the practice can work best, as well as a failure mode.

Unit 9 - Case Study: Continuous Improvement

At heart, Lean is about working to create resilient, adaptive organizations. Crucially, the work of getting better is never done. In this class we’ll try out techniques for continuous improvement from the Lean management philosophy including retrospectives and the improvement kata, and discuss how to apply them in the context of product development.

Background Study:

Guide questions for the case study:

Slides

Further reading:

Assignment

Write a 500 word short essay. Choose one of the following titles: