[QCon 2019] Navigating Complexity – High-performance discovery teams

Conal Scanlon

For other QCon blog posts, see QCon live blog table of contents

Discovery vs Delivery

  • Delivery: completing lots of tickets, points completed, happy team
  • Discovery – different goals
  • Two types of work; two different ways of thinking
  • Dual track agile – discovery is for learning. Inputs into delivery track.
  • Discovery will happen whether planning to do it or not. ex: bug report
  • Can change % of tie on discovery vs delivery over phase in project


  • Welsh word
  • Complex/Chaotic/Complicated/Obvious
  • Also box in middle for when don’t know which in.
  • Complicated – can use knowledge to see what to do

Key areas of discovery work

  • Maximize learning – accelerate discovery, MPVs
    • Want to encounter problems as quickly as possible
    • Learning is messy and doesn’t easily fit Scrum process
    • MVP goal – maximize learning while minimizing risk and investment
    • MVPs can be paper prototype or a single use case
  • Better ideas – idea flow, collective intelligence
    • Levels: Psychology safety, dependability, structure & clarity, meaning, impact
    • Validate with people outside team
    • Closer relationships with specific customers so can see reaction as progress
  • Alignment – OKRs, Briefs, Roadmap
    • OKR = objective and key results
    • Think about where want to go and how get there
    • Should understand why vs an aspirational goal
    • Alignment and autonomy are orthogonal
    • Product brief – map from strategic level to feature going to build. It is not a requirements or architectural doc
    • Roadmap – show on larger ranges of time
  • Metrics – 3 levels, correct category (delivery vs discovery)
    • Business, product and engagement metrics.

My impression

I like that he provided an outline with the key points up front. The OKR section was detailed with examples. I like that there were book references/recommendations. And it was certainly interesting. I think I expected it to be about something else, but I’m glad I came. I would have liked more on examples of discovery projects specifically.

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