Howto… Keep Value Traceability in Lean Design

In Software, we are very proud of traceability. If there is a bug, we know which test scenario it corresponds, we know which requirement, the history of the document, the person that made some changes…

One traceability we consider less is “Value Traceability”. What is the outcome of a feature, piece of code or document?

First thing to do is to ensure the whole team has a shared Vision. Why are we doing this product?

Three stonecutters who don’t share the same Vision

This is the story of the three stonecutters that Mary Poppendieck tells:


Our first step is to understand that we are building a cathedral. Second step is to keep Traceability between the Cathedral (Value, Goal, Outcome) and the stone (your feature, piece of code, documentation).

First, Share the Vision of the Cathedral with an Impact Mapping

Since few weeks, to define the Cathedral I use Impact Mapping tool from Gojko Adzic. It’s a simple MindMap representation of “Why, Who, How” we are doing a product. It’s also a good way to keep the link with the “What” (features of a product).


I like to start defining the Vision like that:
Facilitator: Remind me, what is the Goal of the Goal of your project
Product Manager: Earn some money, be the best, … (sometimes some Goals linked to outcomes for the company)
Facilitator (I draw money, being the best, …): Ok, those are high level goals, let’s be more specific. What are the objectives to reach this goal?
Product Manager: Well, first we need to increase our Customer quality of service, reduce the time to deliver the product, … (you can see some words like “increase”, “reduce”)
Facilitator (I draw arrows in a MindMap style between Goal and Objectives)

For the “Why” part of the Mapping, I like to have some specific, measurable objectives. After the “Why” part, you’ll list all the Actors and the Processes to achieve those objectives. Your result will look like this example:


Next step: Keep the end to end Traceability with your Features

Then, you can prioritize your Objectives and take Actors and Processes to create a Story Mapping. Since the features are linked to Activities which are linked to a Process, you keep a “Value Traceability”. During your workshop, you’ll go back and forth from you “Goal of the Goal” to a low level “Feature or User Story” in your Story Mapping.


That’s the first part of “See the Whole”. Next step is finding Tradeoffs on this whole chain to be able to define a Roadmap and MVPs.

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