A different approach to backlog mapping
We threw out the idea of a linear backlog of stories because it felt like we were designing features based on untested assumptions.
Everything we do now is totally focused on the user. We start with personas and write user goals on green cards - basically the outcome a user wants to achieve by performing some task. We then identify the 'red route' through the product for the key user, i.e. the journey that encapsulates the primary value proposition. We aim to create an mvp around this experience.
The piece of paper top right is a product charter - our approach to chartering mixed Lean Startup stuff with Toyota's A3 technique.
We then start mapping the experience around the red route. It starts out a little like a site map sketched on a white board. The map evolves iteratively as we build out features and move into exploring new areas. As we go we place the user goals over the map so we can see what feature journeys are satisfying what goals. As we deliver iterative versions of features (see Jeff Patton's view on iteration) we place red dots on the green cards. We also tag the map with green post-its notes that show how much money has been spent in that area. The red dots on the green post-its help the customer see where he's invested and how much he's spent. It helps him decide whether to go deep on a feature or broad on the product every week.
We also place sketches, wireframes or screenshots over the map to better visualize the emerging product experience on the map.
When a space is available on our kanban board we call a timeout to do some planning. We stand around the map with the customer and decide where to go next. Only at this point do we write a story card to place on the kanban board. This allows us to run with very small queues and operate will minimal planning waste while maintaining visibility of the 'big picture' from the user perspective.
The piece of paper top right is the product charter. Our approach to chartering combines the Lean Startup philosophy with Toyota's A3 technique.