How to make Elephant Carpaccio: 3 tips to get you going

balancing-act-elephant1Elephant carpaccio. The first first time I heard this expression, I was laughing out loud. Please don’t start thinking about parmesan and pine nuts as this is a different kind of carpaccio!

Have you ever stood at the beginning of a huge project? So huge that you had no clue where to start and how to get to the end? I remember very well my master thesis, it scared the hell out of me! The idea behind “Elephant Carpaccio” is that even something as large and humongous as an elephant can be cut into infinitely thin slices, as thin as carpaccio. So it’s a methodology.
For me, this is one of most complex and yet crucial aspects of agile working.

How to slice a full fledged product into small enough pieces (user stories) that fit in a single sprint? And how to avoid spending a while designing, then another while testing. That way, before you know it, you end up with a product you do not actually need. It would have taken you so long figuring out what to make and how to make it, that your customer needs have changed in the meantime or your competition has beaten you …classic waterfall trap! There is no magical solution. However, the perseverance to stick to disciplined slicing of the project into small functional slices will eventually pay off. To get you going, I’ve got a couple of tips that helped me a lot in this journey!

How to make Elephant Carpaccio: 3 tips to get you going

  1. Always define what is your minimal viable product and stick to that. For example, let’s assume I want to make cup cakes with icing in the shape of Pocopyo (my little boy is a huge fan of this little blue man POCOYO, I actually had to make lots of them for his birthday last month). I can start by mixing all the ingredients for both the cup cake and the icing at once. Only to find out my little man has changed his mind and wants Aladdin on top… (true story). Instead, what if I would start with focusing only on the cup cake. This is my simple first minimal viable product. And when I am done for the next part, I go back to my customer (or child) and build on this first increment.
  2. Invest time and effort into building small chunks of functionality, as small as you can. This enables you to deliver every single sprint a piece of working software. These small chunks can however be dependent on other chunks of software to be delivered. That doesn’t mean you can not finish the first one though! Put it technically live without offering half baked functionality to your customer.
  3. Be disciplined and persevere! Much like loosing weight, you have to be strict and focus on the goal. For a squad or scrum team, it requires discipline and commitment to the method. You will experience that when you do, the benefit is enormous. One of my proudest moments at work was when my team actually adopted this method and I didn’t have to steer them towards the carpaccio anymore, they cut it themselves.

Needless to say by the way, I have no appetite for elephants what so ever and would never do anything to harm such a beautiful animal. I do like a good beef/salmon/tuna carpaccio but hee, that’s not a crime. That is it for now folks!

I am very curious about your hints and tips on slicing MVP’s! What helped you and your teams?



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