For you guys that have been following this blog a while, you know that I am interested in how we become agile in larger, more complex enterprises. Inevitably when I am out doing one of my talks, I’ll get the question: How do I convince my upper management that this whole agile thing is a good idea. My advice… you don’t. My bet is that your upper management doesn’t care at all if you are able to adopt agile. When our play is how to adopt agile… we are focusing on the wrong things.
But, if management doesn’t care about adopting agile, what do they care about?
I’d bet your management cares that you can’t get any working product out the door. I bet they care that you are consistently late and over budget. I bet they care your product has terrible quality and doesn’t satisfy the needs needs of your most important customers. I would bet your upper management would like to be able to change their minds, easily figure out how to insert new projects into the queue, and have some reliable understanding of what products they can deliver to market over the next six months.
Going agile is only relevant to upper management to the extent that you can map your proposed changes to value that is going to drive business outcomes. These may not be the outcomes that you care about… they have to be the outcomes that your manager cares about. We have to use language that is relevant to them and helps them meet their goals. So when I get asked how to convince a manager to let the team go agile… my advice is try and understand how your management team defines success and suggest practices that are going to help them get there.
Unless they can map investment in agile to a specific business outcome, and ultimately financial return, you are fighting a losing battle.