Like I mentioned in my last post, the problem we think most execs are trying to solve with agile (are we building the right product), isn’t the problem they are actually trying to solve with agile. Walking into a room of senior vice presidents talking about empowering teams, enabling them to inspect and adapt, and figuring out requirements as they go doesn’t always resonate.
In fact… in my experience… it doesn’t often resonate.
Well then… if empowering teams, inspecting and adapting, and handling emerging requirements isn’t the problem execs are trying to solve… what exactly *is* the problem they are trying to solve. Rather than guess, I’ve gotten in the habit of asking them. Most senior leadership teams will say something like this…
- We are constantly blowing past commitments, we need a way to fix that and do what we say we are going to do.
- We are putting poor quality products into market, we think agile can help.
- We need more transparency into what is going on.
- We need more visibility into the progress we are really making on the product
- We need to get products into market faster.
- We don’t communicate very well, I hear agile can help us fix that.
- It costs too much to deliver software, we want to use agile as a way to lower the cost to product the product.
- We have way too much to do and not enough resources to get all the work done.
- Support work is constantly interrupting new product development
Much less frequently, we’ll hear answers like the following…
- We are trying to better understand our market and are putting out the wrong products
- We deliver on time, on cost, and on budget but the product wasn’t successful in market.
- We are looking for better ways of incorporating customer feedback in real time.
- We are looking for ways to continuously improve our processes
- We want to help people be more empowered to make decisions.
It’s not that this second group of answers aren’t important… it’s not that they never come up… it’s just that when they do, they are often secondary concerns. They are derivatives of first order concerns. Sure… execs want to take more feedback from customers, build the right products, engage their people, and continuously improve; but that’s not where they are bleeding.
If I could summarize the three most important challenges execs face…at least the execs that call us… they are predictability, quality, and early return on investment. The interesting thing about these answers is that, many of the things we are trying to sell with agile directly compete with the goals of the executive team… especially when it comes to predictable outcomes. Quite often, we are selling the wrong stuff.
In my next post we are going to talk about the language we use in agile and how to begin to untangle some of the preconceptions and myths people are carrying around about how to deploy these methods. There is no right or wrong here… just getting explicit about what problems you are trying to solve and making sure we are choosing the right practices to help us get there.
Read the previous post, Are We Solving The Right Problem?
Read the next post, Is Your Business Model A Good Fit For Agile?