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Outcomes Over Being Busy

Rick Austin Principal Consultant
Reading: Outcomes Over Being Busy

How often have you asked friends or co-workers how they where doing and they respond that they have way too much on their plate and feel like they are constantly juggling things?

I often feel the same way. When I look the constant channels of input – email, texts, phone calls – it is no wonder that we’re drowning. It is clear that we have plenty of opportunities to stay busy, plenty to keep us busy.

But, is staying busy the goal? I think not. There is nothing wrong with staying busy but what we should be after are clear outcomes.

As I work with software development organizations, I’ve yet to find teams that aren’t super busy. But is busy good enough?

The Importance of a Well-Defined Backlog

A core belief at LeadingAgile is that there must be clarity in the backlog – clarity on what we are asking our teams to deliver. Clarity in the backlog ensures that are teams are focused on the right outcomes.

I’ve seen situations where organization’s are super focused on keeping their teams busy but with a lack of clarity in the backlog. Even so, the organization feels they must keep the teams busy regardless of the state of the backlog. Even in the absence of a clear backlog, the teams forge ahead doing work with non-ready requirements. When our teams stay busy in this situation they end up filling in the blanks. They are not necessarily building what is needed to meet the needs of the business. I’ve seen situations where these busy teams end up reworking 50% of what they have completed, if not more! Yes, teams are staying busy…

There are many reasons why this might be the case and often I see that there isn’t sufficient resources involved with backlog refinement or they are refining requirements well past the last responsible moment. Any investment we can make in providing clarity in the backlog pays huge dividends. We have less rework, we have faster feedback, and reduced waste in delivering working tested software. It has been said that the number one reason agile teams fail is the lack of a well-defined backlog. I would agree and an early focus with any agile transformation is to invest in providing clarity in the backlog.

Yes, we are busy, but let’s make sure we are focused on clear outcomes.

Next 5S for Software Teams

Comments (2)

  1. Tom Hussey

    “Yes, we are busy, but let’s make sure we are focused on clear outcomes.”

    Yes, totally agree. Also, another area where there’s a lack of clarity is an open an honest acknowledgement of the current state (of technical debt) which often gets hidden amidst all of the project politics, etc.

    • Rick Austin

      Agree, Tom. I find that outcomes should also be inclusive of things such as technical debt. Technical debt and technical roadmaps should always be tied to business outcomes. I think many development organizations often fail to frame these types of conversations from a business value or outcome perspective.


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