Can You Hear It?

WRITTEN BY Rick Austin

A few nights ago we were watching The Voice. Every few minutes and seconds both audio and video would pause. The inability to hear feedback from the coaches or understand the context of their comments because we couldn’t hear the full song being performed was very frustrating. We eventually just stopped watching.

This made me think about challenges when delivery teams do not have a clear backlog. I often work with organizations that may have a number of agile delivery teams but they are unable to provide a context for the work to be done and even worse, provide clear detail for backlog items.

Often the product owner function isn’t scaleable in these organizations which creates a constraint. It has been said that the number one reason why agile teams fail are the lack of backlog. I would agree. The other observation is even though they know they can’t provide clarity in the backlog, they continue to ask those teams to delivery working tested software, “we have these teams so we have to keep them busy!”

The number one reason why agile teams fail are the lack of backlog.

It is fascinating how often this is seen. I worked with an organization that had a number of delivery teams but they could not provide sufficient requirements details for those teams. Regardless, they continued to have those teams deliver working tested software. What they found was that 50% of the work being done had to be reworked and numerous quality issues. The teams were frustrated as well. Does that seem like an effective approach?

I would argue they would be better off reducing the number of delivery teams and using that capacity to build out a strong product owner team. The product owner team will then be focused on providing clarity in the backlog. This enables the delivery teams to have context and the details necessary for them to deliver working tested software with dramatically reduced rework, improvements in team engagement, and value delivered with higher quality.

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