How does agile focus people’s efforts on the most valuable work?
When we speak about agile, we are referring to the agile values and agile principles as defined in the agile manifesto. A philosophy and approach to product development, specifically for software back in 2001, but now includes all forms of product development and project management.
Most of the agile frameworks are designed to help organizations to focus on what is most important.
That means you need to decide what you are not going to build, not going to invest time and effort into, and are not going to dedicate money and resources to creating.
That can be tough.
Trying to do everything and keep everyone happy leads to disappointment and failure. Nobody is happy. Nobody is satisfied. So, there’s no point in trying to serve everyone.
- You have to decide what you are going to say no to.
- You have to decide what you are going to invest in.
- You have to decide what you are going to focus on.
- You have to decide what metrics matter and how you are going to measure success.
Focus on what you are going to achieve this quarter, maybe even this year.
Try to pick some tangible outcomes that will demonstrate that you are achieving your goals and the direction of travel for the organization is a worthy, profitable, and valuable pursuit.
Identify what you are going to commit to for the next 2, 4, and 6 months.
Treat it as a rallying cry. A call to everyone in the organization to commit to the goals and objectives and dig deep to make those a reality. Something that truly inspires the team to deliver their best work.
In scrum, we have something known as a product backlog. All the work items that are planned to build a successful, valuable product for customers. Sometimes, you could have hundreds of items on that backlog and you want to focus on doing the most valuable work first.
So, go and ask the customer.
Ask her what she wants, what she needs, and what is going to have the greatest impact on their business and environment. Sure, sometimes customers don’t know exactly what they want, but it is a great starting point to achieve laser focus on value delivery.
Build the product or feature that they feel is most necessary for their success. Solve the most compelling problem in their world. Give it to them, get their feedback, and then ask them what the next most important thing will be.
Rinse and repeat.
If all you do is focus on delivering the most valuable outcome to your customers, you will be doing valuable work that pays dividends on all fronts. Sure, you have the opportunity to experiment and innovate down the line, but for now, you just want to focus on doing the most valuable work and receiving validation from your customers and markets that you are indeed creating a centre of excellence in your product development teams.
So, agile is about achieving valuable outcomes, about setting a great direction of travel for the product and the organization, and it is about intense focus on the things that matter most.
Agile helps you narrow down your options and decide what you are not going to invest time, money, and effort into. It helps you decide what your priorities are going to be. Priorities for the next sprint, the next quarter, and the next year.
This is one of the reasons why agile has become so popular over the past 2 decades, especially when navigating uncertainty and complexity.
About John Coleman
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