My experiences over the last 20+ years have helped define my perspective on what successful product development means and I often think about how these are relevant today.
I worked with an organisation who struggled to make an impact with their product. They had difficulties in shipping updates and believed that their teams could deliver ‘faster’. They decided to adopt an Agile framework in an attempt to solve these (and other problems). Implementing this Prescriptive Agile framework — i.e. a method followed ‘by the book’ — became paramount. Instead of trying to solve their actual problems, their decisions and actions became counterproductive. For example, they decided to:
- enforce the same ways of working across all teams
- try to measure and track developer efficiency as a percentage
- make assessments on the relative performance for their product teams
They became fixated by the idea that the process was the problem rather than what mattered: their customers.
Organisations today risk falling into the same trap of trying to solve systemic issues by ‘fixing’ their process in isolation. If you are thinking about adopting a Prescriptive Agile method ‘by the book’, please stop for a moment. You risk wasting valuable time & money because you are focusing on the wrong problem. Instead, spend time helping your organisation experiment with ideas such as:
- releasing smaller, more measurable increments to help improve understanding on difficult problems
- using modular patterns that work at the individual and team-level
- focusing on creating outcomes rather than churning out features
And if you can’t do this? Well, good news: you’ve just discovered a real problem to fix.