Organizations in every industry are facing new challenges daily. New competitors in the market space are producing products at a much faster pace and at lower costs. Time to market has shifted from a few years to a few months. Customer brand loyalty is shrinking. Technology is changing at a rapid pace. The market is growing more and more complex. More and more companies are turning to Agile as the solution.
Why Agile? This is a question I hear a lot. And I hear a variety of answers. One primary reason for “why Agile?” is sensing and responding to change. You have to be open to the idea that from the time an item was requested until the time it is delivered, lots of changes have occurred, even in short time frames. And that’s ok. We don’t know all the bits and pieces when we conjure up an idea or receive a request. We can’t read the future (at least I can’t). What we can do is actively seek out and respond to feedback.
Think of it like this. Have you ever played darts? Many of you have. What about playing darts blindfolded? (This, I am not recommending.) Think about throwing a dart at a dart board you can’t see. How do you know if you hit the target? Continuing to throw darts without knowing whether you hit the target is like establishing metrics or building software or creating a marketing campaign and never following up and getting feedback to determine if you actually hit the target. Now, what if someone moved the dart board? You are still blindly throwing darts but no closer to hitting the bullseye or even the board.
For some organizations, delivering a customer solution is like playing darts blindfolded. You might hit something (or someone) but not the intended target. The target may have moved while we are still trying to fulfill the original request. We are still randomly throwing darts at something as fast as we can because, for many, that is more efficient than slowing down and taking time to evaluate if we are on the preferred trajectory. To do differently evokes the dreaded change request so many are familiar with using the traditional plan driven or waterfall delivery approach.
Delivering a solution to a customer requires the same deliberate calculations and adjustments as playing darts. Whether using Scrum or Kanban or any other flavor of delivery, taking a moment to get feedback is crucial. For Scrum, this primarily takes place in the Sprint Review, for Kanban, the Delivery Planning meeting. The stakeholders, the team and any others with a vested interest in the deliverable review what was completed and encourage feedback. Does this solve the need? Are the next items up the most important? Have the market conditions changed? Is this still the highest priority? Answers to these questions allow the team to make the informed calculations of what work to do next.
So, take your blindfold off. Recognize that in a complex space, the environment is changing. Being able to sense and respond to these changes is critical. Companies that do it well can seize a strong competitive advantage. Companies that don’t? They become books, case studies or articles about companies that no longer exist or have lost significant market share. Lack of awareness of changing circumstances results in outdated or unneeded solutions, things that might look pretty sitting on the shelf but no one buys. Why? The competitor seized the market by constantly seeking input from customers and users about what the real problems are and building a solution for that.
The target is moving. Don’t get left behind or worse, become obsolete. Remove your blindfold. Embrace an agile mindset. Adjust your aim so you are hitting the right target.