Is It Worth It? Using a Business Value Model to Guide Decisions – Kent McDonald
Monday at Agile 2012 started off with the opportunity for me to present my session Is It Worth It? Using a Business Value Model to Guide Decisions. I’d like to start off by thanking everyone that attended the session, provided all the “free consulting” on what my wife should do with her business, and asked all the great questions.
There were a couple of questions that came up that I thought I would share with you, because they raise important points regarding business value.
Question 1: (Asked about halfway through the session) Everything you have talked about so far applies to every project. Where’s the specific focus on Agile?
Yes, every project, regardless of approach, should be vetted using the guiding questions I discussed in the presentation leading to the ultimate question “is it worth it?”. Just because we are using agile does not mean we ignore those common sense practices that should precede all projects. In fact I have given this talk at conferences that are not specifically focused on agile (primarily for a business analyst audience). I submitted it to Agile 2012 because these ideas represent the first step in delivering business value, which is having a conversation to determine whether the project or product is capable of delivering business value. It also reinforces the extremely important idea that we still need to know what problem we are trying to solve when using agile. If we start an agile approach without understanding the problem, we will just delivering bits of an unnecessary solution sooner.
Question 2: So the Purpose Based Alignment model can’t be used for priority. What can we use for priority?
Fair question. When I describe the Purpose Based Alignment model I always mention that understanding what is parity and differentiating does not necessarily indicate which capabilities you provide first. Even if you have differentiating capabilities, you may find that you need to close some parity gaps first.
I don’t talk about prioritization techniques in this session because I want to keep the focus on determining whether the project or product as a whole is worth doing, but I can see where it would be a question. The shortest answer is “it depends”.
A more helpful answer is that you generally have to do some further analysis to determine if you have any parity gaps and the relative size of those gaps. You most likely will then want to close the biggest parity gaps first, because not doing a parity activity well can likely cost you business in the short run. If you don’t have parity gaps, or if the parity gaps are not of a critical size, it may make more sense to focus on the differentiating activities first.
Of course you always want to consider the problem you are trying to solve and what are those key things you need to deliver first to help solve that problem. These areas may not represent differentiating activities or parity gaps.
There are a lot of factors to consider which means that you probably can’t encapsulate the decision objectively, you more than likely need to have a conversation with all the members of the project team. If you’ve looked at the presentation, you have probably noticed a trend by this point.
Improving Collaboration and Communication through Improvisation. – Kupe
Monday afternoon at Agile 2012 I had the privilege of helping Kupe Kupersmith with his session Improving Collaboration and Communication through Improvisation. Kupe usually does this session for 20 – 30 people, so when the number of people expressing interest in the session reached a 100, he asked for help, and I was happy to provide it.
The premise of this talk is that members of agile teams (any teams really) can strengthen their communication skills through practicing some improvisation techniques. As with my session earlier in the day, these techniques apply in all types of projects, but become that much more important with agile projects because of the increased focus on true collaboration.
Following are the key points from this session (a blog post really can’t do this one justice. You have to participate in the various activities to get a full appreciation of how these techniques work.):
- Improvisation is about being in the moment, seeing what is present, responsiveness, and spontaneity.
- Learning and practicing improvisation helps to develop listening and awareness, non-verbal communication, trust, acceptance, flexibility, and presentation skills.
- Active listening requires getting past these common barriers to listening: preconceived thoughts and ideas (listening with your answer running), failure to maintain an open mind, and information overload.
- Effective Teamwork/Collaboration requires: trust, healthy conflict, commitment, and ownership to see real progress.
I have sat through this session a couple of times before, but participating in it again helped to reinforce the idea to give everyone a full hearing before formulating your response. Something we all can work on as we work in teams.