Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Time to Market - not sufficient reason to transition to Agile.

If your number one reason to switch to Agile software development is - Time to Market - you should come up with a better reason. Dig deeper. Ask WHY this is important to your customers (not just your companies bottom line).

In "The 12 Key Reasons Companies Adopt Agile" by Mike Cottmeyer notes this as reason #1. While I agree with his list of reasons, I don't agree that those reasons are always sufficient to motivate people to change.
1. Faster time to market – Lots of folks that decide to go agile are pretty fed up with 18 month delivery cycles that quite often deliver the wrong products to market… one’s that our customers just aren’t interested in buying. The idea of two week delivery cycles and quarterly release cadences is pretty appealing. Our markets and our competition are just moving too fast… we’ve got to get better at getting working product out the door faster.
If the best reason your CEO can come up with is to increase the rate of product deliver, then ask what that Change Announcement is going to sound like to your development organization.  The announcement will come across as the typical down sizing platitude "We need to do more with less."  Are they going to understand the compelling reason for change?

The statement to "do more with less" should only be interpreted as an admonition on the leaderships failure to focus and set priorities.  The action that all reasonable people take when faced with fewer resources.

For two decades or more, John Kotter has been the world's foremost authority on leadership and change.  Harvard Business Review continually reruns his articles illustrating how the best organizations approach and execute change. In Leading Change by John Kotter he talks about his 8 steps to Organizational Change. Step one is Urgency.  People need to understand the reasons underlying the change if they are to internalize the change and make the transition successfully.

You could get the Harvard Business Review's symposium "Urgency: How to Make Real Change Your Company's Top Priority."

Now, with A Sense of Urgency Kotter digs deeper into the issue that is the most pressing for global managers and leaders today, the need to create a high enough sense of urgency among people to set the stage for making a challenging leap in a new direction. In this interactive session, participants will learn the clear distinction between constructive true urgency and destructive false urgency and will emerge armed with tactics for creating the right kind of urgency within their organization.
Is Time to Market your rational for Urgency?  Is this not the same as saying "Hurry it's urgent!"?  I suggest you use the Five Whys technique to get to the root reason that time to market is important to your company.
The infinite hows An argument against the Five Whys and an alternative approach you can apply.  By John Allspaw
In The Telegraph's article "Think Tank: Have you ever asked yourself why you're in business?" by Dan Pink, he covers this aspect of discovering the WHY.

While I believe that this is an important aspect gained by an Agile Transition, I also believe that if it is the primary goal there may be deeper issues to be uncovered when your business starts to deal with organizational impediments that the transformation will expose. One benefit of Agile is the ability to deliver a Minimal Viable Product to market early. But to make customers happy one will need a path to enhance this product. To be successful with this strategy one will have to be using many Agile practices (Lean in the product vertical segment, Scrum at the team level, XP at the engineering level).

One needs to glean the reasons why time to market is important to your customers - I'm sure there are good reasons, those are your reasons for urgency.

See Also:
No, really! Agile really is the Goal! by Tim Snyder.  Rejecting the assertion that agile is a tool to become "better, faster, cheaper."

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