New to Agile? Build trust to grow influence and impact

Transforming the way you work to an Agile approach has implications for the relationship between software teams and their customers and stakeholders. But in many cases, the would-be Agile team’s vision of a better collaborative future is viewed with skepticism, at best. What do you do when you want a more collaborative relationship with your stakeholders and they’re not having it?

There are probably good reasons for your stakeholders’ reticence. They’re busy. They’ve seen software process changes come and go in the past with little positive impact. They’re not eager to change how they work without some confidence it’ll be worth the effort.

Focus on the direction rather than the goal. Instead of trying to transform everything overnight to achieve some utopian collaborative future (and being dissatisfied until it happens), ask: How can we become more reliable in our software delivery? How can we keep more of our promises? How can we make the things we do deliver more likely to have a business impact?

As you become more reliable in promising and delivering features that matter, you build trust with your stakeholders. Your grow your influence. You increase their willingness to collaborate with you.

You can do this in a matter of weeks. Here’s how:

  1. Look at what your organization has promised to deliver over the coming weeks and months. Find a slice of value with a real (if small) business impact that you can deliver in 1-3 weeks, a “minimum marketable feature” or MMF. If this slice isn’t obvious to you, I recommend finding it with the Feature Mining technique from my 80/20 Product Ownership online course.
  2. If you haven’t already, form a small cross-functional team with all the skills necessary to deliver that slice of value.
  3. With the help of your cross-functional team, split that slice of value into small user stories that can be delivered in a day or two. You can use my free story splitting resources to do this. Prioritize the stories in a way that gets you early learning about the problem and the solution.
  4. Work in 1-2 week sprints. Plan to deliver a reasonable set of stories. Focus on one or two at a time and get them done. Do it again.
  5. When you complete that valuable slice you identified in step #1, show it to your stakeholders.
  6. Repeat the process with a new slice. It won’t take long before your stakeholders will want to work with you more closely to identify MMFs and stories as they see that you reliably deliver the most valuable slice you know about, week after week.

Want help making this happen with your team? Our Agile for Teams course is an ideal place to start. Contact us to learn more.


Update, October 2020: Richard’s latest story splitting resources are available at Humanizing Work.

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  1. This looks like a great course, Richard. I see that you helping organizations become happier is something that motivates you. Are you familiar with Management 3.0? I think it’s something you’d like 🙂 A great addition to any agile workplace or project. I’m happy to chat more about it.