New to agile? Get focused with a vision

Bear with me on this blog entry.  It takes a bit of setup until I get to the main point.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading about blogging and how to make a blog better. I didn’t get very far when I was hit with the opening question which is

“Why do I blog?”

When I first read the question I thought how silly it seemed. Why start with such a simple question. Obviously I blog because… Uh, why do I blog?

OK, it wasn’t quite as simple as it seemed.  So being a diligent person and really wanting to improve my blog and my blogging skills I decided to try and answer the question.  One of the articles gave a short list of reasons other people wrote blogs.  Surely the answer would be there.  Wrong!  Ok, try again with another list.  Nope, no luck there either.  I was starting to think maybe I shouldn’t blog at all if the main reasons people blog didn’t apply to me.  Then I realized, that was very close to my answer.  I was struggling to make sense of things, which led me to say…

I blog to help struggling software development teams in
Making Agile a Reality™.

This bottom line really goes back to my blog entry about not settling for mediocrity.  I want to help teams improve!   These teams may be using a traditional approach to software development and need to know there is something else which may help them.  A team may be looking for reasons to use an agile approach and find one of my blog entries.  They may be using an agile approach and want to improve.  A project manager may be wondering how to best help their agile team.  Lots of different scenarios all boiling down to the same thing – there is pain, and one of my blog entries may be a pain reliever.  Sometimes I hit the mark and get a lot of hits on a blog entry.  That’s when I know I struck a nerve.  Other times blog entries are barely read (like I presume this one will be).  That’s ok now that I know my mission.  If I help even one person or team feel like they can be more successful, then it has been a success!

If helping struggling software development teams is the mission behind my blogging, how does this blog entry fit in?  Determining a mission statement for my blogging is very analagous to having a vision for a product – it focuses the effort on what is truly important and valuable.  Being able to prioritize my list of ideas for blog entries based on my blogging mission will help me be much more productive.  I believe the gain in productivity will allow me to create content which is more valuable.  I’m looking forward to it.  Having focus on agile projects allows potential changes to be evaluated against the focus which often shows the change to be immediately out of scope.  Applying the principle to eliminate waste implies the change would simply be put on the product backlog for a potential future release.  Much less effort than trying to prioritize it without a vision.  Too often that results in trying to determine how it DOES fit rather than how it DOES NOT fit which leads to expanded scope and missed dates.

For your team ask the question “Why do we do that?” for things you do each iteration or release – you may be surprised at the results!  You might also want to do a small exercise which is usually very illuminating: have everyone on the team write a vision statement for the product.  I like the format from “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey Moore:

FOR <target customer>
WHO <statement of need>
THE <product> IS A <product category>
THAT <key benefit>.
UNLIKE <primary competitor>
OUR PRODUCT <further differentiation>.

I have done this exercise many times over the past 12 months.  It is rare when more than 2-3 team members come up with similar visions.  Gain focus – have a vision!

Until next time I’ll be Making Agile a Reality™ for myself by looking for other areas where I need to apply focus and asking the question “Why do I do that?”

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