In the realm of software development, agility is oftentimes seen as a means to accelerate output and reduce costs. This reductionist mindset, however, fails to capture one fundamental aspect of agile methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, or even at scale, SAFe – the creation of value. Agile is not about doing more for less. It’s about maximizing business value through a collaborative, iterative, and transparent approach.
Misunderstanding of Agile
The misunderstanding usually stems from a lack of insightful grasp of what agility really implies. The half-baked knowledge, preconceived notions, and missed mindset development set the stage for an incorrect implementation of agility.
Contrary to common misperception, these methodologies only allow short-term planning due to an uncertain, rapidly changing ecosystem. This reality often leads to tension when fresh attempts are made to define milestones and timeframe implementation. The real issue lies not within these methodologies, but in the perception and expectations from them.
The Shift Back to Old Patterns
Combined with this misunderstanding of Agile and lack of an Agile mindset comes the old-school urge for budget planning, an assessment of the effort per feature, and decision-making driven predominantly by cost. The conversations shift from the value a particular feature brings to the product to how many man-hours it would require and the associated cost. This kind of approach ignores the significant aspect of the value generation of a particular feature. Moreover, it goes against the spirit of Agile methodologies such as Scrum or SAFe, where the emphasis is on iterative development and feedback incorporation.
The Vicious Cycle
What is alarming about this trajectory is the systematic inspection of meetings formats like Daily, Refinements, Reviews, Retrospectives, Plannings based on the number of participants and costs incurred. The misguided attempt to accelerate development and trim costs by cutting corners leads businesses down a vicious cycle – the implementation duration increases, costs rise, and more alarmingly, there is a steady depreciation in quality.
This approach allows a toxic environment of cost-driven decision making to exist and risks losing sight of the core Agile principles. The focus shifts from value-driven to cost-driven. Priorities change. User stories are judged and chosen based on the cost they would incur and not based on the value they bring to the end user. This leads to just one outcome – an increase in the failure risk.
A Solution Perspective: Focus on Value, not Cost
The way out of this spiral is to embrace the original spirit of Agile – to create and maximize value. Agile methodology is inherently value-centric. It is designed to deliver value to customers through small, steady, and high-quality deliverables.
Every Agile meeting, user story, and prioritization should revolve around the value they add to the overall product and, ultimately, to the customer. Shifting the focus from costs to value can help organizations and projects to make the right decisions and reduce the risk of failure. It’s not about controlling every penny spent but about ensuring that every penny spent translates into substantial customer value.
The Agile mindset is always about seeking value – value for customers, value for businesses, and value for each individual involved in the project. So, it’s essential to keep an eye on the value generation and not let the illusion of cost take the center stage.
Cost reduction, while important, should only be a by-product of maximized value creation. It is essential to understand the essence of Agile methodologies and apply them in a value-centric manner. It’s the value that is created, and not the cost, that matters the most. No organization or project has succeeded by only keeping an eye on costs. Success comes to those who focus on enriching their value to the customer.
Agility in software development is a journey, not a destination. It’s about embracing the value-driven mindset and making it an integral part of the project lifecycle. So, let’s start focusing on the right things – creating and maximizing value.
Header Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash