Monday, September 26, 2016

The Forgotten Agile Role – the Customer


Many Agile implementations tend to focus on the roles inside an organization – the Scrum Master, Product Owner, Business Owner, Agile Team, Development Team, etc.  These are certainly important roles in identifying and creating a valuable product or service.  However, what has happened to the Customer role?  I contend the Customer is the most important role in the Agile world.  Does it seem to be missing from many of the discussions?

While not always obvious, the Customer role should be front-and-center in all Agile methods and when working in an Agile context.  You must embrace them as your business partner with the goal of building strong customer relationships and gathering their valuable feedback.  Within an Agile enterprise, while customers should be invited to Sprint Reviews or demonstrations and provide feedback, they should really be asked to provide feedback all along the product development journey from identification of an idea to delivery of customer value.
Let's remind ourselves of the importance of the customer.  A customer is someone who has a choice on what to buy and where to buy it. By purchasing your product, a customer pays you with money to help your company stay in business.  For these factors, engaging the customer is of utmost importance.  Customers are external to the company and can provide the initial ideas and feedback to validate the ideas into working products.  Or if your customer is internal, are you treating them as part of your team and are you collecting their feedback regularly?

As you look across your Agile context, are customers one of your major Agile roles within your organization?  Are they front and center?  Are customers an integral part of your Agile practice?  Are you collecting their valuable feedback regularly?  If not, it may be time to do so.  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Anti-Patterns impacting Customer Value


Value is in the eye of the beholder.  Smart people will say that the beholder is the customer. While in most companies there will be a similar saying to the “customer is king”, some have lost their way and have somehow forgotten the importance of customer and their feedback.  The result is organizational anti-patterns that impede successfully getting to customer value. There are a number of anti-patterns on why this occurs and below are four: 
  • Believing that you can pretend to know with certainty what the customer wants upfront.  The danger: the consequence of limiting options and being blind to customer feedback to shape product direction.  Otherwise known as the Pretend Certainty anti-pattern.
  • Focusing primarily on driving efficiencies through cost cutting and high resource utilization.  The danger: the unintended consequence of a lesser focus on the customer with little room to innovate and adapt.  Otherwise known as the No Room at the Innovation Inn anti-pattern.
  • Sub-optimizing for the comfort of having a well-established plan and set of well-defined processes.  The danger: the consequence of restricting change at the expense of adapting to customer needs.  Otherwise known as the Sub-Optimizing for Comfort anti-pattern. 
  • Engaging few to represent the whole.  The danger: the consequence of understanding customer pool, ignoring potential customers, and missing customer feedback to shape product direction. Otherwise known as the The Few and the Missing anti-pattern.

When you are a start up, you realize the importance of being customer value driven because if customers don’t buy the product, then your start-up goes under. Because of this and their small size, most start-ups will stay very close to the customer or potential customer.  When companies become larger, there is a greater chance these anti-patterns appear.  More process and more controls are often put into place and unfortunately this leads to restricting change.  A company may sub-optimize for their own processes and plans that distances them from their customers.  

The question is, do you see any of these anti-patterns within your organization that impact your ability to achieve customer value?  Avoid the poor “aim of the anti-pattern’.  Instead, engage with your customers and use their feedback to help you hit the customer value target!

For more information on the topic of Customer Value, consider reading the following articles:



Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pokémon Go to Agile Go

Pokémon Go is an augmented-reality game that recently launched in Australia, New Zealand, United States, Germany and a number of other countries. In a nutshell, you search for Pokemon in the Poké world in your actual, geographical location, which you can explore by physically walking around.
Allow me to introduce you to my newly invented game called Agile Go.  Like Pokémon Go, Agile Go is a reality based game in which you search for people within your “Agile World” (aka, your company) that are exhibiting Agile behaviors aligned with the Agile values and principles.  Take a picture of them and tag it with “Agile Go”.  In Pokémon Go, you capture pokemon.  In Agile Go, you capture the moment where people are exhibiting Agile behavior.  What Agile behaviors should you look for?  Here are some real time scenarios to look for:
  • Business and development collaborating together
  • Product Owner or Team welcoming change to requirements
  • Teams self-organizing around the work
  • Team or Product Owner demonstrating an iteration of work
  • Product Owner getting feedback from actual customers
  • Team member applying a secondary skills to help others 
  • Anyone applying face-to-face communication 
  • Team identifying work not needed during grooming 
  • Anyone completing an action for improvement 
  • Manager or anyone removing an impediment to progress
If you see someone exhibiting any of these Agile behaviors or others you deem as aligning with the Agile values and principles, take a picture of them, write the Agile behavior they are exhibiting, and tag it with the “Agile Go” logo (see below).  Then share the photograph with them, letting them know that you appreciate them exhibiting positive Agile behaviors! Even consider tweeting their picture with the #agilego hashtag.  Go Agile!

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