Steve Denning: Agility Is Not Enough: Beyond The Manifesto

Although I heard a lot of interesting presentations at the Agile Aliance 2011 conference in Salt Lake City this week, I was struck by how many of them were still living within the mental confines of the Agile Manifesto….

A decade ago, when the Manifesto was launched, it was a breakthrough to value Individuals and interactions over processes and tools, and working software over comprehensive documentation.

In 2011, “working software” is not enough. Unless the customer is delighted by the working software, the future of the business is not bright. Customer delight has become the new bottom line of business. Firms that succeed in delighting their customers like Amazon [AMZN], Apple [AAPL] and [CRM) enjoy happy customers, soaring profits and workers who can see meaning in their work. Firms that don’t experience the opposite.

In my presentation at the conference on Tuesday, I got some pushback from the audience to the idea that the Agile Manifesto needed updating. Agile was, they said, always about delighting the customers.

The seven ways in which agility is not enough

So in my presentation yesterday, I spelled out the seven ways in which the Agile Manifesto and even more important, Agile thinking, need to be upgraded to reflect the new bottom line of business.

1. Shift from an output to an outcome

The implicit goal of work in the Manifesto is “working software”, i.e. the production of an output—a thing. Even “delivery of a user story” is the production of a output. By contrast, delighting the customer is an outcome, i.e. a human experience. The shift from an output to an outcome is fundamental.

2. Shift from customer satisfaction to customer delight

Many Agile implementations talked about “satisfying the customer”, which is obviously an improvement on merely delivering working software. But merely satisfying the customer is not enough. Today the customer must be positively surprised and excited! The bar has been raised.

3. Shift from an implicit goal to an explicit goal

It’s true that the best Agile implementations in practice delighted their customers. But that accomplishment was fragile. It depended on extraordinary individuals. When those individuals left, there was a risk that the organization would slide back into merely delivering software. To cement the goal in place, it is vital that it be the explicit goal of the firm.

4. Customer delight is a new dimension of “done” in Scrum

In the Scrum methodology, there has been a great deal of discussion about the definition of “done”. Most of them fail to recognize that the job is not fully “done” until the customer has been delighted.

5. The “product owner” in Scrum offers merely contingent value.

The nomination of a product owner in Scrum was an advance in the sense that having one voice to speak for the customer was an improvement on having multiple conflicting voices. But the product owner was merely a contingent solution: the product owner’s instructions were only valuable to the extent that they reflected the customer’s voice and gave guidance as to what would actually delight th customer—something that can only be determined by seeing what customers actually do.

6. It’s the bottom line for the whole organization

The focus of Agile and Scrum has been improving software development. There was rarely any discussion about the goal of the firm as a whole. This needs to change. When the firm as a whole is aimed at making money for shareholders, Agile software development will be working at odds with the management. The whole organization must be focused on delighting the customer as the bottom line of its business. Making money is a result, not the goal of the firm.

7. Customer delight is measured.  e.g. Net Promoter Score

Finally the importance of measuring customer delight through the Net Promoter Score can hardly be over-emphasized. Without measurement, “customer delight” becomes an empty phrase or slogan, and the firm will slide back into focusing on the financial bottom line. It is only through measurement that the whole organization can be truly focused on delighting the customer.


Napsal: Steve Denning

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