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Sense of Urgency

19 Oct, 2005

Ron Jeffries posted an interesting question to the XP mailing list:

I've heard Rob Walsh, and a couple of clients, ask for a "sense of urgency" all very recently. I have some opinions on the subject but first I'd like to ask us all:

...

What would we see and hear, or not see and hear, in a shop where there was a sense of urgency?

Chris Wheeler had a great reply:

It seems to me that when people asked us (on our project) for 'a sense of urgency' what they were really saying was 'show me that you care about delivering this product as much as I do'.

And here is my response:

Yes, yes, yes.

Programmers on an XP project are responsible for delivering high-quality, tested code that meets their own estimates. If life is hard, they increase their estimates. Easy-peasy.

Customers on an XP project are responsible for the success of the software. If the software bombs in the market, they're responsible. If the software misses a critical date, they're responsible. If the competition's software eclipses theirs... they're responsible. We've been saying all along, "It's your responsibility to set priorities and schedule, not ours. Just don't give us 'too much to do'." Our life is easy. Theirs is very hard.

Our customers have gamely accepted this huge responsibility. They've given up their (illusion of) control over a fixed scope and schedule. They no longer have the dev team to blame if things don't work out.

The least we can do is act like we care about their scope and date targets as much as they do.