AoAD2 Part IV: Optimizing Outcomes (Introduction)

This is an excerpt from The Art of Agile Development, Second Edition. Visit the Second Edition home page for additional excerpts and more!

This excerpt is copyright 2007, 2021 by James Shore and Shane Warden. Although you are welcome to share this link, do not distribute or republish the content without James Shore’s express written permission.

Optimizing Outcomes

October has rolled around again. Last year, your team achieved Delivering fluency (see Part III). At the time, some team members wanted to push for Optimizing fluency, too, but management was skeptical. You couldn’t get the support you needed.

Since you’ve achieved Delivering fluency, though, your team has been firing on all cylinders. Productivity went way up; defects, way down. Hanna, your product manager, was having trouble keeping up. She delegated more and more responsibilities to the team, which rose to the challenge.

It got noticed. Hanna was singing your praises to the marketing director, and your boss was talking you up to the engineering director. The time was right to push for Optimizing fluency again. This time, it worked. Hanna was assigned to join your team full time. Not only that, she got permission to try “the Agile experiment.”

“The Agile experiment” is what they’re calling the way Hanna works with your team. Instead of having to go through a yearly planning exercise like the rest of Marketing, she got permission to own your team’s financials. She meets with her boss regularly to share statistics such as revenue and customer retention, and she’s constantly trying out new ideas and experiments. (Her colleagues are jealous. They still have to go through six weeks of budget and target-setting hell every year.)

It’s not just Hanna. The whole team is getting in on the action. Although Hanna is first among equals when it comes to product marketing expertise, other members of the team have developed their own areas of expertise. Shayna, in particular, loves visiting customer sites to see how people work.

Shayna’s just asked for the team’s attention. “I just finished a remote session with Magda,” she says. “You all remember Magda, right?” Nods all around. Magda is a developer who works for one of your new customers. Her company’s bigger than your normal customers, so they’ve been pretty demanding.

“Magda’s company has been dealing with an increasingly complex tax situation,” Shayna continues. “They have remote employees in more and more countries all over the world, and dealing with the various taxes and employment law is overwhelming. Magda’s heading up a team to automate some of that work, and she wanted to know how to integrate with our API.”

“But it got me thinking,” Shayna’s voice raises in excitement. “That isn’t too far off from what we do already. What if we sold an add-on module for international employment? It’s a lot of work, but we could start one country at a time. And Bo, you have some experience in this area, right?” Bo nods thoughtfully.

Hanna purses her lips. “It’s a big bet,” she says. “But it could have a huge pay-off. This could crack open the market for more companies like Magda’s. It would definitely widen our moat. None of our direct competitors have anything like that, and the big players charge two arms, a leg, and half your torso in professional services fees. Plus, we’re a lot more user-friendly.” She grins. It has a lot of teeth. “We’d only need to charge an arm and a leg. What do the rest of you think?”

Your team engages in a rapid-fire discussion of the idea. As you come to the consensus that it’s worth pursuing, Hanna nods sharply. “I love it. We’ll need to validate the market and figure out how to break it down into smaller bets. I’ll put a story on next week’s plan to come up with Build-Measure-Learn experiments. We can start on them after we release our current increment. In the meantime, I’ll do some research and run it by the boss. If the experiments work out, we’ll need her to approve more funding and a change to our mission.”

“Thanks, Shayna,” she finishes. “This is why I love being part of this team.”

...to continue reading, buy the book!

In this Section

  1. Optimizing Outcomes
    1. Welcome to the Optimizing Zone
    2. Achieving Optimizing Fluency

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