AoAD2 Practice: Purpose

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.


Product Managers, Coaches

We understand the reasons for our work.

Every team has a purpose: a reason for its existence and expectations about its output. But, far too often, that purpose isn’t communicated to the team. Instead, team members are told a lot of details about what to do...but not why they’re going to do it, or how it helps the company achieve its goals.

The Purpose practice is about making sure everyone understands the big picture, not just the details.

Start With the Vision

Before a product has a team, someone in the company has an idea. Suppose it’s someone in the Wizzle-Frobitz company. (Not a real company.) “Hey!” they exclaim, knocking their coffee off their desk. “We could frobitz the wizzles so much better if we had software to sort the wizzles first!”

Okay, it’s usually not that dramatic. The point is, a team’s purpose starts out as an idea focused on results. Sell more hardware by bundling better software. Attract bigger customers by scaling more effectively. Sell more cloud services by providing machine learning technology. These are all real examples from teams that I’ve worked with.

Somewhere in the transition from idea to team, the compelling part—the vision of a better future—often gets lost. Details crowd it out. You have to staff a team with programmers, domain experts, and UX designers. You have to define features, plan releases, and report on progress. Hustle, people, hustle!

Nothing matters more than delivering the vision.

That’s a shame, because nothing matters more than delivering the vision. If the goal is to sell more cloud services through machine learning, then even the most amazing machine learning product is no good unless it’s part of the cloud platform. If you’re scaling so you can attract bigger customers, you’ve got to make sure the way you scale fits with those new customers’ needs. Conversely, if you figure out a way to attract those customers that barely involves scaling at all, does it really matter how you did it? continue reading, buy the book!

In this Section

  1. Purpose
    1. Start With the Vision
    2. Identify the Purpose
      1. Sidebar: Multi-Team Development
    3. Document the Purpose
      1. Sidebar: An Example Purpose
    4. Charter the Purpose
      1. Review the draft purpose
      2. Consent to the vision
      3. Improve the mission
      4. Revise the indicators
      5. Commit to the purpose
        1. Sidebar: Planning Your Chartering Session
    5. Promote the Purpose
    6. Iterate the Purpose
    7. Questions
    8. Prerequisites
    9. Indicators
    10. Alternatives and Experiments
    11. Further Reading

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