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Mike is a certified PMP project manager and a certified ScrumMaster. Mike was involved with the creation of the DSDM Agile Project Leader certification, holds this certification at the Foundation, Practitioner, and Examiner levels. Mike was named an honorary member of the DSDM consortium and served on the board of APLN and the Lean Software and Systems Consortium. He currently co-leads the PMI Agile Community of Practice. Mike is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 143 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

If Value is the Problem, What Can I Do About It?

01.25.2010
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I published a post called "Why is Agile so Hard to Sell?". If you haven't checked out the comment thread, you should really take a look. Most of the comments were really supportive and added serious value (no pun intended) to the conversation. One comment caught my attention, not because it was negative, because it said something to the effect of "nice problem statement, now tell us what to do about it". After thinking about it, I wanted to elevate my response to more than a few lines in the blog comments.

One of the tough things about writing a blog is that you really only have 500-1000 words to make a point. Blog posts are better if they are short and get right down to business. For me, that often means that my posts don't stand alone. Sometimes I get an idea in my head and I'll noodle around on it for 5-10 separate articles. Often these will start off as an intentional series, sometimes they just end up that way.

As I look back over my writing the past few years, my content related posts tend to fall into one of two different categories.

Sometimes I am writing to help clarify a problem. Understanding that we have a problem is often half the battle. This last post on selling agile fell into that category. I am not convinced that on the whole, we all are on the same page regarding what value means and how to map team value to enterprise value. I see too many folks applying simple process to complex problems and doing some goofy stuff along the way. I am trying to figure out how to clearly communicate that something just isn't right.

Sometimes I am writing to help clarify a solution. It's not uncommon when I start out writing a series of posts, that I don't know 100% where I am going. I may have a general idea where the solutions space lives, but I am thinking it through and exploring language around how to solve it. Sometimes I know exactly how I think a problem should be solved and I am using Leading Agile, and your feedback, to help me figure out how to communicate the idea. Ideas have to be simple and resonate with the community for them to be effective.

So to answer the commenter's question directly... the solution to the value problem lies in how we go about our agile transformation. It lies in the scope of what we are able to impact. It lies in how we think about roles, and process, and artifacts... in how we give guidance to our teams and what we train them to do. It lies in project management and portfolio management. It lies in Lean, and Kanban, and Theory of Constraints. It lies in thinking less about keeping people and teams busy and more on getting products out the door. It lies in doing less instead of crowding out our highest priorities.

Many of my posts over the past year have dabbled in this space. The book that Dennis and I are writing is going to be all about applying what we know and directed right at the solution to this problem. The challenge is that the solution doesn't fit into 500 words or less... not even 1000. We are hoping to fit it into around 140,000. We have the tools at our disposal to make this work. We have the knowledge of how to focus an organization on it's highest priorities. We know how to make investments that are going to really matter. We can talk about incremental adoption and value based agile transformation and put together a roadmap for making this all happen.

So... you have several options:

1. Go back and re-read Leading Agile to see how we are thinking about this.
2. Wait for the book... where this will all be in one place... eventually.
3. Stay tuned to Leading Agile where we'll continue to explore both the problem space and solution space around this value issue

And, just so you know... this is really what the folks at Pillar and I do for a living. If you are interested in having someone help you jumpstart this process... give me a call. I'd be happy to have a phone conversation with you, we could setup a Q&A or a webinar, or come onsite to talk about the issues you are struggling with. We can help you identify some very tactical next steps that will bring attention to this problem... and how we can work together to fix it.

My team and I have some availability over the next few months, so if you are interested in talking, let me know.
Published at DZone with permission of Mike Cottmeyer, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

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