Vision on an Agile Team

Episode 19

June 22, 2011




The Agile Weekly Crew discuss what vision means to the team.

Episode Notes

Jade: Hello. Welcome to another episode of the scrum cast. I’m Jade Meskill.

Roy: I’m Roy vandeWater

Derek: I’m Derek neighbors.

Drew: I’m Drew LeSeuer

Jade: This evening we’re going to be discussing vision. When I say that word, what do you guys think of?

Derek: How bad mine is?

Roy: I was thinking of the phrase that there’s always money in the banana stand.

Jade: What does that mean?

Roy: I don’t know. It’s from arrested development..

Jade: All right.

Drew: Yeah. I think of, something that’s sitting out there that kind of anchors you to where you want to go.

Derek: Yeah. To me, it’s really, I guess it’s linked to purpose, right? I think if there’s a solid vision then you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. I think anytime you’re dealing with teams or having to deal with motivation. I think that becomes a core factor into what and how you do things.

Jade: So give me some examples of some organizations or a product that you’ve been on. That’s had great vision. And what were the outcomes?

Derek: Early in my career I was lucky that I was on a team that had two different products ship that had really reasonable vision. The first one was they did mortgage document delivery system.

They were an all DOS-based system and windows 95 had just come out. Most of their client base which happened to be large banks did not adopt windows 3.1, but they were starting to adopt windows 95. Because of that, they, made significant investments to move, thousands of desktops over to windows 95.

And so they were expecting windows applications with that, and so the kind of the product vision was to take the existing product and convert it into a 32 bit a windows version. So there’s a very defined goal, a very defined outcome, very defined, reasons from a business perspective of, large clients that we would lose.

If we didn’t get this done and large clients that we would win by being one of the. Companies in that space to actually deliver a product on that platform or native to that platform. And then the second one, same company was in doing a document delivery for closing documents online through the internet.

It’s time, nobody’s really doing it. And a lot of people thought it couldn’t be done. Thought there were a lot of securities thought there were no, no way to really anonymously do that and be able to print them in. So there was a very unifying goal of, this is what success is. Not only from a technical perspective, we can achieve this technical thing we’ve succeeded.

But also that if we do this technical thing, this is the financial success that comes from it. And I think for me, that’s one of the big things I see missing. Most companies don’t even have a vision, but even sometimes when teams have vision, there’s no business value behind that. So it’s, Hey, let’s add this feature set or let’s ship this particular thing.

Where’s the business value. What’s the, okay, great. We succeeded at that, but the company went out of business anyways.

Roy: So would you just say that having a vision that doesn’t add business value, which. Any, still some benefit to the team?

Derek: I think it’s a huge benefit to the team. I think the team has to have a unified vision or a unified purpose to be able to rally around, to really gel as a team.

If you don’t know what the what the, what defines success for you as a team and what’s expected of you. I think it becomes very difficult. To become a team and I think Jade and I, we might’ve had this discussion at one point. I think one of the things that’s difficult about software is there, there is no trophy, right?

There is no. Who, how do you determine who wins? Or who gets first place or, there is no world cup, there is no playoff. And in order to push yourself as a team, you have to self-define. What your championship is, right? My championship is, getting into the playoffs is doing X, getting into the championship is Y and winning the entire thing is Z.

The problem is that may or may not provide value to the business. So is it important to the team? Absolutely. Does it make a huge difference to the team? Absolutely. But I think a team can totally gel totally succeed and totally fulfill their particular vision. And if the company doesn’t have a vision, that’s in alignment with that.

The company can actually fail.

Jade: Yeah, I agree. That, that team that Derek is talking about, that’s when Derek and I first started working together and that was one of the first like real software projects I’d ever been on. And I remember being so energized and so motivated by, having that clear vision of what it was that we were going to ship and we didn’t know how we were going to do it.

The, like Derek said, some of the technical challenges. Pretty, they’re pretty high hurdles. But having that vision and knowing what the outcome of success was going to be really helped push me to, come up with some pretty innovative solutions.

And I think we created some pretty awesome technology with very simple tools. It was very S a very small thing that was easy to manage, but it accomplished a pretty amazing outcome for the company. But that same company, the broader company vision was so poor that I became very disenchanted working there only a year, even though we’d shipped this amazing product and, it was extremely successful.

It wasn’t a place that I wanted to work at.

Roy: I think we saw to here with Integrum where we were for a while, didn’t really have direction. One of the go where I think you described our company vision, as we build stuff for people. Yeah, or something generic like that, where we didn’t really know where it was going.

And it became very difficult to want to put an extra effort or to want to help out the company, because you don’t know how you’re helping the company. Cause you don’t know where the company wants to go. And we also, I think found it. A lot of people disagreed with each other because we realized we’re a lot of people that wanted different things.

And I think that moment when we had a had a big meeting and decided what we wanted to do and although we lost quite a few people, I think the people that stayed are much closer and now it’s much easier to rally behind. The organization.

Derek: Yeah. I think when you don’t have a vision it becomes very difficult to make even the smallest decisions because every decision has, multiple touch points, multiple pathways that it can take in.

So something as simple as, okay, we’re going to tackle challenge a if I’m a designer and I think that everything in the company should be about design. I’m going to focus on every decision to. What’s the best design from a visual design perspective. And if I’m a feel like the company’s all about software craftsmanship, and that’s what we’re really about.

I might take this as a reason to try every new technology and spend an inordinate amount of time on dealing with all of the, how the system works or is architected or how it interplays. Where somebody else might say the company is really about doing these amazing, innovative game-changing things.

I don’t care as much about design or as much about craftsmanship. I care about, doing this deep, meaningful, product development type of push. And you go into every decision and you’ve got three people on the same team that all have a different goal. Even if they come to a decision, you’re going to have two people that are pissed off the entire time that they didn’t get their way.

And that decision where if you come in and everybody says, the goal is craftsmanship or the goal is designed, or the goal is product development or whatever that the goal is, or that the vision is it becomes a lot easier to go, okay this is a simple, like we, we would never go try out this new technology.

That’s going to take all this time because that’s not what we’re about. We’re about shipping product, right? So we need to do whatever it takes to ship the product.

Drew: That’s one thing I was thinking too vision’s great. And you can have all these great ideas. You’re going to change the world. At the same time.

I like what you said about you have to ship it, right? So you’re great vision of changing the world or where you want to be. It has to be coupled with the reality of, okay, what are the steps that I need to take to get there? What days do I need to ship in order to get this released and what do I need to do now to make it so that I can ship on this day?

That’s one thing, and in my learning experience with scrum and agile is. That had such an impact on me. When I saw that I saw a contrast between someone who said, yeah let’s do all these great things, but we never released it. Or it took forever to release. And another between, Hey let’s do all these great things let’s release on this day.

And if we’re not ready to release on this day, what can we cut to release on this day? And that felt more in line with the envision. When you actually get something.

Jade: What you’re saying is that having a great vision also depends on a great implementation.

Drew: Exactly.

Derek: I think so. I’m trying to think of some samples of where perhaps a business vision didn’t align with team vision or technical vision in some of the problems that come out of that.

And what kind of thinking back to two, two projects where I think that from a. Business. Perspective they’re are products that wanted a large market penetration for their particular vertical segment. And they wanted to surpass kind of everybody else that was on the scene, which meant that they wanted a whole lot of features that, we have to have more features than our competitor in order to own the space was the feeling or the vision from the product owner and not criticizing.

Saying one way or another, my thoughts on that, but that was their particular vision. However, from a team perspective or I might even say a team perspective. People within the product ownership team had a vision that it had to look better than everything else. And so there’s this constant kind of push yin and yang of, I want to be pixel perfect on absolutely everything.

But I need to ship, 10 times more features than the product that’s eight years old in the next two months. And some of, what does that cause? What are some things that you guys have seen that where you saw a misalignment either within the team or from the team and the product owner or the stakeholder that caused impediments to actually getting the work done or shipping the product.

Roy: So I think we’ve seen some cases in which companies have been fairly successful already and are now at a point where that they kinda have to choose whether they want to continue to move forward and bring in more business, or if they want to stay where they are at and just keep bringing in the continuing income and not take the risk to go further.

And. Actually in situations where there’s been a divide within the company where half the people want to go one way and have two people want to go another way. And that causes a big problem when you’re trying to make decisions because who’s making the decision or, what particular issue is largely decided by those facts.

Derek: So that might be, I’m a fortune 500 company. I obviously did some innovation to get, to be a fortune 500 company. And now either within the team or within the company I’m starting to get risk adverse because I don’t want to lose my spot in the top 500 perhaps. But some people within the organization want to move to the top 100.

And in order to do that cost cutting or, getting incremental efficiencies, not enough to go from four 50 to 100 you’ve got to do something, bigger, better brighter. But that has downsides. And just even being out of alignment on something as simple as that can cause issues with a development team, what are some of the other impacts that you guys see out maybe outside of the development team or inside the development team?

Some manifested manifestations.

Roy: So I think we’ve seen in the past, like we clicked Clayton. There’s always in our team championship, a champion for testing. And we’ve seen for quite a while. Some of the team didn’t quite buy into the testing solution. And so they try to find ways around it while the the portion of the team that did believe in testing the things like set up an integration server and set up our our fill board and all of these tools to both both be able to test and also to provide visibility to test coverage and whether or not the test pass.

And in the meantime, the other half of the team was trying to find ways around that and trying to find ways to. Accountability and duct needing to do all of that stuff because they didn’t believe in that

Derek: any other samples. So I think that might lead for a good segue. Next time I think that where I think we’re talking a little bit about vision and in pragmatism and Obie Fernandez, his recently done a blog post that kind of talks about. And maybe if you’re a lean startup, you shouldn’t test it at all or should radically think how you test then maybe that’s a good segue into that for next time.

Jade: Thanks for listening. Talk to you next time.