Stop starting and start finishing- The key to team performance
Lot's of work but less value
Several years ago I was transferred and needed to put my house on the market to sell. It was an older house that needed some updates. The first real estate agent that came to give it a look recommended we focus on the kitchen, we needed to update the cabinets, countertops and a few appliances. I grabbed my tools and started tearing things apart. A few days later another agent took at look and recommended we update the master bathroom, it was clearly from the 70s and an update would help a buyer picture themselves living in a much more modern house. I started work on the bathroom tearing up tile and replacing the sink. A final agent came to give us an opinion. She recommended we finish the basement, by doing that we could advertise the house as a 4 instead of 3 bedroom house possibly getting even more for our house than we initially thought. I went to the basement and started working away, the only problem is I now had a half torn up kitchen, master bath and basement that was a construction zone. After weeks of working I hadn't finished anything and the house couldn't be put on the market as is without losing lots of it's value.
While that story about my house is humorous (and we eventually sold it with the needed updates) I often find leaders driving their organizations in similar ways. The world outside the organization is changing at a rapid rate, new ideas, new competition and the desire to stay competitive cause us to shift focus and chase opportunity. This is a good thing and it's something we absolutely need to do, but if we chase opportunity faster than we can deliver value we'll find ourselves loaded with partially complete features and little or no value actually delivered to the customer. At some point we need to make a decision and stick with it long enough to realize value.
Commit to smaller things
We want to change our focus when the market changes theirs. We can't doggedly stick to long range plans especially when they become irrelevant. At the same time we can't change focus at rate faster than we can deliver value. We have to find a balance. I recommend committing to smaller slices of value, get feedback and then adjust as needed. Instead of committing to 12-18 month projects, make real commitments to 1-6 week features. This allows for some value to be released to production while preserving the right to change focus and respond to market conditions and the competitive landscape. These very focused smaller commitments also have another value...they serve to reduce cycle times (the total time it takes for an idea to go from initiation to delivered). You'll find your organization is harnessing a key value of agile and enabling you to outpace your competition.