How to build the Right Thing

The software industry is going through a shift of mindset.

Agile basically solved the problem of how to deliver software. Most any company that applies an agile method and mindset can get working software out the door. Now, the biggest waste in software development seems to be building the wrong product, or the wrong features.

“There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency that which should not be done at all” -Peter Drucker

This insight has given rise to methods and techniques such as Lean Startup, Impact Mapping, Story Mapping, Feature Injection, etc. But is there a common denominator, a set of underlying principles?

On Feb 11, Gojko Adzic organized a full-day meetup in London with people deeply engaged in this issue, people like Jeff Patton, Mary Poppendieck, Ingrid Domingues, Chris Matts and others who have been inventing and spreading techniques for dealing with the how-to-build-the-right-stuff issue.

It was a very inspiring day! We compared our different approaches and experiences, extracted the core principles, and (to our surprise) managed to condense it into this shared message:

Great results happen when:
1. People know why they are doing their work.
2. Organizations focus on outcomes and impacts rather than features.
3. Teams decide what to do next based on immediate and direct feedback from the use of their work.
4. Everyone cares.

There. So now just go do it! :)
Actually, if you want a more detailed description of each point see Gojko’s post.

Posts from the other participants:

Full participant list (in no particular order): Gojko Adzic, Mary Poppendieck, Gabrielle Benefield, Tom Poppendieck, Gordon Weir, Henrik Kniberg, Jeff Patton, Ingrid Domingues, Karl Scotland, Russ Miles, Christian Hassa, Dulce Goncalves, Aaron Sanders, Shadi Almviken, Chris Matts, Olaf Lewitz and Matthias Edinger.

23 Comments

  • 1
    February 12, 2013 - 11:31 am | Permalink

    Not surprising at all. Simon Sinek has been preaching this message for quite a while now. And I say often that for Agile to work on a product there must be at least one person who cares about it – otherwise the whole thing degenerates into typical corporate game of renouncing any responsibility. When everyone cares the sky is the limit.

    ps. Spotify came to Poland! :)

  • 2
    Jacob Hamacher
    February 12, 2013 - 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow! I would really like to use that as a manifesto at my workplace. Should we call it something special? It is much more easy to explain to an organisation than the Agile manifesto.

    /jacob

  • 5
    February 12, 2013 - 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Oh, to have been in that room…. These are the same principles I’ve been espousing in my engagements, and even as an employee and manager in years past. I love how succinct the ‘message’ is though – well done! The trick is to help individuals and companies embrace this, instead of fighting against it. I’ve been working on something around ‘beyond agile’, focusing on the behind-the-scenes-important-stuff that needs to be in place and working for things to work great. I keep coming back to human connection – that’s really what it’s all about.

  • 6
    Javier
    February 12, 2013 - 6:47 pm | Permalink

    I have a doubt about the point 3: the “Teams” term includes the Product Owner or alike? Because as far as I know, what to build is based on Product Owner decisions and his arragement of the Backlog, even if he can listen to all the stakeholders.

    Apart from that, I doubt that it will be the Team, even counting on the PO, which decides what to build next. Business stuff should be the people that knows what must be built, based on business value, etc.

    • 7
      Tony
      February 12, 2013 - 7:44 pm | Permalink

      Business stuff should be the people that knows what must be built, based on business value, etc.
      Hm. That would be a first..

    • 8
      February 18, 2013 - 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Indeed would it not be nice if the PO or ‘business people’ could just tell us developers what they want, or maybe even what the END USER wants, or maybe even what the end user NEEDS but doesn’t know she wants.

      Sorry to break this to you all: it’s not gonna happen. :) Not without ‘immediate and direct feedback from the use of their work’, ideally based on hard facts.

  • 9
    February 12, 2013 - 9:22 pm | Permalink

    @Javier – you’ve completely missed the point. read the post again, this time carefully :)

  • 10
    February 12, 2013 - 11:45 pm | Permalink

    It’s not so difficult to create organisation like that from scratch.

    But what about organisations which already exists? Especially point 4) “Everyone cares” could be difficult to achieve without firing people.

  • 11
    Carl
    February 13, 2013 - 12:40 am | Permalink

    Not ever a flamer before but this ‘core’ set of principles is so abstracted up into the ephemeral as to be of little practical use. Does anyone else see that? Take note, I say that the principles are 100% correct, but the distillation process has rendered them the Emperors New Clothes.

    The community that will lap this stuff up needs less philosophical and more tangible advice in my honest and frank opinion.

    Before retaliating, please read the title. ‘How to build the right thing’ sets this up as a recipe to do just that but the reality is that if you are good enough to act on these points in an org that doesn’t already do them, these points are stuff you already know, in different words and its even more likely that you are somewhere on the sliding scale of greatness where you know the importance of all of this stuff, and can get there with only half.

  • 12
    February 13, 2013 - 10:04 am | Permalink

    What did you meen with “everyone cares”. Who is everyone? The team and it’s surroundings? And what do you mean by cares? Cares for the success of the product?

  • 13
    February 13, 2013 - 11:40 am | Permalink

    Yes, and Yes :)

  • 14
    February 13, 2013 - 11:52 am | Permalink

    So simple, yet so difficult. An old saying goes something like : “It is complicated to make something simple and it is simple to make something complicated.”. I suspect this is applicable to all things we humans do. I love the fight against it. Keep it up!

  • 15
    Dan
    February 13, 2013 - 1:35 pm | Permalink

    ‘Agile basically solved the problem of how to deliver software.’

    1) I know a lot of people who would contest that statement.

    ‘Most any company that applies an agile method and mindset can get working software out the door.’

    2) I know a lot of people who would contest that statement aswell.

    ‘Now, the biggest waste in software development seems to be building the wrong product, or the wrong features.’

    3) I thought Agile was meant to solve that. See my comment 1 and 2.

    • 16
      February 13, 2013 - 5:59 pm | Permalink

      You seem to know a lot of people :)

    • 17
      February 18, 2013 - 3:01 pm | Permalink

      I agree it’s not quite that simple as that agile _solved_ the problem of ‘building the thing RIGHT’.

      I also agree that agile claimed also to solve the ‘building the RIGHT thing’ problem, but many agile teams are struggling to do it.

      But XP and agile has brought A LOT of insights on how to do this well over the last 20 years. Maybe it’s the best of all the bad methodologies out there so far…

      I personally think the above principles are at least more specific and concrete than ‘Individuals and Interactions over process and tools’, etc. Time will tell if they provide better guidance.

  • 18
    February 13, 2013 - 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Maybe I’m jaded, but I’m with Carl here. I don’t see anything new here that we didn’t already know. I would have hoped for more and better guidance on getting there, i.e., the journey is the hard part, these goals are great, but non-actionable. What does this say needs to be done In a dysfunctional organization, where middle management is focused on setting (unreasonable) dates, the environment is low- or no-trust, and top management is disconnected from what’s happening?

  • 19
    February 13, 2013 - 10:07 pm | Permalink

    @Ted

    there are many practical techniques that will help you get there, such as lean canvas, feature injection, real options, impact mapping and so on. The message was intentionally abstract to try to convey the principles behind all those ideas.

  • 20
    February 13, 2013 - 10:09 pm | Permalink

    @Carl

    I don’t think this is emperor’s new clothes. I wrote up a longer post on the conclusions, and explained why and what the key changes are to what I commonly see with organisations:

  • 21
    February 16, 2013 - 7:46 pm | Permalink

    [...] At Lean Agile Glasgow on Wednesday we were discussing a recent event in London where a bunch of agile luminaries got together to discuss “How to build the right thing”. [...]

  • 22
    Samuel RETIERE
    February 25, 2013 - 8:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure to understand how you can focus more on impacts than feature. I understand than the main indicator shouldn’t be the velocity (or something like that) but more some indicators of success defined with a lean canvas (or something like that). Am I right ?

  • 23
    March 15, 2013 - 2:46 pm | Permalink

    [...] industry: “Building the Right Thing”. Look at Gojko Adzic initiative, Henrik Kniberg contribution, Mary Poppendieck gave a great presentation on [...]

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