Post Agile – Outcome Generation

I get asked “What’s next? Exactly what is ‘Post-Agile’ “? I then hear that Kanban or Lean Startup are the answers to all of our problems, along with the 200 or so new scaling Agile frameworks that have appeared on the market.

There is a tendency to jump to solutions and answers before properly understanding the problems or identifying the desired outcomes. Imposing a new process won’t deliver the right results if you’re tackling the wrong problem.

On many engagements the development effort accounts for 30% of the overall costs of a product. This means that everything else, from the product strategy and design through to deployment, accounts for the other 70%. In the race to focus on making that 30% of development marginally more effective, the industry is simultaneously ignoring the other 70%.

For example, a Scrum team might be working well, but find benefit in a leaner process. This might add 10% improvement to the quality and/or throughput of the team. However, if the team isn’t building the right product in the first place, or the biggest constraint they have is on deploying their products smoothly, this could be an awful lot of effort for a small return on investment.

One of the most common failures is when Agile is adopted as a delivery process only, with a focus on building more features faster. Without having the business involved and committed to helping deliver the ‘right product’, and without a way to measure what ‘right’ is, a lot of the benefits that Agile can deliver never make it beyond the development pit.

Most management teams couldn’t care less about the methodology used by their development team, be it Agile, Lean, Waterfall or your Aunt Marjory’s homemade methodology. They just want to know when they’ll get their hands on the product and how soon it can be monetised. Ultimately, they care about the outcomes of the process that deliver results the business can see.

So when we’re talking about ‘Post-Agile’ it would be best to talk about expanding our reach beyond the developers and into management circles. Instead of simply speeding up the delivery of ‘working software’ in the form of more outputs, we should be talking about delivering ‘outcomes’ – or the business results that matter. A recent study by Forrester Research suggests that ‘outcomes thinking’ is an emerging trend we should be paying attention to.

In the next post we will examine how organisations can move to a more outcomes based approach and the tools and techniques that can help make adoption easier.