Agile is For Executives

…Agile is not as good as they say…its WAY better….

Imagine never missing an Annual budget target ever again?  Never having to report a late project ever again?  So here’s a question….Why don’t some senior Executives realize that Agile is what they’ve been dreaming of all their professional career???

I suggest that the real problem is that so often Executives who have been bought up with gantt charts and traditional waterfall projects that rarely meet any of the three constraints – time, money, or scope – are asking all the wrong questions, and even worse. don’t understand the answers.  Consider…

Q: “How long will it take?”  “How much will it cost?”  “Will I get everything I’ve asked for?”

9 out 10 times, you just know that is what they (think) they want to know….and here is the pure Agile answer to that question (I love this answer, but don’t try it on anyone born before 1st Jan 1990, or someone who has read my blog!).  Its what nightmares are made of….

  • A: “As long as you give me”, “As much as you give me”, “Well, we’ll get as much done of it as we can”     

OK – well how about this then….(This is the answer I have until recently being offering, and no….it doesn’t work a lot better than the first one!).  Not so Nightmarish, but likely to keep your average Exec awake at night, nontheless…

  • We can release on the 11th March, 2014″, “$253,000”, “We’ll get the most important stuff done, and then some more…hopefully”

I propose that the real problem is that this is the wrong question, really…an Exec worth their salt doesn’t actually care WHAT you deliver – it could be a rock with a smiley face painted on it, for all it matters to them (pet rocks – OK I’m showing my age!).  They only (should) actually care that whatever it is, it makes money….

Q: “How long will it take? ” “How much will it cost?”  “Will it make me money?”

OK so how about that as a question….let’s consider the answer – does the answer sound any more reassuring?

  • A: “We’ll deliver on the 11th March, 2014 at 6pm”, “$253,000”, “Most likely!!”

Q: “Can we meet the organizations Strategic Objectives[1] with this project?”

Agile can actually talk to “The Business” [2] at its own level, on its own terms.  The answer might be something more like:

  • A: “I should think so, but lets set a budget that you are comfortable with, and some realistic criteria around what would be considered a successful product from the customer’s perspective.  If we work closely with Product Marketing and the Product Manager, you’ll definitely be able to make your budget, and there is a strong likelihood that we’ll be able to meet most if not all of the success criteria to one extent or another.”

or more simpler

  • A: “Yup! – should be able to!”


  1.  OK – so this does come with the caveat that those objectives aren’t an outcome-based goal such as revenue targets or EBITDA numbers – that they are results that can actually be controlled by the organization – more on that anon….
  2. As if technology wasn’t part of “The Business”, – Technology as a department is most probably stuffed with more MBA’s than any other, and almost certainly has a higher IQ than all the others too (talkingabout a software development company here, of course….but more about THAT in another blog!

Paul Osborn

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