Despite agile methods doing a great deal to bring technology teams closer to the consumers and businesses they’re supporting, I’ve found that it is easy to develop a disconnect between a Business person’s view of progress and an agile team’s view of progress.

Given the question “are we on track?” delivery teams tend to answer this on a shorter time horizon then the business tends to care about.  It’s obvious that you’ll be getting two weeks worth of work in two weeks, but what does that move us towards overall?  Will I be able to move to a new market?  Will I attract new customers?  Establish new partnerships?  That thought led me to pose this question.

We would be far better off answering these questions from the perspective of the business owner, which I think is better phrased like this.

Based on our stated business goals (hopefully outlined in a roadmap) how far are we (in terms of man days, story points, etc.) from each stage today?

Even saying something like “we believe we have 6 sprints left before reaching that milestone” could be an unhelpful answer.  It all depends on what that stakeholder is looking for in terms of visibility.  You should be prepared to answer questions like these at a moment’s notice:

  • Will we be able to make our current milestone given our current progress?  If not, what can be done?
  • Will we need more personnel given the scope of the next major milestone?  If so, how many?  When should they be brought on?
  • Are the dates for our next milestone realistic?  If not, what can be done?
Answer questions like these and you’ve gone a long way towards closing the gap between the Executive’s view of progress and the team’s view of progress.
Are there any other big questions you have found to be really impactful in helping to sync the Executive and delivery teams?  How does your team deal with this issue now?
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