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The Agile Executives: Developers Strike Back!

· Agile Zone

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Managers and C-Level executives make a habit of beating up developers over their inability to provide accurate estimates. Now it's time to turn the tables, for the good of the company of course. ;)

The first thing executives owe their team is clear direction and vision. Where is the company headed and why? Leaders have been trying to share this information with their teams for years. They've tried techniques ranging from mission statements to newsletters to meetings. Due to the extra information trapped in their heads (linkĀ  scroll down to the Tappers and Listener section), these efforts almost always fail. It's time for a different, more agile approach to the problem

Extreme Programming has used story cards for years. It's a tool to help developers clarify requirements and make their work more visible (link). Let's have the same level of clarity and insight from the executive team too.

The Value Story Card (VSC) is the equivalent tool for your executive, sales, support, and marketing teams. In addition to requiring a clean, succinct description of any new product line or company initiative, the VSC also requires a dollar amount to be written on the card. How much money will this new product or market make the company? How much money with this new tool save support?

Will these estimates be accurate at first? No more than a developer's time estimates. But they provide a framework that can be used to prioritize work (and they'll get better with practice, like anything else.) With this clear set of priorities, anyone in the company can know if their work is contributing to the entire enterprise's Value Story Cards.

The Value Story Cards clearly and plainly communicate the company goals and opportunities. Then the departments can easily align their work to the larger vision.

What do you think? Is this better than a mission statement?

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