Tuning into the Bigger Picture

The great Earl Nightingale once stated that people with goals succeed because they know where they are going. All too often, however, while our short-term goals are more than apparent, tugging and pulling at us with every passing moment, the overarching reason for doing what we do appears to get lost in the process.

In fact, this is often a criticism reserved for Agile development itself. Because so much time is spent focusing on small tasks every week, it is not unheard of for developers to lose sight of important objectives, without which the end result of a project would quickly dissolve into a sloppy, disjointed mess.

“The first step is recognising you have a problem!” the AA meeting — Agile Aid — speaker says in the back. Yet at Software Planet, we take great strides to ensure no problems will arise in the first place.

White Noise

Of course, it is only natural for the start of a project to be marked by a certain level of unpredictability. But this is where one’s vision comes extremely in handy.

When well-defined, a product vision is able to cut through the white noise of uncertainty and replace it with the big picture, a clear mental image of the project at hand.

In order to best accomplish this feat, it is helpful to focus on the true intention behind a product, which is ultimately the very purpose of one’s work.

The following are a few questions we like to ask our customers in order to assist us in this enterprise:

  • What problems are we aiming to solve?
  • Who are our end users and how can we best serve them?
  • How is our product adding value to your company?

Static

Once a product vision has been established, the next challenge is to get everyone behind the concept. This will require both discipline and commitment, as again, it is easy to remain static in one’s routine activities, especially in bigger and more complicated projects.

Paradoxically, however, it is precisely these projects that demand more of our attention which will require a ‘big picture’ perspective the most, as without one, the probability of experiencing problems related to miscommunications, internal conflict and suboptimal performance should greatly increase.

On the other hand, great power lies in a team united behind a common purpose.

In the car industry, for instance, studies have shown that workers who possess a greater sense of what they are working towards not only perform more effectively than their uninformed counterparts, but also identify opportunities for improvement.

Tuning In

This is why we believe it is so important to periodically revisit our product vision. At SPG, we do this by conducting regular retrospectives and demo meetings in addition to fostering a culture of full transparency and openness.

As a result, we are able to expand our view to hone in on oft-neglected, high-level aspects of development — namely, the software architecture, user experience and ensuring our project is always living up to our customers’ expectations.

Perfect Quality

Admittedly, working in Agile teams does demand a great deal of self-management and compartmentalised responsibility, but like Hemingway, we know where we’re going!

By actively seeking to align our tasks with your overarching objectives and encouraging our developers to prioritise accordingly, we are able to avoid the damaging error of short-sighted thinking and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.

The end game, if you get the picture, is a product that is able to perfectly satisfy both customers and end users alike.

David Blackwood

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