Thanks everyone for the contributions to this discussion, especially the specific comments on how and when to (re-)focus on strategic goals setting and adjustment. One take-away for me from this discussion, perhaps, is that agile gives ample opportunity to deliver on strategy -- greater opportunities than some other methods -- but the efficacy is influenced by the quality of communication between stakeholders (client, product owner, R&D), trust between product owner and R&D, and longer term view of the backlog.
Hope that's a fair summary of people's comments.
From: [address removed] <[address removed]>
To: [address removed] <[address removed]>
Sent: Mon Jul 02 15:30:[masked]
Subject: Re: [ljc] agile and strategic
I'm a long way off being any kind of agile expert, but I'm not sure why agile practices would in any way prevent a team from having a long term / strategic perspective. Admittedly, during an individual sprint, you're not going to be thinking much about features that are 6 months down the backlog, but in the transition between sprints it is normal to take a more strategic view.
At the end of each sprint, you're likely to be reviewing what was delivered in the last sprint, maybe checking out burn-downs and getting a reasonable view on whether the project is on target for whatever longer term delivery dates you have. Features should also be prioritised for the next sprint based on their impact on future tasks in the project. An important factor in prioritisation decisions is picking off complex issues and blockers early. You do need to be looking ahead in order to do this.
One standard feature of an agile project is to get environments (dev, test and production) out there as early as possible, along with mechanisms for testing and deploying. I suspect that the main reason for this is that these are unquestionably required as part of the solution. If you have them implemented early, then you know that the time you have left is dedicated to developing features. This means that any slippage from that point on can be dealt with by de-scoping less important features, or maybe if you're early enough, adding to the team. One note on this is that I have worked in places where it could take an infrastructure team months to provision a test environment. This makes it impossible to provision environments early. I would hope with more corporate acceptance of cloud infrastructure such as AWS (and maybe Microsoft's Azure could make a big difference with corporates), it should be trivial to provision all the environments you need in next to no time.
The dev team isn't meant to be a locked down little bubble containing people who are aware of their next ten Jira tasks and no more, so to be perfectly honest, if an agile project isn't taking long term / strategic objectives into account, then that is more likely a communication issue. I'm pretty sure all the agile methods include forums for such communication (i.e. the demo at the end of a sprint can be one). I would look at whether the business (or maybe ivory tower architects if you're in a large company) are not communicating their objectives clearly, or whether the development team is ignoring them. Either way, you have a people and communications problem, not a methodology problem.
Hopefully that provides a few slightly useful thoughts on the topic...
>> On Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 11:34 AM, Matt Pearce
>> <[address removed]>
>>> Would like to pick up on Richard's comment: 'Agile lacks long-term
>>> planning', on a new thread.
>>> I'm interested in which ways can Agile practitioners keep long-term or
>>> strategic goals in focus, while retaining the agility of being able to
>>> change direction. What works, what doesn't?
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