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Building on the Scrum thoughts I shared in December,  I’d like to discuss how we should focus on what we are trying to deliver vs the “how” of delivery.

It is entirely natural and easy to focus on the tasks, but the team needs to focus on the outcomes. Derek Nerenberg -one of our XTIVIA Engagement Managers- often shares that same sentiment with the development teams. This comes into practice when we develop user stories for enterprise portals we are designing, developing and implementing.

These are what I think of as compelling reasons to focus on the “what” not the “how”:

  • Focusing on the deliverables and outcomes helps our teams work together. All too often tasks are viewed as work to be completed by individuals. The focus on outcomes brings the team into focus to define and sizen the tasks, assign them, and then come together to ensure it will all integrate.
  • I’ve found we deliver faster.  When we work as a team on outcomes and not tasks, we are able to more easily define “done.”  When we focus on tasks we can get derailed by incomplete or poorly defined requirements and face delays while we suss out the true needs (or wants!) and have it all explained in minute detail. As an outcome-oriented team we can keep thinking about the end-goal and not get as hung up on the nitpicky details.
  • I’ve seen it foster a sense of stewardship in the work. When the team are allowed to drive toward the outcome and define the tasks themselves they are more inclined to own the consequences of their actions. When they’re given (or focus on) just the tasks and sheltered from the outcome it is easier for them to become myopic and forget that these task deliver pieces of a whole that must fit together in the end.

To most people, this all makes sense and sounds like conventional wisdom. It is, but the biggest challenge is making it happen, given the historical/typical IT culture under which most of us operate. One of the biggest success factors in this “new” approach is HOW (ironically!) the PM/scrum master interacts with the team. If you catch yourself only asking about the tasks, completion percentage, delivery dates and impediments, please know you are NOT sending a consistent message to your project team about being focused on outcomes.

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