Devs not clear about strategy? It’s likely way worse than that

A quite common issue surfaced by the Agendashift Delivery Assessment is that so-called delivery teams (and I don’t just mean developers and other technologists) aren’t clear about things like vision, purpose, and strategy. Digging into what was apparently a source of real frustration at one client a few years ago, I asked a product manager what he and his colleagues in the product team were doing to keep these things at the forefront of minds and conversations in their technology team.

His answer?

“They never asked”

I was unable to stop my jaw from dropping! At my unguarded reaction he tried hastily to row back, but not very convincingly.

Show me a development team not involved in the strategy conversation and I’ll show you one that delivers code but not insights, features but not intelligence, and products that are mediocre at best, meeting the spec but failing to satisfy. You don’t want that. No strategist worth his salt wants that. No business can afford that kind of failure for long, but work in a strategy bubble and it’s what you get.

The systems theory around this issue is well known, developed since the middle of the last century. A key lesson is that if you neglect the necessary interplay between organisational processes such as strategy and delivery (to name but two), you put your independent existence – your viability – under real threat. Happily, much of the associated practice is now highly accessible to a 21st century audience – the startup community lives by it – so there’s little excuse not to be guided by the theory.

As for Agendashift, it’s built into our mission statement, right there in the middle:


The practical side is reflected in the bottom half of the new framework overview (see the recent announcement Agendashift as framework):

Agendashift overview 16x10 2020-04

The pattern Just-in-time (JIT) strategy deployment is the second of two key generative patterns in Agendashift, and is itself several patterns for the price of one. It describes strategy as being (and I quote):

“developed and refined collaboratively (with varying degrees of participation) over time and in response to the feedback generated through its implementation, solutions emerging from the people closest to the problem”

Agendashift has always been about strategy – whether transformation strategy specifically or strategy more broadly – but it can’t (and doesn’t) ignore delivery. If you’re struggling to connect the two adequately, read that page and take (I hope) some inspiration. And for a whole book’s worth, start with the highly accessible Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile. If you’ve not read any of my books before, this one is almost certainly the one to pick first.

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