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  • Tom Bellinson

Agile Practice is the Tool - Customer Value Delivery is the Thing

As someone who embraces agile principles and strives to be a good steward of the types of practices they evoke, I need to change my language. When someone asks me what I do, I usually say, “I’m an agile coach” or “I help software development teams.” These are weak responses to the question. The reason is a sign of the times.

Agile practices like SAFe™ and Scrum have become their own cottage industries. People are out there selling this stuff. This is like wanting to have a house built and buying hammers and saws instead. The “house” in this metaphor is customer value. Agile practitioners need to stop selling agile practices and start selling customer value.

I know it’s in there somewhere. You can’t learn about agile practices without at least touching on customer value delivery. But, agile practices are just a tool - a tool designed to improve our ability to deliver customer value quickly and effectively. This is the goal, the objective, the reason for being. It is “the thing.”

You’re probably thinking, “so what, Tom?” What difference does it make?” A lot! So often, in the agile community, I hear debates about how to measure team performance. While there are lots of things you could measure for performance diagnostics, only one measure strikes the heart of whether agile practices are making a difference -- value delivery. Other types of metrics are either vanity metrics easily gamed, or (as mentioned) for diagnostic purposes only.

Value delivery metrics are the only ones that the larger organization should care about. If your team needs to report metrics like velocity or lines of code written to anyone outside the team, your organization is missing the point -- and thereby missing the real value of agile practices.

Measuring customer value is hard - a lot harder than measuring velocity. A lot of things are hard, but we still do them when they are the right thing to do. If you don’t have mechanisms in place to measure your ability to deliver customer value quickly and effectively, figure it out! Seriously, this is why your team is part of the business.

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