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Project Success: A Focus on Delivery or on Process?

The key is balance between the two

14 July 2017

Mallika V
Red Hat

As an Agile coach, I have seen companies debate one point endlessly: Focus more on delivery than on process.

Here are my thoughts about this. Process, I believe, is a driving tool. When followed assiduously, it will lead to the desired outcome, the delivery of the desired result.

There are two common antipatterns that I have observed repeatedly in the IT industry:
  • Giving constant attention only to delivery
  • Adhering to the rules of the process stringently, even when that does not add value to a successful delivery
In my opinion, concentrating only on delivery will lead to massive failure. If we incessantly pay attention only to delivery, then we are just thinking of "surviving." This will alter the team dynamics in a negative way. Lack of creative thinking, technical debt accumulation, and poor quality of the product are the offshoots of concentrating only on delivery.

Some of the start-ups that we see today gravitate toward this idea. The teams are tasked to concentrate only on delivery. In their eagerness to deliver more, the team tends to take shortcuts. In due course, this will lead to an alarming increase of unplanned work, in turn hampering the ultimate quality of the product. Though initially they will able to deliver whatever is required, over time the team spend will be on the accumulated unplanned work or on paying off the technical debt. This will eventually gobble up the entire project.

On the other hand, following a process will not only get us to the expected outcome but will also ensure consistency in achieving success. Of course, following a process with stubborn rules also has detrimental effect on successful delivery. After all, the Agile Manifesto reminds us to value "individuals and interactions over processes and tools." With a too-strict process, the team loses enthusiasm and freedom. This will stress them, leading to detrimental effect on the delivery.

In a highly distributed team model, with team members residing in varied time zones, I have observed that holding a Daily Scrum by a video call was painful for the team members. As a result of the firm rule to have the call every day at a particular time, there was, I observed, lower attendance for that call. The resolution of impediments was much slower. When we held our retrospective, the team started identifying the real benefits of the Daily Scrum. It was clear we needed to tweak the Daily Scrum ceremony immediately. We had learned from our failure and we came up with innovative ideas to perform that meeting, such as maintaining a sync sheet for doing daily scrum and catching up just once a week via video call.

We all agree that there is no perfect process. An Agile coach or the leadership team should be adept at making changes to the process to best suit the needs of the team and the product to be delivered. The process should be such that it enhances the team's ability to learn and enables them to make changes to achieve the expected goal.

The primary reason Agile as a process has become popular is that it allows for experimentation around the 12 principles. The approach favors adapting to cope with any modifications the project require.

Though there is no rule of thumb for success, if the team is focusing only on the process or focusing only on the delivery, neither approach will result in success. Inspecting the process regularly, identifying the constraints hindering the delivery (if any), working on the process to address the constraints, and quickly adapting to the changes will make the project a success.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 3.6 (5 ratings)


Jeremy Brien, CSM,CSPO, 7/17/2017 11:28:09 AM
Agreed -- Processes should align with creating value to the customer at speed. Nice article!
Chetak Khosla, CSM, 7/19/2017 2:05:05 AM
Nice article, comparing Project focus and summarizing with brief statement "team is focusing only on the process...., neither approach will result in success"
Mohammed Haji, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 7/19/2017 11:59:47 PM
Nice article!!
Mallika V, CSP,CSM, 7/25/2017 1:49:05 AM
Thank you !

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