Taming ambitions with Agile

At the beginning of a new project, product, or company, it is great to think big. It is exciting to imagine all the possibilities. It’s exhilarating to brainstorm a kaleidoscope of interacting things that you plan to do or offer.

However, you shouldn’t attempt to do everything at once. Too many things can go wrong and it will be difficult to troubleshoot the root cause of problems. Ambitiously attempting to do everything at once will more likely lead to delays, cost overruns, stress, and failure.

It is important to tame your ambitions so you can focus on what is most important.

The value in being agile, especially if you are also practicing Lean Startup, is that it forces you to prioritize, boil down exactly what is the absolute most important and essential, and focus on that first. Then, get it out to your early adopters so you can collect their feedback, and iterate forward.

With agile, we can still have a road map for the future while focusing on the current and subsequent sprints. When people come up with great ideas, put them in the backlog. Reprioritize that backlog at the next backlog grooming session. Don’t worry about all of the details in the future. Instead, focus on the details of the present.

Being agile and doing agile relieves the stress and pressure of thinking everything through. It frees up our minds and detoxifies sprints of unnecessary detail, allowing us to focus on the here and now.

When we do agile, we want to ensure that we are delivering working software quickly and regularly. We want to be shipping and releasing on a recurring basis. But we also want to ensure that what we deliver works as intended and is usable. People need to be able to use it and test it so we can get feedback on the work. This results in higher quality software and increased satisfaction.

It is more important to have a few things working right, as they should, than to have a bunch of things that don’t work at all or as they should. Being agile means getting things done and limiting our work-in-progress. It means fewer loose ends.

Is your organization trying to do too much at once? Is nothing really getting done? Are there more things in progress than things that have actually been delivered and are working as intended? If your answers are yes, yes, yes. Then perhaps you should tame your ambitions and be more agile.

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