We often think that finishing a story from the backlog is “just” tactical. However, the more often we deliver in short feedback loops, the more often we can make strategic decisions. Finishing a story creates a new decision point, for both the product and the corporate strategy. The more often we iterate strategically, the more we exhibit business agility.
Here's an example. Assume you have an entire feature set of 20 stories. The product owner asks the team to finish 5 stories in this iteration.
The team finishes 3 stories and as the PO reviews the product's progress, the PO realizes 3 stories is enough for now.
Now, the PO has a decision point. Is it worth the team's time to finish the other 2 stories in this iteration? If you use iterations without flow, maybe the PO has a working agreement to avoid changing stories in the iteration.
However, if your team uses flow and you use product minimums, the PO can decide which story to do next.
That's the PO assessing the relative value of the work for this product.
Every delivery creates a decision point.
What if you have working agreements about not changing work inside an iteration? That's fine, especially if you have short iterations. However, I hope that your PO does change his or her mind for the next planning session. The PO sees what the team completed and decides the relative value of the next chunk of work.
The shorter the feedback loops, the easier it is to use what we finished to make a new decision about the next bit of work at all levels.
Short Feedback Loops Can Create More Decision Points
The shorter the feedback loop, the more often the PO can change the product roadmap. In addition, the more often the organization can change the project portfolio. That's the point of the image with this post.
- The blue feedback loops (bottom right) are all about the product and the backlog. Those feedback loops help the team decide what to do now and next.
- The red feedback loops (bottom left) help the PO and the team decide what to change on the backlog.
- The green feedback loops (the right side of the image) offer information to the people who decide on the product strategy and the project portfolio.
The shorter the feedback loops, the more decision points you have. You don't have to change every time you have a decision point. You can change. You're not stuck with an outdated decision for too long.
What if you have a complex product where you don't want customers using half-finished features? Deliver internally only. Or use feature flags to prevent customers from using that unfinished feature set.
If you want business agility, deliver often. (Yes, you have to manage your WIP.) Shorten all the feedback loops, especially those in the team. (Use cycle time to see how long your feedback loops are.)
Now, when can you create an opportunity to decide again, to choose what to do next? If you want more business agility, reduce all your feedback loops, including the strategy feedback loops.