Embrace and Celebrate Incremental Change

As I work at a company that helps other companies achieve their technology goals, I often meet with teams of people who have grand ideas about the direction they would like to steer their products or services. Often, I find that these teams have goals in mind, but perhaps are lacking in strategy or tactics to meet them. In these cases, we help define their strategy and develop the tactics that will allow them to live into their goals.

However, I frequently come across people that have a goal and strategy in place, but are unable to really gain momentum or will within their organizations to achieve it. This is typically due to the fact that when the goals are transformative in nature, the technicalities around them are complex. As a result the gamble for the business is riskier than the leadership may deem safe. When this occurs, teams can stagnate and the business’s goals will unlikely be achieved.

Generally, when working with teams that have a strategy in mind, we find that if leadership has not been fully enrolled in the strategy or their concerns haven’t been completely addressed, these projects fail to reach full potential. Often, this is due to the technical staff not fully explaining the details in a clear manner or the requirements are set too broad to create complete expectations.

This disconnect is often best demonstrated in long, detailed requirements definitions of the strategy that can only be grasped by several individuals or are so large in scope that they seem insurmountable. To be sure, the gathering of requirements are critical. But as a leader, it is daunting to sign up for a multi-year endeavor if the final result is achieved only at the end of a requirements document and a multi-year investment. Similarly, large-scale strategies generally imply a static marketplace, which will have the same needs at the finish of the project as they do at the start. This is very infrequently the case with technology.

Companies like ours have goals that span multiple years, so we need to have an approach toward achieving them, while remaining respectful of the time, commitments and costs imposed by ourselves and market forces. At ITX, we utilize an Agile approach toward development and process improvement. Rather than solely focusing on just the final result, we also celebrate the individual successes of short-term releases. What does this mean? Long-term goals like Continuous Integration across multiple production teams are incredibly valuable, but our approach to Agile affords us a prioritized improvement every few weeks, which is also incredibly valuable.

Through this approach we are able to provide clear and consistent checkpoints that are aligned not only with our business goals, but also can change on a regular and often unpredictable basis to market demands. Similarly, because we aren’t bound by one singular investment locked away in a requirements document that spans several years, we can benefit early and often from the work we are managing on a continuous basis.

What we have come to realize is that celebrating our incremental work is incredibly transformative in-and-of itself. We have found that it fuels the team’s enthusiasm and morale toward completing the long-term objective, while meeting incremental business needs along the way! Additionally, we can provide a constant stream of valuable work to the business shareholders, which yields additional confidence and investment.

So, if you find yourself in a place where your technical strategy exceeds your businesses tolerance for risk or comfort, I encourage you to try this approach toward achieving your goals. It isn’t always easy, but by embracing and celebrating our incremental work, we have ultimately transformed the way that we communicate with one another and the way we deliver. For those companies brave enough join with us and move away from “requirements phase” models, we have been thrilled to see them experience the same results.

Originally published at www.itx.com.

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