Deadlines aren’t agile (and that’s OK)

How many times have you heard in the course of a software development project:

I need this by <date>?
If we don’t deliver <x> by <date>, we’re going to lose internal political capital?
When can you get this to me by? I need it soon so <VP> will greenlight our next project.

This is a common way to manage. It’s ingrained in management, and it makes sense — internal management is often driven by deadlines. The trade show deadline, the Q4 marketing push deadline. The release going out so <business unit> can meet their deadlines.

Would it surprise you to learn that agile methodologies eschew this worldview for delivering something on a predictable schedule. It may only be a piece of what you want, but it’ll be delivered at a regular cadence. The idea of deadlines goes away for “are we on the right path generally”?

If this is a hard pill to swallow, “going agile” may not be for you. Especially Scrum.

And you know what? That’s OK. Your organization doesn’t have to be fully bought in gain some benefit from adopting some agile practices — but I wouldn’t generally recommend trying to adopt scrum if your environment is deadline driven. Your team can get better, your team can deliver faster without adopting Scrum; but it all depends on your team, your culture, and your particular context.

Have a new project coming up soon? Building a new team? Hit reply and let me know, I’d love to talk to you about your culture, constraints, and context. Every software team can be more productive, even if scrum isn’t the method they use.

This post originally appeared in my newsletter.

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