Jan 03

Mini Golf Tactics

Or How Product Vision is Agile’s best friend.

Agile tacticsAs a child I was already partial to Agile Thinking. I remember one of my first mini-golf games, where I – unaware of the goal of using as few strokes as possible – carefully directed the ball towards the putt little by little. I had to be encouraged to hit harder with every bump (even though my accuracy proved valuable with every tunnel on the lanes). I figured that even though it may take me more turns, at least I could be sure I’d get the ball where it was supposed to go, instead of trying again and again, without making any visible progress (and with growing frustration).

This is one of the most fundamental messages of Agile; take little steps and adjust along the way.  Like this, it will cost less money and take less time to make something that is as close to the perfect ingredient mix as you can get.

But working along this path takes courage. It means letting go of something you’ve made before, if it isn’t good enough. It means taking steps back, and throwing out work you’re proud of. It means being brave enough to start from scratch. All for the benefit of adjusting and eventually getting to a better solution than you had before.

Now I hear you say: isn’t that a bit haphazard? Aren’t we just going from one fling to the other if we do that? How can we get anywhere if we’re adjusting all the time? If we tell ourselves it’s ok to change our minds, however small or big, how will we ever finish a product?

The answer is twofold.

In agile, you force your team to actually spit out results after every sprint. This ensures you don’t just adjust all the time, but specifies the times that you can adjust (just after you shipped). It also ensures that you actually ship, without fear of shipping the wrong thing (because you can adjust later anyway). It takes some getting used to, but it works like clockwork.

Secondly, an agile process is an asymptote, not a random graph. You work towards a goal. This is where a Product Vision enters the scene. Your Product Vision is like the putt of your mini-golf game. Without it, you don’t have a clue in which direction to aim the ball. Without it, adjusting is closer to randomly picking a direction with closed eyes than to getting closer to your predetermined goal.

So even though at first sight Agile Thinking (taking small steps and adjusting) and Product Vision (thinking about the long term and clinging to a core) may seem to be a paradox, they actually complement each other perfectly. In the end it’s about building Great Stuff. So keep your eye on the ball but don’t loose sight of the hole!

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