You Know How Weird They Are

Weird?  Seems to me it is more than sensible from the client’s point of view.  If you are in my meeting answering an email related to another account, you are missing everything said during that period.  And I am paying you for you to be here with me, not focusing on that digital distraction device in your palm.  

Your attention cannot be two place at once.  Period.  

We have a core value in Scrum that very directly fights the global myth of multi-tasking making you more efficient.  That core value is Focus.      

Of the five core values of Scrum it is, in my opinion, the most critical for an organization to understand and to develop the discipline required to practice it.  

In Scrum, we share a core value with Apple, Focus.  On his return to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs reduced the number of products they would sell from 350 to 10.  "People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on," said Jobs. "But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying 'no' to 1,000 things."

A lack of the ability to focus at a corporate level is often reflected in a very common dysfunction.  The company is trying to be everything for everyone at the same time.  People get stretched across five projects at the same time.  All projects get small increments of progress forward.  But is just seems to take forever for anything to get done.  

And because everyone is in a ‘Partial Allocation - Partial Results’ mode, I am willing to bet that your clients all hate you equally, since none of them get what they need in the timeframe in which you had originally committed to deliver.

And that failure to deliver is not from lack of effort.  In unfocused companies, Saturdays look like Tuesdays.  Everyone is in the office trying to work out from under the tsunami that never seems to stop flowing.  Everyone is burned out, no one enjoys being there, nothing ever seems to get done and again, your clients all hate you equally.

For unfocused companies, let me suggest a new position.  Make sure that someone is Vice-President in Charge of Evenly Spreading Dissatisfaction.  They can insure the dysfunction of ‘partial allocation - partial results’ does not gang up on any one account.  They insure that all of your clients hate you equally.  If in that company’s market space an agile competitor has chosen the choicest, most profitable market slice and aims to give complete and total effort on owning that piece of real estate, they are in big trouble as they try to be everything for everyone.  

Bringing Focus to an organization requires the executive suite to adopt a very different way of managing the portfolio of opportunities.  They will have to, just like the Scrum Product Owner, learn how to prioritize.  They must stack rank all possible projects based on their value and release for work only those for which fully dedicated resources are available.

And if dedicated resources are not available, learn how to say ‘Not yet’.  

‘No’ means just that, you are not aiming to ever pursue that opportunity.  ‘Not yet’ is a new skill only needed when the executives stack rank the list.  The work begins on those at the top.  To those just below the active range, the word is to be patient.  Let us finish the project in front of you, so when the Team begins their work with you, they will bring a complete and total Focus to the effort.  More projects complete in the same time frame without more staffing.  

But it requires the executive group to end the wishful thinking of ‘I just wish I could have it all’.  Well you can’t!  You do not have the resources for it all.  So prioritize them, pick the best ones to which you can assign fully dedicated Teams in the near term and forget the rest.

That’s my story and I am sticking with it.