Monday, April 18, 2011

Why so many V/Ps?

I was talking with a friend of mine about defining success for Agile companies based on our experience.  It turns out we came up with a very simple formula.  Here are the two factors of success that we narrowed it down to:

  • Length of time spent in planning meetings
  • Timespan of the company vision

Let's explore each of these in detail.


The company that has shorter planning sessions with as few people as possible will be successful.   Longer planning meetings involving the whole team are physically draining and technically introduce a drag on the team's velocity.   They also water down the resulting user stories because too many opinions get voiced that are not relevant to the customer problem.  These sessions usually end up with a lot of frustrated people and no clear vision of what people are working on and why.

The alternative is to have impromptu planning sessions that come during bits of downtime during the day.  Involving as few relevant folks as possible gets enough points of view and leads to less opinion and more fact in the story definition and sizing.  It also promotes a more productive team boosting team velocity rather than being a drag on it.  People simply gather at a pairing station, discuss the story, size and get done in less than 15 minutes.

All of this leads us to the first rule that a company's success is inversely proportional to the amount of time it spends in planning sessions:

     S ~ 1/p


Many of us have been a part of a company that despite having potentially good products and talented people still doesn't seem to take it to the next level or outright fails.  It comes down to the transformation that the company undergoes from working on new and great ideas to suddenly losing its way and simply trying to keep the developed assets afloat in the marketplace.  They eventually get lapsed by competitors or passed over by new technology offerings and get purchased at a bargain price or go out of business entirely.

The successful company keeps the vision moving forward and long range.  They are always adapting and constantly adjusting it along they way just like a driver in a car manages the steering wheel.  You make a lot of adjustments but in general go on a direct path from point A to point B.  They are nimble and unafraid to do something entirely different as long as it is maleable with the tenets that make up the evolving vision.

These facts give us the second part of the equation for success which is the longer and more far reaching the vision is the more successful the company will be:

    S ~ v


Now that we have our factors we can quite easily define the formula for a successful company:

    F(v,p) = v/p

This captures everything succinctly and can be applied easily.  The longer the vision and the shorter the planning session the more successful your company will be.

This got my friend to say this about his company:

    "So *that's* why we have so many V/Ps!"