Importance is not earnings!


Last week I shared the paradox of mastery - the more you do the less you do - with the intent to warn you off fast cutting assets under the pretence this is Agile. In order to master business agility you must learn repeatedly and repeated learning is what gives you the cumulative desired impact from Agile.

One of the most common blocker to mastering business agility outcomes is the poor language of business managers. Yep, how we speak, what we say and especially what we listen for in our language which can totally impede productivity among systems, engagement across customers and empowerment of our people. Put it another way; imagine the amount of productivity gains if everyone just cut the inflammatory BS!! 

Late on a afternoon Friday after 4.30pm I get an email with a very adamant tone…

“We require two coaches in our area….!” (fyi - this was the totality of the request)

They provided no context, no capabilities identified and no commitment criteria expressed. Just another typical short handed email with a tone of - I’m the most important requester RIGHT NOW and I need you to listen to ME!

Monday 10.35am I get a message from same person now saying their coach demands are now  'urgently critical'.  Again their email has no context, nor any intent to have a conversation - just a pure self important demand.  Their email could be a valid urgency however this particular person sends similar emails every week where they throw demands over the fence and scream critical!!. Yep, the business manager that cried critical, I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about.


That same Monday morning about 8am before the machine gun messaging began, my Dad and are chatting on the drive into work. We’re talking war stories, helicopter crashes and emergency rescues. Not things we heard in the news but of our personal experiences of the world ...well mostly Dads. 

We chat about the sacredness of life that war fosters compared to the dismissiveness of life that commercial economics fosters. We talk of critical response times in emergencies and critical decision making in moments of life or death. For me when someone says critical I actual see the ER triage codes and my heartbeat goes a little faster. For many of us, critical is simply a verb.

When you compare how the rest of the world relates to what is 'critical' and the nature of which some commercial managers behave it's easy to see the overuse of dramatic words. To an agilist it seems a rather aggressive way to try to manipulate someone else's agenda. In agile we look to prioritise work based on agreed value metrics, context of the work and collaborate on making a sequenced commitment. 

The reason agilists encourage mangers to move from ‘manipulate’ to ‘collaborate prioritisation’ is to drive out intra-competitive waste - be that low impact initiatives or personal preferences - and drive high business impact, shortest job first to market first. 

That is, we bring a business impact view into our decision making which drives our backlog of work vs. individual agendas.

My absolute favourite economic prioritisation model is the cost of delay. But before we go deep on any particular framework, I'd recommend as an Agile Business Leader you start to 'observe how much waste' is created within the business through competitive manipulative behaviour? 

Don't go jumping to conclusions blaming people for how they might be behaviour; observe deeper, what's driving such 'critical requests'?  Often companies set up incentives across departments and don't realise this drives intra-competitive behaviour within the business rather than against competitors in the market?