Why Delivery is Everything

by Mar 24, 2021Agile Thought Leadership

Why Delivery is Everything

Our core philosophy at Fractal, and the secret sauce behind every single successful programme we help to drive, is that delivery is everything.

Organisations agree. The latest State of Agile report mentions that the number one reason for firms going Agile is to accelerate delivery.

Agility is about releasing value, but in some circles a misunderstanding of a ‘people-centric’ focus can unintentionally undermine that principle. We find that well-meaning leaders new to Agile are sometimes coached to put all their efforts into creature comforts for  their people whilst forgetting the primary purpose of the firm – to relentlessly deliver value to their customers and clients.

Let me give you an example. I was once called in by the MD of a leading financial services firm, who said to me: “Look, I’ve done everything for my agile teams. I’ve given them new space. They’ve got food and fully-stocked fridges 24/7. They’ve got office toys and unconventional furniture and workspaces.  I’ve changed when they can work and where they can work. They’ve got all this stuff! But it’s been six months now, and they haven’t delivered a sausage! What am I doing wrong?”

People love delivering value

A delivery focus isn’t at odds with people-centricity. People love delivering value – even more than creature comforts.. Artists love to see their works on display, engineers love to see their creations used, doctors love to see patients healed and healthy. People love to contribute and love to add value to the world.

A leader’s job should be to eliminate the frictions and impediments that prevent their smart, ambitious and wonderful people from achieving the very thing they come to work to do. Deliver value.

When taking on programme turnarounds or agile transformations, our teams come in with one very simple intent: that we will keep our client’s promises and we will partner with our clients to do whatever it takes to achieve delivery. We do this by taking extreme ownership, doing everything needed to get delivery out of the door. Delivery is really where value is released. And that’s why it is a core tenet of what we do.

Delivery creates trust

What is one of the fastest ways to gain trust? It is to add value by keeping your promises. To do the things you say you’re going to do, when you’ve promised to do them.

And that is nothing but delivery. When you’re keeping your promises and delivering on your promises to your teammates, you create trust. When you’re working with senior stakeholders, and you’re keeping their promises to their customers, they trust you more.

Happily – Agile frameworks are all about getting things done, releasing value, early and often, getting that delivery out the door and into the hands of our customers.

Everything about Agile frameworks is about eliminating and overcoming any friction or challenge that prevents delivery from happening.

Delivery enables learning

Agile teams work to release value in every sprint. Only when we deliver can we learn from the release, from our customers’ feedback and from the market response. Only when we deliver can our customers realise, crystallise and enjoy the value received (or give us sharp feedback!). Similarly, failure to deliver causes us to examine our processes, unearth root causes and fix them.

No ‘mission impossible’

Our delivery-is-everything attitude is not about forcing our people into death marches or constant overwork. Agile frameworks are not an excuse to take on unrealistic commitments.       . We remain fully committed to decent, balanced lives for our teams, and to the Agile Manifesto’s principle of sustainable patterns of work.

Indeed, because we organise and structure our leadership and delivery teams for maximum collaboration, transparency, productivity and risk control, it becomes very clear, very quickly *to everybody* if some targets are not realistic and need to be refined.

In fact, because we make sure our stakeholders are in the game from the get-go and that they are seeing our deliveries as they land, our shared learning through incremental delivery       demonstrates very early if there is a challenge or a problem with a particular plan. And we are open, honest and transparent with that. In every case, our stakeholders will have the relevant information they need at the right time to manage the challenge and work with the programme teams to determine what is possible and what can be done.

This bears repeating, it doesn’t mean just because we are delivery-focused that we are going to kill ourselves and our teams to achieve mission impossible.  We don’t allow a delivery-focus to undermine our respect for people.

Delivery changes the way you engage with your teams

To deliver well intentionally , you have to make sure that your teams, your leaders and your stakeholders are organised to collaborate. You have to create cultures where respect, openness, honesty, courage, servant leadership and trust feature strongly and persistently.

Leaders must lead from the front, staying engaged, decentralising decision making, owning outcomes and helping at the right moment. Information must be made transparent and shared. Problems and challenges must be welcome so they may be resolved. Instead of a big bang approach, choose to deliver in smaller regular packages of value. And relentlessly     plan, manage risk, maintain transparency, create situational awareness and solve problems  on a regular cadence.

How is your firm optimized to deliver?