There is a common misconception among some Agilists that Agile teams must operate without deadlines. Otherwise, they are not ‘Agile’. This fosters an attitude of "we will get there when we get there."
Telling an important customer that “we will get there when we get there” could come across as dismissive, sending the message that the customer’s needs are unimportant to the Scrum team. All organizations have deadlines and need to navigate shifting priorities. Agile approaches can help organizations meet tough deadlines and navigate shifting priorities by making teams more predictable rather than less.
The Power of Predictability in Agile Teams
Agile approaches - particularly Scrum - emphasize iterative and incremental development. Incremental means that work is delivered in smaller deliverables of end-to-end functionality. For example, if an Agile team needed to deliver a mile-long peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they would deliver it a bite at a time rather than try to deliver the whole sandwich in one large deliverable. See our recent article What is Iterative, Incremental Delivery? The Hunt for the Perfect Example for additional analogies for a better understanding of Incremental delivery.
Because work is completed in smaller, more frequent deliverables of usable product, Agile teams get a much better sense of how much work they can really finish in a particular amount of time. With this information, it becomes easier to build a more accurate forecast of how much work the team can deliver in the future.
Delivering usable, done work in smaller batches contributes to predictability. By completing work in smaller increments, Agile teams develop a deep understanding of the time required to achieve 'done' for each task. This knowledge, in turn, enables them to create more reliable forecasts for future delivery targets.
Why Predictability is important
In the business world, deadlines are a reality. Whether driven by market demands or internal needs, deadlines help set expectations and provide transparency. Setting and meeting expectations is crucial for building trust with customers and stakeholders. Agile teams that embrace predictability can communicate realistic timelines and consistently deliver on commitments. This satisfies customers and instills confidence in the team's capabilities.
The idea that Agile teams cannot operate effectively with deadlines is a myth. Agile approaches like Scrum enhance predictability, making teams more capable of meeting tough deadlines. Accurate forecasting, incremental delivery, and a commitment to meeting business deadlines contribute to building trust with stakeholders. By understanding the power of predictability, Agile teams can navigate the dynamic landscape of software development while consistently delivering high-quality results on time.