How many times have you re-prioritized committed sprint backlog after an executive escalation or production defect? How many times you compromise on the highest priority story in sprint backlog? How many times did you interrupt locked sprints? How many times you worked late hours due to reshuffling your committed sprint backlog.
If these situations are rare for you, I congratulate you and your team!!
In my agile journey, I have seen these situations more than often than I’d like.
I see the biggest culprit is direct generic rejection or “No” to cross-functional teams!! The very moment “No” is thrown into the equation the environment becomes toxic and suspicious. Most of the times everyone starts to prove why “No” is not an appropriate answer to the request. This challenge is often faced by Product Owners but everyone in the team is vulnerable to the “No” landmine.
What is the solution when almost every time scope trumps the available development capacity in our business environment? Let’s replace “No” with “Yes-but”. In the scenarios where you are desperate to say “No” with your holistic business value delivery, try “Yes-but”.
For example, if items with lower business value are requested, avoid direct or generic rejection and come up with Yes-but. i.e. trade-offs you need to make to prioritize the requested items higher than current ones. In most of the situations, requests with perceived high business value although myopic overall will fade-off themselves with a solid “Yes-but”. In other cases, it may take some time to inspect and adapt but every time “Yes-but” will bolster your business value optimization efforts!! Above all, this will enrich the culture of collaboration and empathy among cross-functional groups with this transparent communication.
Try this simple yet effective approach to reducing corporate white noise aligning one of the agile principles – “Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential” and let me know your feedback in comments!!