Your Agile Start Up
How many business have you seen that miss the mark with their customers? Is there anything we can do
to ensure we hit the target? I believe there is a better way to execute your business plans.
Often I see in business plans that are what we call in project management a waterfall plan. As a matter
of fact I was just talking with a person with a great product idea but she wanted to develop it and finish
it before she feels she can market it. While this might be an ok plan for big businesses with bulging
budgets who can afford to lose money on a product-or-two. Start-ups cannot afford this luxury.
Startups need a new vision of how to get in the game…quickly.
The software industry realized that in a fast moving industry they needed a new approach to developing
products that wasn’t reliant upon developing long detailed plans. Witness the birth of Agile Software
Development. The Agile process is an Iterative and Incremental process (We will explain this further in
this article) for developing working software in close collaboration with their customers.
The Agile Software Development approach has four values that Agile Entrepreneurs can appropriate.
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:
1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
4. Responding to change over following a plan
Let’s unpack these values as they relate to the business startup.
Valuing Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Often entrepreneurs are encouraged to buy this tool or use some service to create their business. These
tools are great… for the businesses that sell them. It is kind of like the folks who sold picks and shovels
in the gold rush. They were the only ones who really got rich. An Agile startup needs to rely upon itself
and value high touch interactions with the team over a bunch of processes or tools. Don’t spend money
on something you can do yourself.
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Working Software (product or service) over comprehensive documentation
The Agile philosophy believes that it is more important to deliver working software than spending lots of
time trying to make it perfect. An Agile Entrepreneur values getting their product or service OUT into
the market quickly rather than spending lots of time on developing a long range plan or doing a ton of
market research. Agile start-ups
This is tied closely to values 3 and 4.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Ok contract negotiation is not really important for entrepreneurs but customer collaboration is, let me
explain. This Agile Value stems from the practice in the software industry to spend lots of time trying to
define the product up front and negotiate a solid contract for development and delivery. In response to
this the Agile community values talking with the end customer of the product all along the development
process in order to understand their needs. Back to my friend with the product idea, I suggested to her
to develop only one module. But, develop it completely and then get it out there and get feedback from
some of her customers. What do they like, what do they dislike, how can she improve the product?
What problems are there that she didn’t identify. Then go back, incorporate the suggestions (as she
sees fit) and develop another module, then do it again. Get feedback from more customers. And as the
shampoo bottle says, Lather, Rinse, Repeat. This is the iterative part of the Agile process.
Responding to change over following a plan
Agile entrepreneurs create short incremental plans that have the goal of allowing quick development
providing the ability to respond to changing customer needs and desires rather than developing a long
range plan that is rigid and inflexible. This is not to say that we don’t set goals, but as our goals get
further out into the future we recognize that there are too many unknown factors and therefore the
goals must become more general the further in the future they are. This allows us to respond to change
and refocus. Maybe the customer doesn’t want it in blue, but red, maybe they don’t like it small but
want a larger version.
The Agile values in action might read something like this: work with your team closely (Value #1),
develop something quickly and get it into the hands of your potential customers (Value #2). Listen to
the customer (value #3) then respond to their feedback back and modify your product or service (Value
Being an Agile startup is much like shooting a bow and arrow. You know you want to do archery, and
you know you want to shoot at a target, you know your goal but have you ever fired a bow before? So
you get ready, you aim, you fire. Then what do you do? It is likely that you missed the target. If you keep
firing in the same place you will keep getting the same results. So, you look at where your last arrow
landed, and then you adjust and fire again, adjust and fire again, adjust and fire again. Pretty soon you
are hitting the bulls-eye every time, and your customers will reward you.
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Joseph Flahiff, PMP, CSM: is an Entrepreneur and Leadership trainer. Joseph delivers high
content training on Leadership and Project Management tools and skills. Visit
www.MyLeadershipTrainer.com for free Articles and templates to use in your business.
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