Whence road kill?

One of the largest companies in the world has a saying “Its nothing personal, you are just road kill.” The message. Your career and reputation is destroyed. You are sacked. But, it was nothing personal.. In other words, your identity within the company is killed but not because of anything you have done. Organisations where your identity can be destroyed like this are not safe.


So why are some places unsafe and others safe?

One of the reasons is alignment, or rather, a lack of alignment. Road kill often happens where two or more powerful forces in the organisation are not aligned. Nothing induces a chill in your guts more than a senior executive asking “Why are you doing that?”. The answer is normally “Because that other executive asked me to”. Its not an answer that protects you from that roadkill feeling.

Many of the Agile processes can be used to reduce the chance of roadkill, and reduce that roadkill feeling. Here are two:

  1. Capacity planning is a technique that brings together the most senior business investors to agree the backlog of initiatives based upon the capacity of the delivery teams.
  2. Reduce lead time as a strategy provides a means for delivery teams to justify the removal of technical debt.

Capacity planning allows delivery teams to focus on one item at a time rather than start multiple deliveries to keep powerful investors happy. Alternate approaches that ring fence a partial set of resources and “manage” dependencies do not create alignment and result in road kill situations.

Reduce lead time aligns technology and business goals on reducing the risk of investing in technology. Alternate approaches like a separate technology backlog lead to a focus on delivering business value at the expense of paying down technical debt.

Agents of the Agile Industrial Complex claim to focus on improving organisations effectiveness, often by increasing the road kill index. I have experienced weaponise versions of agile practices, and received personal threats from the agents of the AIC.

Agile Practioners help organisations become more effective at delivering value, they also make organisations better places to work.

I would like to thank Simon Powers for sharing the goal “Making organisations better places to work for our children”. The great thing about this goal is that it is fully aligned with the goal of “Improving the delivery of value”.

I would also like to thank Marc Burgauer and Gitte Klitgaard for having the patience whilst I came to this realisation.

About theitriskmanager

Currently an “engineering performance coach” because “transformation” and “Agile” are now toxic. In the past, “Transformation lead”, “Agile Coach”, “Programme Manager”, “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, and “Developer”. Did some stuff with the Agile Community. Put the “Given” into “Given-When-Then”. Discovered “Real Options” View all posts by theitriskmanager

One response to “Whence road kill?

  • bradbox

    Surely, if a team or programme is delivering steady progress, with good customer feedback, which often means delivering more value, there’ll be less roadkill (I despise that term) in the first place.

    And if a team isn’t delivery steady progress with good customer feedback, it’s unlikely there’s much of an agile process!

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