Recently I came across two approaches that claim to solve to the problem “how to succeed always with your projects by delivering always on-time, on- or under budget”: Kai Gilb’s Value First and Vasco Duarte’s #NoEstimates. As I studied those approaches a bit deeper (I joined a key note and a workshop of Vasco’s at NovaTec and I attended a webinar with Kai, besides reading their respective books and other related stuff), I noticed that both value focus approaches have some elements in common but focus different areas of project work.
This small series of blog posts startet with Value First and #NoEstimates – two sides of a coin? Part 1: Value First which provided a look at the key points of Kai Gilb’s Value First. Part 2 explained Vasco Duarte’s #NoEstimates. The comparison in this final part 3 closes the blog series.
If you have read part 1 and part 2, you might have the same feeling than me. Both approaches have much in common but focus on different aspects of the development process. They both focus on value that the initiative has to deliver to the stakeholders. Both focus on that most important thing that the team has to fix (solve) at the moment.
Value Focus: Quantified Values as guiding North Star
Kai Gilb focuses on business side by trying to quantify value and to check after delivery how far did we go. Kai aims to get the most important value at the moment (prioritization is dynamic and based on the values current status compared to targeted status) and it’s target to use it as a guiding compass or north star for the initiative. The development team aligns every decision and every action to that guiding compass. They aim to deliver an increment to the value targeted in every delivery cycle. In order to check value improvement delivered Kai Gilb proposes to measure the increased value using the scale defined at the beginning. So Kai helps us not only prioritize but also quantify the results delivered.
Value Focus: Lean Principle, Delivering Value and Problem Slicing
Vasco Duarte does not explicitly mention prioritisation. He takes identification of the most important thing for granted, but shows a method to concentrate on value delivery without distraction by estimation. It provides an indication, if we are able to deliver the current planned scope (backlog) on time (at the release milestone projected). This enables us to talk very early about scope or less extensive solutions to the problem we try to solve. Vasco concentrates on Lean principle: do nothing that you don’t need to do to reach your objectives. He provides an approach to support the team in that endeavour. The Lean principle will end a project, if the cost of an iteration will be higher than the monetized business value to be delivered by that iteration.
Vasco Duarte additionally provides a method for complexity reduction or slicing the problem. This method is particularly useful to slice a problem into small junks which you can solve in small iterations.
Value First is an approach to prioritize the issues that are to be solved and to focus on what matters. #NoEstimates helps in forecasting scope that will be in a release in an easy and reliable matter and also focus on what matters – while developing and implementing a solution. Both approaches can go hand in hand for streamlining value discovery and value delivery.
Final advice from Kai Gilb: Decide not to plan (extensively), but start to do immediately.
This sounds familiar from Vasco’s workshop where he gave similar advice not develop a big solution, but start small and fast and then improve in following increments if you need further improvement.
Final advice from Vasco Duarte: Always be ready to stop the project and deliver value, at any time.
If we combine both approaches, we can focus on value and practice continuous value delivery. Not only some vague value, but real quantified value our customers long for. And that is the real secret behind the claim of both approaches, that allows them to claim they help projects succeed always on-time and on- or under budget.
What do you think? How do you solve the problem of focusing on values and outcomes? What do you do to avoid just working on a shopping list presented by the customer or customer’s representative? How do you define and forecast your delivery scope in an agile development?