Are you collaborating or negotiating with your customers?

This week’s Weekly Inspection focuses on collaboration.

Agile organizations value customer collaboration over contract negotiation. While it sounds  like simple common sense in theory, I often find that teams who think they have a collaborative relationship with their customers are blinded to the aspects of the relationship that are negotiation based. Consider:

  • If your process imposes a requirements sign-off before development can begin, you’re not collaborating. Requirements sign-offs are a signal that the level of trust required for a collaborative relationship is not present.
  • If your product owner is largely absent or participation on the team is spotty, you’re not collaborating. A product owner who does not consider herself part of the team is signaling to the team that feature requests are not open for conversation.
  • If the primary directive of your organization is to crank out feature after feature, you’re not collaborating. Feature factories are emblematic of organizations who view software development as a cost center to be optimized, rather than a partner with whom the business can partner and innovate.

A lot of scenarios like this stem from a disparity in how we view the nature of software development. If half of the organization sees it as a series of progressive discoveries while the other half sees it as a process to be optimized, that organization is likely to settle into a negotiation-based relationship.

Take a closer look at your relationships with your customers. Does it look more like collaboration or negotiation? How can you transform that negotiation into a collaborative partnership?


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