Deliverables Challenge Assumptions

Last week I introduced the first of the principles behind the Agile Manifesto:

“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable work product.”

I’m going to start this post about assumptions with by assuming you have no quarrels with trying to achieve customer satisfaction.

But why is “early and continuous delivery” is essential to achieving customer satisfaction?

The answer: because there’s nothing like a deliverable to validate assumptions. Or to invalidate them.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

— Isaac Asimov

If you’ve been practicing for more than a few months, you probably have ideas about what your client wants. That’s a good start, but you’re making assumptions. Maybe you’ve done a strategy session with your client and they’ve told you in their own words what they want. You should believe them, but know that they’re making assumptions too.

Few people know exactly what they want until they see it, and there’s nothing like a little contact with reality to sharpen one’s focus.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

— Mike Tyson

The reason to focus on early delivery is that it helps both you and your client clarify what the client wants from your work. Maybe that early deliverable is a roadmap for your representation. Maybe it is just a recitation of what you think the client wants so they can react to seeing it in writing.

What’s important is to get that reaction and see what you learn.

Same goes for continuous delivery. As I posted before, the worry and stress of the case may change how the client feels about it over time. You want to know that too, and each deliverable gives the client an opportunity to react to what you’re doing so that you both can correct course if necessary.

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