It has been a minute since I’ve devoted the time this blog deserves. Does anyone even read blogs in the TikBookTwitGram world? Does anyone have an attention span longer than 30 seconds? At the end of the day, perhaps it doesn’t matter. Perhaps this is more cathartic than having any illusion of being widely read.

For the last 2 years, I’ve been threatening to write a book. The introduction and first chapter are even mostly complete. I’m not sure exactly why I haven’t made more progress on this, but by starting to share more here, hopefully inspiration for dedicating the time to the book will come.

Motivation for the book comes from seeing so many of the challenges repeated over and over again in building engineering excellence. In my new advisory role seeing even more companies, the truth of common challenges is even more enforced. The book is about much more than that, but here lets focus on a few of the big ones.

In the next few series of posts, I’ll be tackling what I call the impedance mismatch between Engineering teams and the rest of the company. While Sales, Finance, Marketing and even HR all run based on quarterly commitments, measurements, and goals, most often Engineering teams using Agile processes find themselves at odds with other organizations. When those other departments have to commit to quota numbers, marketing qualified leads, accounts receivable collections, etc, for the current quarter and against an annual plan, they don’t understand why Engineering can’t commit and deliver to a quarterly roadmap.

Engineers at an individual level who buy into Agile on the contrary can find themselves at odds with a roadmap planning process – “We’re Agile” can be seen by those outside of Engineering as an excuse to not make commitments. 

The truth is we have learned over the last 50 years of software development that waterfall processes fail again and again. We have learned that it is impossible to know everything up front in a world of rapid change. We have also learned that in technology, speed wins every time. Early to market innovators, those that serve their customers quickly, teams that are responsive to market changes all win.

So, the art in solving this impedance mismatch is to keep the power of Agile, but also be able to stay in step with all the other teams in the company and fit into their quarterly processes. What are some proven ways to do this? We will dive into these in the next few blog posts. 

The short answer is: it requires Product and Engineering to work together seamlessly as one team. They can be in fact different organizations, but they have to have complete alignment and common goals / visions of success.

I’ve built these processes successfully in many companies over my career but have only been able to build the seamless relationship with Product a few times. Often the leaders of these organizations have other agendas than truly partnering with Engineering to build “proud but achievable” roadmaps. Too often, they have dysfunctional behaviors rooted in self promotion or preservation to put the energy into building a sustainable process for product planning.

If you have a great product team or at least a product team that wants to be great, I feel confident you can use these ideas to build a planning process that will build trust with the rest of the company. That trust has to have its root in trust built between Product and Engineering teams. Without that trust foundation, roadmaps will be a continual struggle and frequently disappoint.