The Importance of Goal Alignment in Agile and DevOps
I work and interact with multiple software development teams. Some are just beginning their agile and DevOps journeys and others are well on their way, but they have many of the same questions or concerns: How do we get all team member roles on the same page? How do we communicate and collaborate more effectively and stop working against one another? How can we pull in team members that tend to be more distant and want to work independently?
For agile and DevOps teams to succeed, there must be a common vision and established goals that align departments and roles toward customer-focused outcomes. The 2017 State of DevOps Report notes, “Many development teams working in organizations that claim to be agile are nonetheless obliged to follow requirements created by different teams.” In moving from agile to DevOps, this symptom is often amplified by the lack of collaboration between the business, IT, and operations.
In working with teams that, by their own admission, are practicing “FrAgile,” “Scrumbut,” or “agilefall,” the challenges often are not with the well-intentioned and fully competent team members, nor the methods or the tools that they employ. Rather, there is a lack of leadership and either no alignment or misalignment of organizational goals.
A key example of this is when those in testing roles are measured based on the number of defects found and those in developer roles are measured on the number of new features or changes produced. Another example is when we continue to reward and recognize individuals without also incorporating team-based incentives.
There’s never a magic bullet to address goal misalignment, as the challenges are context-specific, but here are some approaches that help move organizations and teams toward better alignment:
- The organization, beginning with the executive team, must learn, internalize and embrace the key values and principles of agile
- Leadership must establish, communicate and secure alignment to the vision and goals. This first requires the leadership team to understand why we need to move from the current state to a new state
- A transformation leader and team are necessary to help the rest of the organization achieve the established vision and goals. This team champions the transformation and adjusts and adapts the plan based on feedback. Often, outside expertise is first employed to help with the transformation
- Key measures must be aligned with the overarching goals and made transparent to the entire organization to bring visibility to progress and areas needing attention
- Individual and team goals, objectives, performance reviews, and reward and recognition systems must be revised and aligned with the overarching vision and goals
- Fear of failure must be replaced with a culture of failing fast and learning. Rather than leaders asking, “Who is responsible for this?” they must ask what the team has learned and what processes we need to enhance to avoid failures in the future
In my experience, organizations that are struggling with embracing a culture of agile and DevOps have not addressed the alignment of common goals or are ignoring the values and principles of agile.