Agile Development

Does Your Team See the Big Picture?


If I were to ask one of your team members “what are you building?”, what are they more likely to answer?

  1. I’m adding a couple of check boxes to the “Subscriptions” page
  2. I’m working on a feature that allows us to learn how and when a customer wants to hear from us.  This will allow us to send them timely, targeted messages.  We expect this will lead to a 5% increase in our online sales for registered customers.

I suspect for the majority the answer is A.  They are hyper-focused on a specific feature but have lost sight of the big picture – assuming they ever understood it in the first place.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone!  So how can we help our teams start to see their work as a valuable contribution to the product rather than small piece of functionality?

Prior to beginning development you should share the big picture with the project team.  You can review periodically to help keep it in mind throughout the product’s lifecycle.  Share your product vision and goals so that the team knows what it is that the product is intended to achieve.  Share personas and user flows, so the team knows who their users are and how they are intended to use the system.

There are many benefits to sharing the big picture with the team.

  • Better decisions – the team will be guided by the big picture and make decisions that support achieving it.
  • Shared goals – it ensures everyone is working towards a shared and well-understood goal.
  • Enabling focus – team members are able to focus on what’s needed to support the customer.
  • End-to-end flow – team members understand where each individual Product Backlog Item or piece of work fits into the overall flow of the product.
  • Better planning – team members are able to architect a system that will suit the product.
  • Reducing rework – when team members understand the big picture from the start, they understand how various  pieces fit together and ensure that they don’t design themselves into a corner and have to go back to the drawing board and redesign it.
  • Satisfaction or fulfillment – a feeling that the work an individual or team does will truly have a positive impact on the product and on the customer.

It’s important to note that understanding the big picture up front doesn’t mean that the requirements can’t change. The Product Backlog should be dynamic, incorporating feedback from stakeholders and customers as well as any new ideas.  This feedback is critical to ensuring that you create the best product that you can.  Regardless of the changes to the Product Backlog, the product vision does not change.  The team should always be working towards the big picture.

Does your team see the big picture?  How can you help make sure everyone is on board?

About the Author

Jennifer is a senior ScrumMaster, Scrum Foundations Educator, and founder of the Perficient Agile Community. Her passion is helping customers, colleagues, and teams build their agile mindsets, relationships, and skills through coaching, training, and mentoring.

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