A Strategy for Greater Agility and Efficiency

Of all the strategies for increasing agility and efficiency, a particularly powerful one is to defer commitments.

Your organization makes commitments about product development all the time. Their nature and extent vary by horizon (portfolio/roadmap, year, projects/releases, sprints).

There may be commitments to objectives and intended outcomes. There may also be commitments to solution and execution parameters: dates, budgets, personnel assignment, requirements, solution design, and more. (Note: I’m not talking about all the planning that goes into this. The focus is on what the organization, via its managers, commits to act on.)

“Deferring commitments” means making fewer commitments, and being specific about the ones you do make. It works like this:

1. Continue to work off the business and product strategy. Always start by identifying the right problems to solve and the outcomes to achieve (which should be the case anyway). It’s okay to commit to those.

2. Especially with the longer horizons, reduce (minimize!) commitments to solution and execution parameters. With every reduction, you get greater freedom of movement and less waste.

3. Commit only to the real must-haves and to items that would be too risky or costly to push out.

4. Keep everything else in sight so you don’t come back to it when it’s too late or too expensive.

Commitments are important for an organization’s progress, which is why making them is expected and rewarded. All too often, however, people take on too many too early, which leaves them without freedom to react to changes (and other consequences, if they didn’t plan right). Deferring decisions won’t make you less busy; rather, you’ll keep more options open and reduce constraints.

Putting this strategy in place doesn’t take much work, but it requires a partnership of product development leaders. Look for colleagues and allies who also want to improve value delivery, and who realize that it takes systemic action.

If you’d like my support with this, write to Gil.


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