Chapter 3. Agile Means That We Start with Our Customers

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This first guiding principle of Agile is the most important, most challenging, and most-often overlooked. Though Agile is often seen as a set of operational improvements to increase performance or velocity, the heart of any successful Agile journey is not just how people work together, but rather how they work together to serve their customers.

Truly putting our customers at the center of our work means thinking about their needs, goals, and experiences before we think about the specific thing we are going to deliver to them. This means, as product managers often say, focusing on the outcomes we are delivering to our customers before we think about the outputs we are going to create. If we can fully understand a customer’s entire experience and work backward from there, we can often discover unexpected opportunities, minimize busywork, and give our customers what they want faster than we could before.

Putting customer centricity into practice allows Agile teams to drive better outcomes for their customers and their companies alike, and creates a common language that can extend Agile beyond product and engineering teams. IBM CMO Michelle Peluso described to me how customer centricity has been at the heart of IBM’s Agile marketing transformation and how this has helped bring a shared sense of purpose to the entire organization: ...

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