If you’re unable to prioritise based on customer needs, how do you expect to deliver anything of value to them? 
A colleague and I were discussing this question the other day as we attempted to re-design our website. We were reviewing agile related research which pointed to this problem. 
Organisations expect their teams to create value for them and their customers, but the lack of clear direction and prioritisation to those teams often results in disappointing outcomes. So, what can we do about it...? 
Firstly the research 
The 16th State of Agile report produced by Digital.ai has some interesting data. At the organisation level, 56% don’t prioritise around customer satisfaction or measure performance by business objectives achieved. At the team level, 42% report having difficulty managing unplanned work and 31% say they lack clear prioritisation and direction from management. 
Throw into the mix that almost a third of agile organisations cite a lack of visibility into future plans and road maps as one of the key agile challenges faced (Issuu, 2022) and you start to get a picture of inefficient prioritisation of work leading to inefficient work output. Low value creation. Waste. 
There are a few steps agile organisations can take to increase value creation. 
Get closer to your customers. Take the time to understand how your customers use your products and services (this will likely be different to the way your organisation thinks about and tests them).Understand their pain points through their eyes. Ask them what outcomes they are trying to achieve? What would make their lives easier? What’s missing? What can be improved? 
Create a visual of customer needs and business objectives and how this relates to the teams completing the work. Spend time converting these needs and objectives into a high-level roadmap that shapes prioritisation for the future based on anticipated customer value.I use the phrase ‘shapes’ here as you will need to adapt your roadmap as the landscape shifts, and you learn more. 
Create a single view of priorities in clear language that conveys why the work is important and the expected acceptance criteria.This should be one ordered list.Not many. No ‘buckets’ of priorities. One single list.It’s hard to do, but ordering the list based on value will keep teams focused and reap benefits later. 
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Alignment is critical.Take time to ensure everyone involved from senior stakeholders to developers has a common understanding of customer needs, business objectives and priorities. If everyone involved understands why the work is important, they are more likely to form an emotional connection with it that results in better outcomes. 
Create and maintain an effective feedback loop. Keep your customers at the heart of what you do by involving them in demo’s and sharing early prototypes. Include senior stakeholders in your demo’s as well as other ceremonies such as planning and retro’s. They need to understand the challenges, constraints and opportunities as well to maintain alignment. View them as part of the team. 
Teams with clarity and purpose are higher performing than those without.They not only understand what work is valuable, but more importantly why it is valuable. And when teams understand why the work is important, they form a stronger emotional connection to it. This stronger connection increases focus, motivation levels, urgency and quality of output. Higher value for the customer and higher value for your organisation. 
If you’d like some help prioritising work for your teams around customer value, get in touch at hello@clearrockprojects.co.uk. 
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