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The Final Invoice Point (FIP) A Simple Tool to Increase Agile Transformation Confirmation, Happiness and Success

I want to share with you a simple tool to increase agile transformation success and avoid that point when people get demotivated and the environment increasingly tense.

Having been in the situation many times when helping an organisation experiment with Scrum (or agile more generally) I know that, seemingly all of a sudden things start to get better and the woes evaporate, but why?

It wasn’t until I spent some time looking through Craig Larman’s Systems Models from his Certified LeSS Practitioner course that I began to learn more about what could be happening by gaining a greater understanding of the system in I was in.

When I took this new understanding and looked at the Behaviour Over Time it clicked for me, what increases when you make a significant change?

The teams, managers, Scrum Masters, everyone (in my experience) spend an increasing amount of time doing one of two things:

  • Learning
    • This could be about each other, the technology stack, the architecture, a new area of business, new users and so on
  • Resolving issues (aka impediments)
    • These could be technological such as environments or removing branches as well as organisational issues such as ‘performance management’ processes or overly complex structures that slow down the teams and impediment resolution

These two, easy to measure metrics are the input to this incredibly simple tool that increases agile transformation success, The Final Invoice Point (Or FIP)

The inevitable passing of time

Now as the time since we made the big change increases the number of issues and time spent learning often increase too. All the time these are increasing so is your cycle time as the teams are spending increasingly less time delivering.

The more impediments you have & the more time you spend learning the longer it will take you to deliver

They carry on in this manner until we, from my experience one of two things, will happen:

  1. Someone somewhere says “all these changes are making us go slower and generate loads of problems
  2. The balance between earning (creating direct value) and learning is tipped too heavily towards learning and the teams begin to get agitated.

What is happening is this

Scrum is showing me the effectiveness of the way we have been delivering our product relative to how we were doing it before

Then we reach the magic point where some say enough is enough, I have labelled this below

Watch out! The FIP is just there, people are losing their patience!

After this point, we will probably stop with this Scrum/Agile thing altogether or begin snapping back to old, more comfortable and familiar ways.

How much can the system handle?

Ah the FIP has been dodged and we are on our path to an increasingly lower feature value cycle time

So I see the challenge is to get as close to this point as possible. If this is achieved it means we have pushed as much change as our organisational system can handle, meaning maximum effect. Then we get over the tipping point and things start getting better and better. People are spending more time creating and are better at doing it than they were before.

Now we are spending less time learning and resolving issues our cycle time only has one way to go

Now we are spending less time learning and resolving problems it’s time to think about our next significant change.

We will, as before, have to trade-off between short term cycle time degradation for medium to long term benefits. This time however we are more skilled than we were before and know we can do it.

I have always found that the next significant change usually comes from:

  • Increase the Definition of Done?
  • Increase the breadth of the Product by including a technical component we are dependent upon

I am not saying that this is fool proof method

I am almost certain there is not one. What this approach has brought me is a slightly more skilful approach (with reasonably low cost leading measures) compared to before. It also helped me learn

  • When working with multiple teams who have not owned end to end feature delivery before there will most likely a lot of learning and a fair few issues to resolve
  • To make change in small batches, the batch depends upon how much disruption your organisation can stomach.
  • That balancing the short term pain with the longer term gain is integral to succeeding
  • And as a result of this balancing act patience is mandatory

So what is the FIP? I would love to hear what you think this three-letter acronym stands for…

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash