What is our goal?

Reading E. Goldratts famous book “The Goal” last night (a novelised – is that a word? – explanation of Theory of Constraints) and reflecting on some recent discussions on the agile manifesto, it seems the idea of what we are trying to achieve as agile developers is still not resolved.
1) In the Goal, Goldratt argues the Goal of any business is to make money – anything that contributes to that is productive, anything that doesn’t is non-productive
2) Lean thinking focuses on creating value – but value for whom is a little vague. If it is customer value, then the customer gains – but not necessarily the business (offering products below cost might be great for customer value but detrimental to the business). So should we interpret lean value as ‘business value’ – which may have constituent parts such as customer value, strategic value, employee value, etc?
3) The agile manifesto values “working software over comprehensive documentation” and states its “highest priority” is delivering “valuable software”. But valuable to whom? Working software isn’t necessarily valuable, and valuable software doesn’t necessarily make money.

This argument may seem pretty esoteric but aligning software development with the end goal of the business is essential to success. There are many corporate skeletons out there who were renowned for their technology but failed commercially (eg Digital Equipment Corp). So how do we integrate “making money”, “delivering value” and “valuable, working software” into a robust, operationalised framework for running our software development operations? Food for thought….

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