James Shore just posted a very cool chapterette from his upcoming book on agile development called “The Planning Game”. The concept simply enough is that customers and developers work together to plan what features are going to be implemented, and in what order. Customers know what features have the most value to the business, so they get to choose the order in which features are developed. Developers know about the costs, so they get to say how long something is going to take.
In the Planning Game, the play is not quite so simple as the description above might suggest. As each team discusses a feature from their perspective (cost vs. value), the requirements for that feature can come into clearer focus, or be negotiated to reduce their cost.
More often, what I have experienced is the “Crying Game”: whoever cries the loudest gets their way. The outcome of the Crying Game is not a good one. Either arbitrary and unrealistic deadlines are set by customers, or the wrong solution is provided by the developers. The crying doesn’t end there; everyone is crying later as the recriminations fly back and forth. The moral of the story is that internal cooperation yields a lot more business value than internal competition.