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When businesses and clients get too caught up in contract details, they lose focus on what’s important in real-world projects and products.

We’ve all seen it: construction projects with rigid contracts that lead to low build quality materials because of unexpected cost hikes; healthcare, software that doesn’t fit what nurses and doctors need; and schools stuck with learning platforms that don’t really help students, all because of a fixed contract. From construction to education and beyond, sticking too closely to contracts can stifle innovation and trust, making projects less successful.

Focusing on “Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation,” as the Agile Manifesto suggests, leads to better outcomes for everyone involved.

The Essence of Agile: A People-Centric Approach

At the heart of Agile lies a simple yet powerful idea: people matter more than processes. The mindset proposes, “Hey, let’s communicate with each other instead of being overwhelmed by a complex contract.” This people-centric approach is what makes Agile not a methodology but a shift in how we think about work.

Agile Coaches believe in Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools, as well as working closely with customers. These values, along with the 12 Agile Principles, can greatly improve your team’s performance.

Imagine a team that’s more like a jazz band than a traditional orchestra. In a jazz band, there’s a structure, sure, but there’s also a lot of improv. Members listen to each other and play off the vibes, creating something unique and beautiful in the moment.

That’s Agile. It’s about giving teams the freedom to innovate, to make decisions close to the ground where the action is, and to keep the dialogue open and flowing with the people who’ll actually use what they’re creating.

This isn’t about throwing contracts out the window. Instead, building relationships on trust and mutual respect, where agreements serve as a starting point, not a straitjacket, is essential.

The Role of the Scrum Team in Customer Collaboration

The Scrum Team drives Agile development (not just software development, but any solution development), with each role playing a unique part in building a collaborative relationship with customers.

Product Owner (PO): The Customer’s Advocate

The PO ensures the product vision aligns with customer needs and feedback. By keeping in touch with customers, the Product Owner can easily change the product plan to fit new priorities or opportunities. This helps the team focus on creating valuable features.

How does a Product Owner do this? They get up and go! A good Product Owner travels to meet with customers and uses technology to address their needs and challenges effectively. This fosters the kind of relationships that ensure tremendous value creation by the team.

Scrum Master (SM): The Collaboration Catalyst

Your Scrum Master helps the team work well together and follow Agile practices. They create a space where the team can quickly adapt to customer feedback. They facilitate events that center on customer insights and transparent communication.

Developers: The Solution Crafters

Developers bring customer needs to life through problem solving. In working with customers, they focus on understanding why they do what they do to create better, more relevant solutions. Developers can make informed decisions and propose innovative solutions by actively participating in discussions about customer feedback.

So, remember that traveling your Product Owner does? Consider including your developers on those trips. Or, bring your customers and Developers together. Feedback sessions help connect people with problems to those who will solve them effectively.

Conclusion

The benefits of customer collaboration extend far beyond the immediate improvements to a single product. Improving customer loyalty, reducing wasted effort, and creating a sustainable business model are all benefits of these ripples in the market. This Agile value emphasizes the idea of working together to create meaningful solutions, rather than following strict contracts and specifications. It focuses on being flexible, responsive, and building strong relationships throughout the product development process.

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