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Follow the Money: How to Talk to Executives about Agile

When agile initiatives fail, too many agilists are quick to blame leaders by saying “they just don’t get it.” Unfortunately, not enough IT workers appreciate that executives speak a fundamentally different language and typically care about very different outcomes. In this session, I will share what I have learned from interacting with executives, including what has worked and what has failed. I will tell stories about executives who were motivated by the prospect of bonuses, career advancement, and shareholder value, which took priority over adopting agile transformations. Rather than criticizing these executives, I will emphasize the need to have empathy for executives and partner with them to build trust before ever talking about the benefits of agile.

Attendees of this session typically realize that they do not communicate effectively with executives. They have tried to explain agile (and other topics) from their own perspective, using their own language, and describing benefits about which only they care. I detail the mindset that is required to have empathy for executives and learn to speak the language of business. I also explain how attendees can use agile practices to deliver measurable business results as a more effective approach to educating executives. My goal is to have attendees leave with a whole new appreciation for what executives typically care about, so that they can learn how to communicate agile benefits in terms that executives understand.


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