#ExtremeContracts, an alternative to Fixed Projects and Time and Materials: The eight principles of #ExtremeContracts by Jacopo Romei

This is a guest blog post by Jacopo Romei. Author of the Italian version of the book Extreme Contracts, and author of an upcoming book on the same topic in English.

When in 2010 I started experimenting with new ways to shape trust-oriented agreements with my customers, I started crafting very practical contracts, meant to tackle my specific pain points: I wanted more freedom to work the way I want and I wanted to increase the upper bound of my revenues. Along the years I started spotting a few principles in common among the most effective solutions, either created by other practitioners or by me. Here follows a brief list of the eight principles I distilled in nine years of practice and investigation with Extreme Contracts.

Skin in the game

If we care about negotiating that’s because we care about a result that we can’t reach alone. If we have to collaborate, then it will make sense to long for collaboration. If we want healthy collaborations, we can’t do without all parts’ skin in the game.

If even one person or organization involved in collaboration doesn’t feel the pain of failure or the benefit of success, the collaboration itself will be doomed and will rely on good faith only. If a project fails, everybody should suffer from that failure, not just one party. If a project is a success, everybody must get something out of it.

In their shoes

We are usually very good at envisioning the negative consequences and damages of the smallest concession offered to counterparts we see as our opponents, but we are also usually very bad at realizing what their fears and needs are. If we are to get even the smallest chance of understanding their point of view, we must get in their shoes.

All the parties’ expectations are an incredible resource. They are the true north of a negotiation. They provide clues on what to give and what to keep without hurting trust. We must understand and fix our counterpart’s problem while maximizing the value of the agreement for us.

Talk to the grinder, not the monkey

All negotiations happen among people, even when they represent entire organizations. Since trust is the key to a successful negotiation, it makes sense to negotiate only with true decision makers.

We must negotiate only with people in a position to make real final decisions. If negotiating is understanding each other’s needs, then every small error in how they will be perceived and communicated by a middle-person with no real authority will hinder your chances of success.

Value-driven

The value of an agreement is not the parties’ effort to create it, neither it’s the time spent working on it, and it’s not found in sweat and pain. A knowledge worker’s value is found in addressed needs and the end-to-end customer experience.

Our agreements should put needs and impact front center, address them and never focus on celebrating the sweat of our brows. We don’t sell & buy fatigue, but results and, often, repeatability.

Ethics over rules

Ethical behavior is more than what is legal. We care a lot about abiding the law, but that’s not enough: we care about collaborations happening in the narrower space of ethics.

In complex scenarios, a complicated and fixed set of rules will always fail. We need to favor agreements allowing to re-validate the quality of the collaboration, continuously.

Simple rules frequently assessed are at the core of Extreme Contracts. A rules-filled contract won’t necessarily be fairer than a more pragmatically iterative assessment of mutual respect.

Chaos in small doses

The maximum loss we can bear is the measure of what we can put at stake. If an agreement may kill us, we have to take a critical look at ourselves with no excuse: we let it happen. At the same time exposing our vulnerability is the way to grow trust.

In knowledge work we can rarely claim to have everything under control, even assuming that all the parties are acting in good faith. We are forced to explore our scenarios coping with chaos in small doses.

We cap our losses, and we relentlessly make them sustainable, even in the worst case. Exposing yourself to a potentially lethal failure is a choice, not fate.

Optionality

Our management mindset is strongly oriented to planning, and so are our agreements. We strive to foresee the future, with unsatisfying results in knowledge work.

An underrated substitute for smartness is optionality. If we always have a plan B or—even better—we manage to generate several plan B’s that may end up being even better than plan A, we don’t need the perfect plan anymore. We can enjoy our ignorance.

Creating alternative collaboration scenarios to create value and keeping them alive as long as possible is a valid alternative to understanding all the details of our collaboration in the future. Postpone all critical and irreversible decisions as long as possible.

Customer channel

Contracts are usually considered as a formal device, a necessary chore but not being part of our branding. Very few people realize that the agreements we propose are among the first touchpoints in our customers’ experience.

Our contracts are a compelling device to interact with our customer segments, delivering our culture and brand values.

All our future negotiations are strongly influenced by the way we negotiate today. If we are to attract the right customers and collaborators, we have to literally beam our values out to the world.  

About Jacopo Romei

Jacopo is an independent strategy consultant, with a strong background in Agile product development.

Jacopo is also an entrepreneur & writer. After having founded a couple of IT companies and practiced agile software development, he started as a full-time freelance agile coach, coaching teams in Italy, Germany and UK.

He has worked with eBay Italia team to set their agile process up. Product ownership and agile UX are added skills acquired in the field.

As a writer, Jacopo published a couple of books on agile coding practices and the Italian version of “Extreme Contracts: knowledge work from negotiation to collaboration“.

Jacopo is a frequent public speaker in international conferences and events about how the way of working is changing in the software industry and organizations management.

Bradley Pohl: Evidence-based Product Ownership

Product Owners that have a command and control mentality can derail the team. We discuss this and other topics on this Product Owner focused episode.

The Product Owner pattern for the week

Product Owners that focus on command and control will quickly become too busy to be able to help the team, but that’s usually made a lot worse when the Product Owner has multiple roles. These are the 2 anti-patterns we talk about in this episode.

The Product Owner anti-pattern for the week

When it comes to good Product Owner patterns, we discuss the need to be open to learning from the team, the market and stakeholders. We also discuss evidence-based product ownership.

In this episode, we refer to The Professional Product Owner by Don McGreal and Ralph Jocham.

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

 

About Bradley Pohl

Bradley is a young Scrum Master working for a mid-sized US bank that is currently undergoing an “Agile Transformation.” As a part of the Transformation, his training consisted of a 4 week Agile boot camp that was designed to build scrum masters from the ground-up. In his free time, he applies lean and agile principles to designing websites and providing social media advertising to local small business as Catch On, at catchontech.com.

You can link with Bradley Pohl on LinkedIn.

Bradley Pohl: Helping teams get started with continuous improvement

There are many challenges teams face that require Scrum Master support. Some of those are related to cross-team dependencies (one of the core aspects for Scrum Masters), but they can also be related to basic improvements in the ways of working. In this episode, we discuss how the team’s outlook on improvement is critical for Scrum Masters and what to look at when evaluating our own contribution to the team.

Featured Agile Retrospective format for the week: What are you looking for out of your work?

When starting with a new team, the questions you ask are critical. Bradley shares with us a format that helps team members understand each other, as well as define the work agreements they need to get them started on the journey to high-performance.

About Bradley Pohl

Bradley is a young Scrum Master working for a mid-sized US bank that is currently undergoing an “Agile Transformation.” As a part of the Transformation, his training consisted of a 4 week Agile boot camp that was designed to build scrum masters from the ground-up. In his free time, he applies lean and agile principles to designing websites and providing social media advertising to local small business as Catch On, at catchontech.com.

You can link with Bradley Pohl on LinkedIn.

Bradley Pohl: how to help Product Owners and Scrum Teams collaborate in an Agile transformation

As we work with organizations in transition, we need to help teams and Product Owners make sense of the new ways of working. In this episode, we discuss how Scrum Masters can help Product Owners and teams find a way to collaborate when changing towards Agile. We share some tools that help large groups come together and learn to focus more on the impact they seek, rather than just the work they need to do.

About Bradley Pohl

Bradley is a young Scrum Master working for a mid-sized US bank that is currently undergoing an “Agile Transformation.” As a part of the Transformation, his training consisted of a 4 week Agile boot camp that was designed to build scrum masters from the ground-up. In his free time, he applies lean and agile principles to designing websites and providing social media advertising to local small business as Catch On, at catchontech.com.

You can link with Bradley Pohl on LinkedIn.

Bradley Pohl: how to work with a team of outside contractors

Working with a team of contractors can be a savior for some organizations. However, there are specific challenges that come with using “outsiders” to do significant projects in any organization. In this episode, we discuss one of the anti-patterns that come with teams of contractors: the lack of future outlook. We also discuss some of the important lessons Bradley learned and how to prepare for when you need to work with a team of contractors.

Featured Book of the Week: Drive by Daniel Pink

In Drive by Daniel Pink, Bradley found the 3 aspects of motivation that later helped him work with the teams he facilitates. In this episode, we also refer to Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins and Mindset Growth by Carol Dweck.

About Bradley Pohl

Bradley is a young Scrum Master working for a mid-sized US bank that is currently undergoing an “Agile Transformation.” As a part of the Transformation, his training consisted of a 4 week Agile boot camp that was designed to build scrum masters from the ground-up. In his free time, he applies lean and agile principles to designing websites and providing social media advertising to local small business as Catch On, at catchontech.com.

You can link with Bradley Pohl on LinkedIn.

Bradley Pohl: how to help PO and team collaborate better

The relationship between Product Owner and the team is critical. So critical that if it does not work, it has the potential to derail the whole effort. In this episode, we talk about how to identify possible problems in collaboration between the team and PO, and how to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

About Bradley Pohl

Bradley is a young Scrum Master working for a mid-sized US bank that is currently undergoing an “Agile Transformation.” As a part of the Transformation, his training consisted of a 4 week Agile boot camp that was designed to build scrum masters from the ground-up. In his free time, he applies lean and agile principles to designing websites and providing social media advertising to local small business as Catch On, at catchontech.com.

You can link with Bradley Pohl on LinkedIn.

Jeremy Willets: The product owner that was the team manager

As usual on the Friday’s episodes, we explore Product Owner patterns and anti-patterns to help you work effectively with the Product Owner.

The Product Owner pattern for the week

This Product Owner was the manager for the team, but despite that, he was an effective PO. Listen in to learn how this PO stepped back to help the team contribute, and how he separated his PO responsibilities from his management responsibilities.

The Product Owner anti-pattern for the week

Product Owner’s personalities can have a big impact on the relationship with the team. In this episode, we explore what happens when the PO is self-centered and egotistical. We discuss the symptoms that indicate this anti-pattern and some of the things you may want to do as a Scrum Master to help the PO and team collaborate.

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

 

About Jeremy Willets

Jeremy Willets is a Technical Writer turned Scrum Master/Agile Coach. He’s passionate about bringing Agile to all facets of his organization. He enjoys spending time with his family, making music, and drinking the finest craft beer the world has to offer!

You can link with Jeremy Willets on LinkedIn and connect with Jeremy Willets on Twitter.

Jeremy Willets: using the Speed Car Retrospective exercise to host an impactful Retrospective

Jeremy explains the questions that he asks himself when evaluating his contribution to the team. As Scrum Masters, these are some of the many questions that can help us assess our work and improve our approach to help make teams successful.

Featured Retrospective Format of the Week: The Speed Car retrospective format

The Speed Car retrospective format is one of the many metaphor exercises that helps teams get out of the details of what happened and think about the impact those events might have on their performance, just like many aspects have an impact on a race car.

In this episode, we refer to the classic book: Agile Retrospectives by Larssen and Derby.

About Jeremy Willets

Jeremy Willets is a Technical Writer turned Scrum Master/Agile Coach. He’s passionate about bringing Agile to all facets of his organization. He enjoys spending time with his family, making music, and drinking the finest craft beer the world has to offer!

You can link with Jeremy Willets on LinkedIn and connect with Jeremy Willets on Twitter.

Jeremy Willets: OKR rollout story in an Agile organization

OKR’s are a management tool that is gaining wide acceptance in the tech industry and other industries. The ideas are simple and should be simple to adopt, except they are not.

In this episode, we talk about what Jeremy learned about the roll-out of OKR’s at his company and how Scrum Masters can help adopt OKR’s the right way! Not a simple process.

About Jeremy Willets

Jeremy Willets is a Technical Writer turned Scrum Master/Agile Coach. He’s passionate about bringing Agile to all facets of his organization. He enjoys spending time with his family, making music, and drinking the finest craft beer the world has to offer!

You can link with Jeremy Willets on LinkedIn and connect with Jeremy Willets on Twitter.

Jeremy Willets: how interruptions kill Scrum team effectiveness and efficiency

A team was given a new assignment. They would finally start developing a cool new technology that they had wanted to focus on for a while. They were assigned full-time to this new project. What’s not to like? Well… It’s never that simple. Scrum teams don’t exist in a vacuum, and soon enough the “old” work started interrupting the “new and cool tech project”! Listen and learn what happened to that team.

In this episode, we refer to the book: Principles of Product Development Flow by Don Reinertsen.

Featured Book for the Week: Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business by David Anderson

In Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business by David Anderson, Jeremy found that Scrum needs to evolve, and that following Scrum as such may not be the best option for you, or your teams. In Kanban, David Anderson answers the following questions:

  • What is Kanban?
  • Why would I want to use Kanban?
  • How do I go about implementing Kanban?
  • How do I recognize improvement opportunities and what should I do about them?

About Jeremy Willets

Jeremy Willets is a Technical Writer turned Scrum Master/Agile Coach. He’s passionate about bringing Agile to all facets of his organization. He enjoys spending time with his family, making music, and drinking the finest craft beer the world has to offer!

You can link with Jeremy Willets on LinkedIn and connect with Jeremy Willets on Twitter.