Photo by Kristina AlexandersonI’ve used the phrase walkawayability a couple of times before (here and here), but never explained it in much detail. It’s a word coined—and introduced to me—by the very smart people over at IndigoBlue. And I find it hugely useful.

Walkawayability is how easy it is for the project’s sponsors to walk away from it at any time without losing value. Suppose we start a project, and aren’t able to release anything to give real value until the six month point. Then walkawayability is pretty poor—for that first six months of the project the sponsors are locked in, and can’t stop the work without losing everything that’s been invested so far. If we release every day then walkawayability is good. We lose at most a day’s work… although there may be some activities which are long-running background work, such as user research, and termination in the middle of that would lose us that investment.

In writing this post I realised you could measure walkawayability fairly easily. It would be something like “investment lost if the project was terminated today”. Or we might like to refine that by averaging across a three month period, or across all our projects.

Walkawayability is the essence of Agile, and perhaps the idea (if the not the word) is obvious to experienced practitioners. After all, that is the point of finishing work in the iteration, continuously reprioritising and replanning, and (we hope) continuously releasing. But too often so-called Agile projects are mostly just waterfall projects with smaller milestones; the concept of delivering value early and often is not built into them. Asking about walkawayability therefore becomes a good test of how close we are to being Agile.

It should also be clear that walkawayability does not apply just to software projects, and it hints at what Agile looks like beyond the world of technology.

Photo by Kristina Alexanderson

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