I've gotten some interesting feed back in conversation and in email on this blog post.
It generally consisted of "Pete, that's fine for a small team or small organization. My team/department/organization is way too big for that to possibly work. We have very set processes documented and we rely on them to make sure each team with projects going in has met the objectives so we have a quality release."
To begin, I'm not suggesting you have no criteria around making decisions about what is in a release or if the release is ready to be distributed to customers. Instead, what if we reconsidered what it means to be "ready" to be distributed to customers?
In most organizations doing some form of "Agile" development, there is a product owner acting on behalf of the customers, looking after their needs, desires and expectations to the best of their ability. They are acting as the proxy for the customers themselves.
If they are involved in the regular discussions around progress of the development work, testing and results from the testing, and if they are weighing in on the significance of bugs found, is it not appropriate to have them meet and discuss the state of all the projects (stories) each team is working on for a given release?
Rather than IT representatives demanding certain measures be met, what if we were to have the representatives of our customers meet and discuss their criteria, their measures that need to be met for that release?
If each team is working on the most important items for their customers first, then does it matter if less important items are not included in the release, and are moved to the next? Does it matter if a team, working with the product owner, decides to spend more time on a given task than originally scheduled, as new information is discovered while working on it?
As we approach the scheduled release date, as the product owners from the various teams meet to discuss progress being made, is it really the place of IT to impose its own measures over the measures of the customers and their representatives?
I would suggest that doing so is a throw-back to the time when IT controlled everything, and customers got what they got and had to be content with it - or they would never get any other work done... ever.
I might gently suggest that whether your customers are internal or external, we, the people who are involved in making software, should give the decision on readiness to the customers and their representatives - the Product Owners. We can offer guidance. We can cajole and entreat. We should not demand.
Who is it, after all, that we are making to software for?