Deliberately displayed as one of the four statements from the agile manifesto, the title of this piece does not indicate that comforting customers is stupid or unnecessary. It indicates that quick conflict might be more important. Whatever I say in this piece, keep this in mind.
We recently did a project were our team was invited to a backlog grooming session before the first sprint. We came in expecting exactly that but entered into a room filled with tension. Our customer explained some things and said he was very worried about the project before we even had started.
Basically we got ambushed. Not with malicious intent, not at all. Genuine concern was on the table. But we got ambushed nonetheless. We came in this meeting expecting a normal grooming session and instead ended up in a very different one.
What we did was instinctively react in a way that was natural to most of the team members. We started comforting. "Sure this is a long backlog, but it isn't impossible we would finish all of it.""Absolutely, there are a lot of different parts to this project, but the system does a lot out of the box." (It really does by the way :p).
The problem is we weren't truthful. We didn't lie and certainly did not mean to. But we sure did not tell the cold hard truth. No way were we going to get everything on this backlog done within the currently set amount of sprints. Unless miracles were going to happen.
Gradually this meeting progressed to a more natural grooming session and everyone left more or less satisfied.
We started sprinting.
We felt pressure.
Everyday we realised we led our customer to believe that everything was going to be done for the sake of avoiding conflict during that first meeting. We exchanged one conflict for continuous tension and conflict with ourselves. Put in more hours? Cut corners?
Tell the truth!
We waited for about a week to do a reality check. A long week that wasn't particularly fun. We finally had our "conflict" which we should have had earlier. We could have saved ourselves a lot of tension and pressure by being honest and hard up front.
Rescheduling conflict is no solution.