Hull Speed for Systems

13.2.2014 by

I have noticed that all systems have some natural capability for
productivity, value delivery and quality. As the people in the system
gain experience in the system, their performance will start reaching
that systemic speed. Just like with a ship, this happens quite easily,
but when the “hull speed”* is reached, the amount of effort / power to
go faster dramatically increases, up to the point that a certain speed
seems unsurmountable regardless of power expended. In systems, we can
perceive this e.g. in overtime, which does not yield real benefit
since the extra effort translates to more mistakes and other negative
factors that detract from real progress.

I continually observe that also in the ball point game, where people
psyche themselves to try harder, but they still get the same result.

Also, waterfall has a certain hull speed. No amount of pressure will
make it deliver stuff faster.

Organisations, as they are composed, also have a hull speed.

The only way to go faster than the hull speed is to change the system
into one that has a higher hull speed. E.g. starting to use Scrum. But
any given set of practices also have a hull speed. And the only way to
go faster (after the learning period) is to change the practices to
ones with higher hull speed.

Thus, we can say that any action that does not affect the system’s
structure and fundamental behavior in some way (and merely is an act
to “shape up”, “increase discipline”, or “try harder”) is very
unlikely to produce any lasting effort. Any benefits gained from such
activities either produce negative side effects that ultimately cancel
any positives, or disappear over time as the system returns to its
hull speed.

TL;DR: Work smarter, not harder.

 

* I know that hull speed is technically a little different from that,
but a layman’s approach is good enough for this concept :).

Story of Release Planning

31.7.2013 by

While I have many stories of release planning, I like to share this one.

Getting started… a little late

I was coaching this game team/organization. The original plan for the next game called for about 6 months of design and development. However, due to other pressures, a lot of things were prioritized over this project and when the first people were able to start the work, only three months were remaining. There was hope that using Agile could help them speed up the development (through prioritization, backlog refinement and faster development), but it was still known that it will be tough.

At the beginning of the work, the game concept was available. A backlog had been built collaboratively with the team. For the first two sprints, only half of the team was available, and they started on the most critical stories. During this time, the backlog was radically refined and prioritized (i.e. features slashed), up to the point that PO started to be concerned that “there was no fun left”.

The Wall

At the beginning of the third Sprint, the rest of the team joined in, and on the third day of the sprint a release planning meeting was held. At this point, the team estimated the size of the items they had already completed (in story points) and used them as a scale for remaining items in the backlog. Based on the stories completed, the estimated total capacity of the team (for the rest of the planned sprints until release) was about 350 points (give and take a bunch). The size of the remaining backlog was estimated at 1300 points.

The lead dev’s estimate of their chances of success went from “optimistic 20%” to “definite 0%”. The sprint was terminated. Everybody scrambled to figure out a new approach with even a slight hope of success. The CEO could not find a feasible solution by extending the release date or otherwise renegotiating the contracts with the publisher. The team looked at their work and tried to figure out simpler ways of reaching the goal.

The New Plan

Luckily, the team’s previous game had a lot of similar elements as this new one (which was kinda considered “2.0″ in many respects). However, it was considered severely lacking in technical quality (though it did work). Thus the team had planned to rewrite the core architecture to allow for future extensibility. Upon closer reflection, the team felt that it was possible to return to the previous game and simply modify and extend it to enable the new game design. A new plan was created that would allow them a shot at successful delivery, assuming that they could meet the weekly goals successfully.

Prior to this planning event, the idea had been to practice and implement Scrum in this project. It was decided that there was simply no time to practice, but they decided to continue with the team level elements that they had learned already. Also the new plan did resemble a Scrum flow with its weekly goals and they did review the plan weekly. They also tested a lot each week to ensure it was working sufficiently well. They also ran a beta test alongside the development during the last month.

During the remaining two months and a bit, they actually were able to create a version of the game they were able to ship to publisher and game reviewers. And they also took Steam to use, allowing them to refine/polish the game post-gold since the platform allowed for a forced update upon installation. While it wasn’t the game originally envisioned, it was good enough. And, the team actually did without a similar crunch as they previous releases (but it was still tough 2 months, just much less pressure in the last month and some). So they attributed a lot of the success and reduced stress to the Scrum coaching.

Aftermath

Irony of the story? After the release of the game they decided that they didn’t want to make games like that anymore. So any refactoring of the architecture for future would’ve been a wasted effort. Realizing that they were running into a wall ended up saving huge amounts of effort for them (against an essentially fixed payout for game delivery).

And they did continue using Agile ideas in their future games. They’ve been happy with the increased team collaboration and have continued with the new culture. And the lessons about user stories game them a very good foundation to create increasingly growing game versions instead of “everything at the end”.

If that planning had been any later, it would’ve been a disaster. Any earlier and we might’ve not been able to see it as well. And without the coaching it would’ve been a huge mess for everyone. While this is speculation on my part, the coaching maybe saved the company.

Coming Back to Finland

5.10.2012 by

My adventure in San Francisco is coming to a close. While 12 months here isn’t anywhere enough, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to join Futurice as an Organisational ScrumMaster. Don’t take me wrong, I love my job at CollabNet, training people in Scrum and Agile. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to see the west coast of US close up. But I’m ready for the next challenge.

I pretty much explained the role in this post on CollabNet’s blog site. Though I’m replacing any notion of Team with the whole organisation. CEO Tuomas Syrjänen has been trailblazing this work in his role, and admittedly, being ranked as #1 place to work in Europe is pretty good recognition for a job well done. With me in my role, we can together put more focus and face the future challenges with more support for cultural growth.

With that in mind, one of the first things I did was to start organizing Lean Startup and Management 3.0 courses :). They are now happening in mid-November. If you want to join the courses, check out this blog for more information.

I will still continue running CSM & CSPO courses and small-scale coaching, but again on eastern side of the Atlantic. If interested, you can still contact me at petri.heiramo@gmail.com.

 

 

“We don’t want to pay for X”

1.7.2012 by

It is surprising how many IT customers (some of which are actually expected to know a lot about software development) decline to pay for good development practices. Be it preventive QA, TDD, test automation or whatever, many customers assume those are additional costs to them (i.e. by not doing them, they would get their software faster and cheaper – and then they demand up-front planning!).

What if you went to a surgery and only wanted to pay for the room and the surgeon. Afer all, it’s the surgeon who makes the cut and fixes you. How would that go? What else is happening in a surgery theater? There are other medical professionals ensuring that whatever the surgeon needs is available (or is quickly retrieved). Some monitor patient’s vital signs and some control the anesthesia. What about the cleaning staff who take care that the hospital is clean? Sure, it’s entirely possible to make surgeries unnecessarily expensive, but there is certain level which has to be maintained (or else the patient pays the difference). I don’t even know, really, and I haven’t been watching those TV series to be better educated. And I don’t have to; I expect them to know what they are doing.

On the other hand, why do we software developers so often ask customer permission for those things? I don’t ask the staff at a restaurant on how they create my food (and instruct them on not using certain types of knives or grill/oven/whatever they choose to use). I stick strictly to my needs and desires (“and the steak – well done, please”), and trust them to know what they are doing. And if the outcome, or it’s cost-effectiveness compared to other restaurants, isn’t to my liking, I probably choose to use some other restaurant next time.

We have to keep in mind that most of our customers don’t have the capability of making an educated decision. They want outcomes that work (they do, even if it really doesn’t sound like that often – and they do complain if the outcomes don’t work), so maybe we should leave them at that. Let them define what they want, we define the how.

Only when they act responsibly, we allow them peek inside. Then again, if they see working outcomes effectively delivered, they are not that interested in what goes inside. After all, it’s the outcomes that make the difference.

Do you instruct the chef in a restaurant?

PS. Funny enough, when it comes to restaurants, there is a kind of expectation that more expensive is better. And often there is a correlation, though I feel that the value/cost ratio comes down. And we choose the place based on the quality (or value ratio) we want. With software, seems that customers want the cheapest. And then complain when it doesn’t taste good.

“How Does Agile Make Me a Better Developer?”

3.4.2012 by
In this blog post, I’ll share a bit of a conversation I was having with a participant of my CSM course, who had his team ask provoking questions. I’ll share the questions and my responses. Remember that this is a conversation piece, so I can’t guarantee it’s more than opinions :).
Snippety snip, start the email here (the participants text in blue, my response in black):
> I had a great retrospective with the team that was having buy-in
> issues last week and they expressed some fundamental questions
> that they had not been given answers to.

There are no single answers, but I’ll try to give some possible perspectives.

> How does Agile make me a better developer?

Well, “Agile” doesn’t :). But I guess that’s twisting words :/. I guess by “Agile” they mean the combination of all three layers - mindset, control framework, and practices & tools. So let’s take Agile as that.

Still, I feel the answer is “no”. It is they themselves who make them better developers, by learning a new consistent framework they can choose to use when they feel it delivers higher value. Yes, there are many people who swear by Agile approach, because it let’s them deliver much higher quality code, deliver it faster, spend much less time debugging, and having fun working with a close-knit group of colleagues towards a meaningful shared goal. Yes, that is available to almost anyone who wants to continually improve themselves. No, it doesn’t come for free – they have to put themselves to learning it.

Also, as a point of view, as the number of people who can write virtually error-free code on first pass and deliver highly maintainable code effectively, that skill level turns from competitive advantage to pre-requisite in the next, say, ten years. Having only traditional skillset, conversely, turns from still competitive (because employers don’t still know much better) to competitive disadvantage. I mean, I would not hire a person who didn’t know how to deliver Agile code, or would not be willing to put themselves to learning it.

> How does this process make me happier in my Job?

The “process” doesn’t, again :). Badly done Agile will make their lives miserable, because it will take the old framework, and add expectations of doing faster and more on top of it.

If the environment is set up to support Agile, that is, there are managers who allow (and support) the team to self-organized, participate actively in removing impediments, assign sufficient authority to a PO who can take ownership of the direction, give the SM sufficient time and support to focus on the role, etc., then the team can focus on learning to do proper Agile at technical level and to learn working together as a cross-functional team.

There usually is a period where it gets worse before it starts getting better. XP requires focus and commitment, and practice. TDD will be difficult at first, especially if there is legacy code which is not supportive of code level testing. Pair programming will feel awkward until skill & knowledge levels start to level a bit. Continuous integration and test automation will require learning new skills and establishing new tools, until they start to show benefit by allowing faster feedback on errors.

I recommend the team, assuming they want to go for XP and Agile, to set themselves a two month period where they focus primarily on the process and learning to do it properly. Delivering features is secondary (though not irrelevant). Speed will come naturally. Make sure that your management understands the team’s need for learning new ways and grant them the time. If all goes well, after two months they will be where they would’ve been without XP, but now with a faster process, better collaboration, more shared knowledge, and, likely, happier people. No guarantees, but that’s what I often see and hear. :)

But if Agile is supported by organization (or benevolently “allowed” and not actively prevented), it does increase the amount of autonomy and mastery in the work. If you have a good PO, it will also increase the purpose of the work. And those are the secret sauce of motivation.

> What Defines “Productive” for a Developer in the Agile way of thinking?

Shortly, the team has a greater capacity to deliver value to PO and customers. This may be numbers (in terms of features), technical quality, or feature value. Ideally, it is a combination of all three.

Also, we should get rid of the idea of individual productivity and look at the team level. Traditional approach is very poor at leveraging collaborative effort – the power of teams. For people who have not been in a real team, they don’t know what they are missing from their professional life. “Aren’t you curious?”

End of the snippety snip part.

As the reader of this post, what elements would add (or modify) to my above comments?

On Relative and Absolute Quality

18.2.2012 by

I sometimes struggle between relative and absolute quality, and how they affect the way we work in businesses and the success we gain. That is, I really would like to think we should strive for better outcomes as a kind of value on its own (and merit from that as business success), but I so much more see “being better than competition” as “sufficient” for most people (and frankly, it is good enough for many companies to stay in business).

In practice, the questions boils down to “we’re already better than our competition, why over-invest?” The way I hear that is “let’s cash in on our advantage now, until we lose it”. I also hear “let’s gain in short term, and figure out long-term competitiveness later”. And I can see the logic in that. But it’s the same logic that has effectively crippled so many companies and destroyed their long term profitability.

I recall reading somewhere that the founder of Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad, once said that “the worst thing that could happen to Ikea would be to go public.” He was referring to the tendency of publicly traded companies to focus on short term outcomes and shareholder value over any other business priorities. While I’m no fan of Ikea, I can appreciate the success they have built (and yea, some few of the items they have designed have appealed also to me). And I can appreciate the mindset.

So is focusing on relative quality subscribing to short term thinking (and, as I believe, to sacrificing long term success)? The idealist in me says yes; the pragmatist accepts it as a short term goal as long as it is recognized for what it is.

So what would absolute quality look like in, say, subcontracting business? How would a company striving for absolute quality approach their goal differently from a company that is satisfied being just better than direct competition?

I’ve tried to give this some thought. I’ve so far identified the following dimensions:

  • Excelling in delivering customer value, exceeding customer expectations
  • Seeking to continually improve their development practices, to deliver error free solutions on the first go and remove all types of waste in the way they develop
  • Seeking to build their people to be self-driven, capable of taking initiative, and having satisfying professional growth
  • Looking inside to compare themselves to their past selves, instead of looking out to compare to others

Curiously, the first three loosely match the three characteristics of Radical Management – delighting customers, deep job satisfaction, and relentless improvement. The last one relates to one of the key characteristics of Performing teams – dedication to not accept sub-par performance from oneselves or team mates.

I’ll try to explore each of those dimensions to share what I feel about them. I’ve added some concrete ideas at the end of each dimension.

Excelling in delivering customer value to me is to seek the real value the customer _really_ needs, rather than seeking to deliver what the customer believes they want. It is not saying “well, you don’t know what you want, let me show you” but recognition that we (that is, both the customer and us) don’t have the possibility of defining “maximal” value up front. Only through successive iteration and revision of our understanding we are capable of finding what is really the most valuable bit, and then focusing on delivering that as effectively as it can be done. It is also recognizing that we may often have to challenged establish “truths” to discover new avenues for innovative solutions. The company doing the above is challenging established practices in IT subcontracting industry, and will have to build demand (and appreciation) for their approach. They will not be asked for it, they have to find the way to do it first within the constraints of current business practices.

  • Implement “Money for Nothing, Change for Free” in all customer contracts, and help customers to actually take advantage of it, even if they didn’t ask for it originally.
  • Seek to understand what the customer really wants by demonstrating progress continually and asking for feedback, then feed this back to customer’s decision-making processes for action
  • Teach customers of the benefits of iterative and incremental approaches, what is the value to _them_.

Continually seeking to improve the development practices involves all levels of their operation, starting from the technical practices, to project leadership, organizational management, and internal operation. Internally, they should be challenging themselves continually, seeking impediments to delivery at all levels, and relentlessly seeking to eradicate them. And to understand that this all is normal operation of the organization, and not an “improvement initiative”.

  • Deploy full-time ScrumMasters to all teams and at different levels of the organization
  • Use “technical excellence programs” to keep people learning better ways all the time, e.g. through internal coaching
  • Use metrics that reveal waste and bad quality, and feed the results back directly to teams and individuals
  • Encourage people to learn outside their typical domain
  • Build careers around technical excellence, so that we don’t lose more great developers to ranks of bad managers

I believe that people excel only when given sufficient authority to do a great job. There are examples of organizations that have done exactly that, and their people have delivered outstanding outcomes. A necessary condition is access to information. To really drive self-organization into the organization, information must be made easily accessible (and pushed) to everyone in the organization. Doesn’t matter who. And this is a challenge, for sure. Not just overcoming the culture of “information on a need-to-know basis”, but also providing that information in a way that is digestible and creating the skills to using that info for everyone. Only then can we start expecting people to make good system-wide decisions about their work and take real ownership of it.

  • People are trusted and external post-decision authorization is kept to a minimum
  • Teams know their P&L, but also that of their neighboring teams and groups at different levels
  • Progress is made clearly visible to everyone interested, through demos and clear communication approaches
  • People are held accountable for their decisions and must personally justify them when challenged – people are taught how to evaluate the value of their idea before committing and also recommended to verify those with colleagues

The desire to look within rather than compare to outside is important to maintain momentum. Any company doing that will realize that improvement is never-ending and that there are always ways to get better. But if we compare to outside parties, it’s easy to get satisfied with the results and become complacent. That doesn’t naturally mean that we forget the outside world, but only that our primary competitor is ourselves.

  • Maintain metrics showing improvement in operation, but try to make sure the metric is open-ended and doesn’t have a “cap”, if possible.
  • Measure the amount of improvements in the organization and have warning levels when they go too low
  • Continually allocate attention to the need of getting better, celebrate successes

To summarize, if I look around at many of the successful companies (e.g. Toyota, Apple…), I see these ideas, at least in many ways, being deployed. Excellence cannot be achieved by being satisfied with good. We should celebrate when we progress, but never satisfy ourselves with it.

The Color of “Scrum”

17.2.2012 by

While at it, let’s write another post – on a less serious topic. About a week ago, while training, I realized that if I had to choose a color to write the word “Scrum” with, it would most likely be red.

Then I started thinking why.

I guess it has to do with the passion I view Scrum with. I think there is a lot of emotional aspects to Scrum – the success of delivering value, of exceeding expectations, the camaraderie and working towards shared goals, etc. It’s also a color associated with speed and power (at least in Ferraris).

But red is also often perceived as the color for danger or the negative. So I find it quite interesting that this color felt the most natural for a thing I see as nothing but.

Interesting indeed.

What is the color of your “Scrum”?

About the Role of ScrumMaster

17.2.2012 by

I’ve been too busy for too long to write blog posts, but here’s one, about the role and authority of the ScrumMaster.

The way I understand the Scrum framework is that the ScrumMaster is the person who does have a lot of authority over the process, but in the same way as in any other matter - everyone in the team is responsible for their own work. I don’t see how ScrumMaster has any authority to say anyone in the team that they must work in a certain way. He/she can certainly talk about the process, educate about better ways of doing it, showing where the process currently fails, etc., but I believe every single person in the team is responsible for the way they do their work.

This is not unlike in a soccer team – the coach does train the people, help them practice to become better soccer players, have a vision how the team should/could work together better, suggest better strategies, BUT when the game is on, the players are responsible for playing the game. I don’t know any single soccer game where the coach scored a single goal.

Similarly, if the team performs badly, I would first look at the coach and try to find out what that person did to improve team performance. However, if I determine that that person has done his/her best, then he/she is innocent, and we need to look at the players themselves. Did they do their best? Do they have the right skills to play at that level? Are they practicing on their own time to improve their game play and ball handling skills? It might be necessary to change the composition of the team to match what is needed.

Furthermore, I really appreciate the fact that the team makes their own “rules” and holds all team members accountable to one another for following said agreements. It is not the SM who they are accountable to. So if someone doesn’t work the way it was agreed, they need to explain their way of working to other team members, not the SM.

So, I see ScrumMaster as a strength of the process, compared to almost any other framework around. Finally we have a person who is free to take a bigger look at things, to optimize the whole (along with the help of everyone else in actually making it happen). Finally someone is free from the pressure to deliver and to think of better ways of developing software and removing the blockages. And this freedom, I’ve found, is central to being a great SM. As soon as you dip you toes in the content (i.e. delivering something), it will draw you in like a siren and you will lose the external viewpoint. I’ve been there, I know how attracting it is to participate in finding the solution to the challenge.

I saw this happen in a customer organization that I visited about a year ago. Originally, they had SM’s who were part time members of the development teams. As a result, those SM’s only had time, focus and energy for the “ScrumSecretary” role. As a consequence, the Scrum implementation in that organization was lacking the spirit. It was doing the motions only. After switching to five part-timers to three full-time SM’s, things started changing. SM’s started working on the bigger picture, work with teams better to improve their work, and generally work the environment. As a consequence, over the next eight months quality improved, people became more energized and focused, and also the amount of output increased to double the original.

What Has Nokia Done Right and Wrong?

11.2.2011 by

A colleague asked me very recently, regarding Nokia being in the headlines with Elop’s recent internal memo, what has, in my opinion, Nokia done right and wrong over these years. After all, they achieved a massively dominant position in mobile phones and are now losing it all.

 

I think they did a lot of things right in the late 1990′s and very early 2000′s.

They were the first ones to focus on customer experience. Even if the processes weren’t very refined compared to best practices today, Nokia phones were considered to be the easiest to use for almost a decade (until iPhone hit the market).

They were very good at logistics and manufacturing tens and hundreds of millions of phones. They won the cost race (and it’s the area they are still very strong, although Elop did mention pressure from Chinese now).

Symbian was a very good platform when resources (energy, memory, processing power primarily) were scarce on phones. Since it goes very close to hardware level (being C++ code), it is possible to control resource use better than in any other environment. Now that none of those things are scarce, it is too difficult and time consuming to develop anything in Symbian (against competition on iOS and Android environments).

Nokia has been focusing a lot on technical specifications (in true Finnish mentality), and many of their products are still technically superior to their competitors. Unfortunately, that was a significant competitive advantage only until iPhone changed the game.

Nokia used to have a lot of really really excellent people. Unfortunately for them, so many of them have effectively been driven out of the company by their unfortunate policies and culture.

In late 1990′s and early 2000′s, Nokia was full of “winner mentality”. They were successful and they were revolutionizing the world. They were the ones who made mobile communication so pervasive as it is today. That elevating goal was driving people and there was a lot of shared commitment to becoming and being excellent. The success and high morale was naturally masking many of the dysfunctions of the organization, which then started hurting the company when they were no longer cruising as the sole winners of the world.

 

Things they did wrong, in my humble opinion

Nokia has a pervasive attitude that creating software is very much like production. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Production can be charactized as “same at lower price”, whereas development is “more value faster at any cost”, although “any cost” should be considered as a smart investment against expected returns. Product development is a brains game, and the best brains are costly. However, their value/cost ratio is still much better than for less excellent brains, making them still a very good deal. The Nokia attitude unfortunately discounted the value of good brains, and mistakenly considered low cost development “resources” as a good deal for them.

In this quest to lower prices, they effectively killed their brain-based subcontractors. In the stranglehold, no suppliers were able to pay for their good employees appropriately and keep them developing software for Nokia. If someone tried to maintain reasonable cost structure, Nokia cut off purchasing from them. So in their selfish greed, they effectively cut themselves off from talent and brains.

Also in their quest to lower prices, they moved to India and China with entirely wrong goals and strategy. Therefore, the code quality in Symbian is horrible and they can’t really even keep the system stable anymore. Will they do the same in Meego? Or is that the reason Meego is delivering value much slower than it should to save Nokia?

Their management organization is very bonus driven and hierarchical. People were much more interested in getting their bonus checks than caring for greater good within Nokia. If helping someone else needed compromising one’s bonus goals, the help wouldn’t really happen. Add to that the fact that often these bonus goals were misguided (see above), the effect was often really bad.

Nokia was very focused on measuring individuals and their performance, and driving “performance” with the above mentioned bonus systems. Anyone who’s seen http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html or read about the topic, should know that external motivator (like bonuses and carrots/sticks) are actually harmful for intellectual work, reducing people’s capability for innovation. Plus they kill the grounds for collaboration for common good.

They were constantly reorganizing, effectively preventing the formation of stable teams. Stability is pretty fundamental for high performing teams. You need to know who you work with, what are their capabilities, and learn how to work together to best benefit from each others’ talents.

In their drive to “low cost option”, they are constantly creating distributed teams and making it very difficult for people to communicate and collaborate effectively. While there are good reasons why you sometimes have to distribute a project, more often it was just in the illusionary quest for “low cost”. I hope I’ve established that quest for low cost -> low quality -> high cost or low value. :(  (the Agile alternative is quest for value and quality -> high speed -> low cost [and not just in relative sense]).

I think it was necessary to change leadership in the company. I’ve not had any confidence in the management of Nokia for the last 5 years. Elop may be the saving grace, but we’ll yet see. He has a massive problem at his hands and a single person may not be enough. I don’t even know if he has the right ideas, but at least he was pretty frank about Nokia’s problems, so I do hope he can turn the ship away from the shoals.

I’m sure there are more good and bad things than those alone, but that’s the best I can do right now. Please add your insights to comments!!

Scrum vs Waterfall in Five Words

26.11.2010 by

On a CSPO course today, I got the following “question” from the participants:

“Benefits of Scrum vs. waterfall in 5 words”

:) Never had to put so concise.

So here’s my try:

Transparency

Flexibility

Reality

Value

Wellbeing

Not a statement, but five words nonetheless.

But those weren’t the first five words that came to my mind. The first was:

“Scrum projects kick waterfall’s ass”

Not the most politically correct, though :).

But the whole topic is a bit unfair. It’s like asking the benefits of shoes vs. gloves for your feet. This isn’t really a question should we use waterfall or Agile for a software project, because both processes are valid in appropriate process context. Plan-driven approaches are highly valid for predictable environment whereas Agile is for complex environments. Also, there are situations where significant pre-planning is just necessary, because of excessively long feedback cycle or massive rework costs.

Mike Cohn, in his recent book “Succeeding with Agile”, poses this issue as a balance between “anticipation” and “adaptation”. In every situation, we do at least a little bit of anticipation and a little bit of adaptation. How much of each we do beyond that depends entirely on what we are doing. If we are ordering an expensive server with a couple of month’s delivery time, it probably makes sense to do your homework in advance. The only trouble with traditional thinking is that it does not sufficiently recognize the need for adaptation because of the expectation that projects are fundamentally predictable (and claiming that we just don’t know enough of it yet).

 

What would have been your five words?


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