Iterative work is human

Having read several great articles discussing Agile and Waterfall recently (e.g. More Agile Claims, What Killed Waterfall Could Kill Agile), I decided to share some thoughts. These days I’m involved in internal projects for “the business” (as opposed to “the ICT”). In a sense that IT components are part of a project, delivered by a an internal IT unit or an external supplier — usually with a dedicated Project Manager (obviously, every project is a “business” project, as it should lead to business benefits). Agile management hasn’t come our way yet. I wish it had (I know it aims at software development though).

Iterations are human. “Linear action” is the domain of machines, rather than people.

Take a look: 

Agile-vs-waterfall2

(If ‘A’ is the beginning of a project and ‘B’ — its end, it might be that iterations bring the team closer to the final product as expected by the client and his/her understanding of quality. The picture is a huge simplification — having in mind expectations, constraints etc.) We love to have a clear picture of where we’re headed. Describe it (business case, charter), plan it (aka make a prognosis) and then control it (or in many unfortunate cases – be managed by it). Having all constraints in place, it’s easier to put the damn thing on an invoice. Problem is:

  • Project Managers need time to grow as practitioners, as leaders. There aren’t so many experienced ones as one might think.
  • We have the tendency to reduce cognitive disonance in many ways — when things go wrong, only few have the skills and guts to let the world know “the king is naked.”
  • Not every environment leaves ample space for error and change.

Bottom line — people are not computers. They err, they fool themselves (“I don’t think this is so much of an issue yet”), they don’t always respond well to outside pressure (“By when exactly did you promise to deliver feature X?”). That’s why lean embraces errors and man’s imperfect nature calling it “continuous improvement.”

“if your #lean efforts are struggling, ask how much fear is in the org: fear of trying, fear of failing, fear of blame or punishment?” — Mark Graban from @LeanBlog

This is why I like the idea of iterations in any environment. Agile recognizes it, waterfall — not exactly.

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