Big News – There is No Right Answer.

“You say tomayto and I say tomahto…”

There are some differences of opinion that are not worth arguing about. Tea vs. coffee. Strawberry vs. chocolate. Peanut butter vs. jam. The outcome of each decision has consequences for the person making it, but they probably don’t stretch much beyond that.

Others carry more significance.  Buy vs. lease. City or suburbs. Enterprise vs. point solution.

Each decision of this type is made within a paradigm, with its own particular set of costs and benefits, constraints and opportunities, risks and timings.

This last element, timing, is particularly important and its impact is often overlooked or underestimated. This is odd behaviour, as it is clear that a decision made today is made with today’s information – circumstances (and the accompanying decision drivers) may have changed considerably in six months’ time.

  • We’ll build more landline infrastructure – until mobile phones are developed and technology is leapfrogged
  • Plastic packaging is ideal – until we discover that it’s polluting the ecosystem with tiny particles of non-biodegradable waste
  • Renewable energy is uneconomic – until the point at which alternative sources of power are too expensive to extract or too valuable to burn

 

There are many examples where a decision was correct at the time, but in hindsight, perhaps it wasn’t ideal. However, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of criticising past decisions for lack of foresight. We can’t predict the future with certainty, we can only allow for some of the variables that we’re able to identify and predict.

  • If we hadn’t invested in landlines, computer networks would not have been possible.
  • Plastic packaging protected perishable goods and reduced food waste enormously
  • Consumption of oil and coal has driven associated chemical technology into many novel materials

Decisions involve risk and, to make the best decision possible, we try to minimise that risk. Part of the attraction of Agile working is to delay critical decision making, so more information is available about the future. Developing in an incremental fashion, tweaking, amending, altering the deliverable as we go to best match the requirement (to some extent, shaping the requirement) is a seductive approach. Why don’t we do everything in an Agile fashion?

Principally, timing. Some things cost more and take longer to develop and build than others. Sometimes the final specification for an output is clear and unambiguous and a Waterfall approach is ideal.

  • If I need a brick wall, then the foundations are required before the bottom layer of bricks and the top layer will come last.
  • The bricklayer is the skilled resource and he or she doesn’t need an electrician, carpenter or plumber as part of the team to help at that point.
  • I don’t need a morning scrum, as progress is self-evident and barriers to progress are plain (e.g. no bricks)

 

There is no benefit to me in approaching this in an Agile fashion. On the other hand, if I’m not too sure how tall my wall needs to be, whether it needs decorative brickwork or integrated lighting, then there would be a good case for an Agile approach. Maybe seeing what bricks we have left, laying cables for pin-lights, adding a surface water feature or some decorative coping.

This may be a facile example but it’s intended to illustrate that the method used for a particular piece of work may not be a choice, but may be self-defining. So, it’s not a valuable to have a firm ‘We only do Agile’ or ‘We work in a completely structured fashion’ as there are pro’s and con’s for each.

Be flexible in your approach and identify a framework that enables you to manage all your work in a common framework, irrespective of the detailed delivery methodology.

Sandhill explored how to manage demand and capacity within a dynamic operation in our recent webinar.

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