A Dot Is A Lot

Like Elmer’s glue in the hands of a 3 year old, people often think they need a lot more process than they really do.

I should confess at the outset that I’m a project manager by profession. Being a citizen of the world, I am aware that those in my profession are often seen as the process police, checklist makers, and general taskmasters. For many, there’s comfort in process. It’s well known, well defined, tried and true, etc. etc. It feels manageable.

Along with most of the world engaged in modern software development, I’m a proponent of quick iterative development. Teams have ownership, they plan a little, make some working software, show it to their users, tweak, repeat. Throughout this cycle, in addition to learning about the product they are building, teams also learn if any of their internal systems, like manual processes, are inhibiting an optimized workflow. With so much learning to do, a very basic approach is enough to get teams started.

I have seen, unfortunately, that as with any other process, you have to be careful to pick and choose the pieces that make sense and not dump on a whole bottle of “musts” from the get-go. It can be just as onerous and destructive to team morale and productivity to come in with a prescriptive list agile practices as it was to manage teams in the traditional waterfall “big planning up front” days. There’s no “one size fits all” in any environment.

There are definitely best practices and there’s value in picking a tried and true approach when you’re starting out. Just use your best judgement as to which practices fit each situation you are in and don’t pull out every item in your toolbox because they are the things you learned in class that will “make you agile.”

It’s just like my kid and the googly eyes he’s trying to attach to his construction paper monster. It’s easy to ruin your whole project by trying to make everything stick. Start with a dot, you can always add more.

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