Iterations and relativity

I got thinking about relativity, specifically frames of reference, and how it relates to an iterative development process. Many teams’ operation is built around agility and quick iterations, rapidly responding to user needs and requests (and demands and whims). But these methods are chaotic and wildly ineffective without something in place to provide context for the work.

Call it whatever — success criteria, goal setting, product vision, a north star, guardrails. It’s something to measure progress against. It’s a point of reference in the void.

Simply iterating, without some way to measure how successful each iteration was, means you’ve only got a single point of reference — where you are right now. You have no idea where or how far you’ve progressed in relation to a measurable goal. Any goal. You may as well be going nowhere.

Yes, at times you’ll be going backwards or sideways or slantways. Sometimes you’ll learn something new and branch off and try a new frame of reference just to see if it sticks. But at least you won’t be spinning in the dark.