Management wants Control and Predictability. This desire creates large numbers of documents and overly described plans outlined to the finest detail, colourful charts and graphs designed to impress and persuade rather than educate and ensure. For the facade of control and predictability to take shape months of planning must take place to cover topics and areas that are intended to prevent mistakes and ensure work is delivered in time and on budget.
The scenario is appealing to management because it suggests everything is under control and what is expected to happen will happen, only it never goes to plan. No industry as a whole or company, whether it be a new startup or a long standing company, is exempt from the reality that all that planning months in advance and knowing the unknowable is waste. Waste of time, money, and resources that could be put to better use.
Projects with vast plans and projects born of inspect and adapt cycles both equally involve periods of discovery and innovation, the only difference is inspect/adapt cycles are expecting this and have saved the effort put in upfront on projects seeking Control and Predictability.
Trying to control teams of bright and creative people to charts and graphs is a recipe for disaster, it’s not how successful teams work or a practice that leads to successful projects. Ideas are ignored and great minds are wasted. People get frustrated, projects get delayed, budgets get eaten.
Scrum asks the important questions and gets right down to the issues that see projects overrun. Why does it take so long to deliver? Why are we bad at figuring out how much effort is required? Why do attempt to predict the future without any pre-existing data?
Scrum embraces Uncertainty and Creativity, the latter is exciting while the former is terrifying, but together these two attributes feed each other to help organisations ensure they are creating the right products at the right time.
Embedding a learning structure within an organisation to enable a team to make an assessment of what they have created and how they have created it. By looking at how teams actually work, rather than how we think they work, the processes are in place to empower a team to self-organise to improve the speed of delivery and quality of outcomes.
The core of Scrum is based on a simple concept; inspect and adapt on a regular basis. Organise regular check-ins to reflect, down tools for a period of time and consider if you are heading in the right direction and delivering what people end users actually want. Are there ways you are doing things that could be done better? Any ways of doing it faster, or contrasting your thinking and asking, are there elements of work that are actively slowing you down? What might prevent you from going faster and delivering higher quality outcomes?
Taking this approach injects an element of energy into a team that is disruptive in the short term and requires honesty, introspection, and discipline, but in the long run pays dividends to the overall delivery velocity.
Control and Predictability are just a pipe dream of the optimist, and planning is just an exercise in looking busy and faking value in an effort to fabricate a rosy future for all. Nobody is ever held responsible months or years down the line when the project is over budget and past deadline, but someone lied to themselves and to the company buying in to the fortune teller tale.
Control and Predictability only comes from empirical evidence acquired by observation and experimentation. I can’t tell you when a software development project is going to be done by, but given a few sprints I can assess the available data and give you an honest prediction that will grow more accurate each iteration. Embrace Uncertainty and Creativity, you have employed the brightest minds to deliver the right product at the right time so empower teams to inspect and adapt regularly to deliver more outcomes in less time.