The Agile Executive

Making Agile Work

Predictability is Bad for Your Business

with 2 comments

I had the pleasure of meeting some old colleagues a few weeks ago. They work for a software company that pays a lot of attention to software engineering practices and invests heavily in software tools. Financial results, however, have not been great over the past few years.

Obviously, the disparity between the strength of the software engineering discipline and the relative weakness of the financial results is due to more than a single cause. One factor, however, was highlighted time and time again by my colleagues:

Predictability is killing us!

Paradoxical that this observation might seem, it is actually quite straightforward. Senior management in their company is really forceful about predictability. Hence, initiative, (affordable) experimentation and innovation have pretty much faded away. For most practical purposes it has become a check-the-box culture. All attempts to substitute reliable delivery for predictability seem to have failed so far.

One last “ingredient” to add to the story. This company is rich in talent. Generally speaking, the folks in the engineering trenches are gifted, knowledgeable, capable and dedicated.

How predictably poignant!

Written by israelgat

November 12, 2009 at 4:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. I believe Google solves some of this problem with their 20 percent time, and others have solved this by creating separate incubator groups.

    Having been in Agile shops for a while, I have come to believe “reliable delivery” is a form of predictability for an engineering team. In the case you mentioned, I assume you are referring to a violation of the Iron Triangle.

    Mike Lunt

    November 17, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    • I would actually characterize the phenomenon as violation of the Agile Triangle (as distinct from the Agile Iron Triangle). The key concept to bear in mind is value over constraints. See Figure 1.3 in the July 2009 edition of Jim Highsmith’s Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products for the evolution of the thinking:

      Traditional Iron Triangle –> Agile Iron Triangle –> Agile Triangle



      November 18, 2009 at 8:35 am

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