John is one of the engineers observed that linear plans rarely work, and traced the root causes to three dimensions that are impossible to plan for time, local context and human free will.
Opportunities disappear and materialize as plans are executed, things that work well in one area might be completely the wrong solution for another, and despite all our efforts people can choose to use, misuse, completely ignore or even disruption our products.
Create an adaptive planning process that can easily adjust when reality shows its surprising face.
Palchinsky’s principles for dealing with uncertainty a hundred years ago translate well to the software world of today.
Apply variation to explore different ideas, do experiments on a survivable scale, and seek out feedback to select the things which worked and focus on them.
Variation - seek out ideas and try new things
Survivability - When trying something new do it on a scale where failure is survivable
Selection - Seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along
Instead of failing in the face of uncertainty, these principles enable organizations to embrace uncertainty and exploit new opportunities when they happen.
This is exactly where agile can change the game, allowing organisations to reap huge benefits from being able to ship iteratively and adapt. Yet for many “agile” groups out there, those benefits never come. Delivery teams delegate the responsibility for planning to “product owners”, who neither own the actual products nor have the necessary tools to work effectively in short iterations. In a sense, people get a formula car but drive it in circles.
Building great software requires teams to break out of that box and change the entire approach to planning and delivery. It requires the strength to say No to pet features and the courage to say Yes to uncertainty and flexible scope.
It requires the resolve to constantly improve and the thump to realistically reflect on both the product and the delivery process. It requires the boldness to experiment, the will to see successful ideas through and the discipline to discard the ones that fail. It requires the will to constantly adapt to unplanned and unpredictable opportunities and challenges, and the resolution to hold to professional standards under constant time and political pressure