Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Iterative development?

There's an image that's going around on the Internet after a talk from Spotify as an explanation for iterative development, and it's being picked up by trainers, coaches and consultants from around the world - but it's wrong.

Here it is:

"Iterative development" analogy abused from another blog

Do not use this analogy!
Here's why.

The problem
I will ask these questions to help you draw your own conclusions.

What is the bottom row claiming to be a display of "how to do it right" actually implying?
  • Is the purpose of a skateboard and a car the same?
  • Are the people buying a skateboard, motorcycle and a car the same people?
  • How likely will a person who just bought a skateboard upgrade to a car?
  • Can you recycle your marketing campaigns?
  • Will a great skateboard designer know how to build good cars?
  • How many learnings from the last success/failure will help you do better in the next iteration?
  • What % of the last iteration's product is "waste" in the new iteration, how much can be reused?
Pretty much every increment would require restarting the entire business from scratch: New customer segment, new experts, new design, new product. There is no constancy of purpose at all.
How likely will you succeed with that if you're doing that in a 2-week rhythm?

Fixing it
If you really want to do iterative development, here's how you should approach the increments:

  • First, get some tires (not deliverable, but already a lot of work)
  • Then an axis to connect them (can already carry something)
  • Then an engine (automated propulsion)
  • Then a chassis (safer to ride)
  • Then windows (water/dirt proof)
  • Then, paint the whole thing

Most likely, you'll continuously find improvement potential in one of the above areas before ever finishing, but if you can't get these things done, you're not going to sell cars.

But how many companies have ever successfully produced streetworthy cars based on their skateboard expertise?

So, the upper row actually makes more sense than the lower row (even though it's also wrong).

Trash this analogy. Get it out of your head. It's misleading.

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