Flying High Above Turbulences In Software Development (Part 2 of 2)
But there’s more to success then just acknowledging a statement. Management evangelists Jim Collins, Morten T. Hansen conducted extensive research on businesses facing chaotic situations and came up with a set of core behaviors that are practiced with perseverance throughout success stories. The behaviors are shown below in the pyramid of core behaviors.
Fantastic discipline means consistency of action from a business point of view. It implies that, regardless of turbulences that will hit the business, it’s imperative to keep focus and drive towards the set objectives tenaciously. This is not to be confused with regimentation, hierarchical obedience, measurement or a set of superfluous bureaucratic rules.
A great strategy for acquiring this core behavior is creating and following your 20 Mile March. This is a list of specific tasks that you commit to achieve with great consistency in the long run. It implies 2 types of constraints: delivering high performance in chaotic times and holding back to avoid overextension in smooth times. Whether the tasks in your 20 Mile March focus around hitting financial figures, KPIs, keeping the bug count in check or accurately booking in TimSaTo, remember that a useful march meets these 7 criteria:
- Clear performance markers
- A ceiling and floor constraint to push you through difficult times and hold you back in lucky ones
- Tailored to the business and your team
- Predominantly in your team’s control to achieve; don’t rely on luck to hit your 20 Mile targets
- A Goldilocks timeframe; short enough to be challenging, long enough to be realistic
- Achieved more than 95% of the time
Sticking to the 20 Mile March increases your winning odds because:
- confidence that you can perform in spite of adversities grows
- it’s great practice of self-control in a chaotic environment
- it contains disaster, when you’re hit by turbulence – and that’s just a matter of time
The 20 Mile March gives you great anchors for facing turbulences, but it’s essential that creativity and discipline co-exist for you to constantly reach the industry’s innovation threshold. In software, technologies have tremendous velocity and although creativity is mandatory for staying in the game, betting on the wrong idea can be lethal. Enter core behavior no.2: Empirical Creativity.
This behavior acknowledges that being creative and maintaining an innovation debit is necessary for surviving but states you should favor empiricism as justification for commitment to new ideas. The algorithm that implements this concept is called “Fire Bullets Then Cannonballs” and its flow is shown in the image below.
In this algorithm a bullet is an empirical test for learning what works and what not. It is low on cost, risk and distraction. A cannonball is an expensive resource (time, money) that you should be spending with great caution. Start by firing bullets. Only if several bullets hit the target should you consider firing a cannonball. The target can be proving a theory, passing a test or bringing revenue but whatever it is, you should never fire un-calibrated cannonballs. Bullets that miss the target won’t cause disaster for the business, but a misplaced cannonball can.
After you have synergy between discipline and creativity you have to focus on worst case scenarios. Productive Prudence is the third core behavior. In the new chaotic normality it’s no longer realistic to hope that catastrophes will avoid your business. Instead, it’s advised to prepare thoroughly so you can survive the hit when disaster strikes, and it will undoubtedly will.
In the continuous race for opportunities, releasing products, meeting deadlines, gaining market share, people come to think that you’re either the quick or the dead. But if being quick means skimping on QA, omitting risk management plans or other effort-requiring activity that’s meant for back-up, then the quick can become the dead.
Safety mechanism are specific to each team’s activity but make sure you:
- Build buffers for unexpected disasters
- Quantify and bound risk
- Zoom in then zoom out so that you can see both the detailed and global picture
- Asses time before risk profile changes; there’s no need to act if the threat is far but once it approaches make sure you take action urgently.
Round up the previous 3 behaviors with Outstanding Ambition, the final element of the pyramid. Understand that staying on top is a lofty goal and as such, difficult to achieve. While this post doesn’t offer a recipe, I hope it brings a silver lining regarding thriving in chaos. Why? Because all the suggestions described are within our control to accomplish and not subjected to random turmoil. In the end it’s our choice to make success happen in chaos.
Did you miss Part 1? Here is the article.