Traffic in India

I recently spent a week Mumbai. While stuck in traffic during a tour of some of the incredible sights, our guide stated that in Mumbai there were three certainties, death, taxes and traffic. With the sound of auto and truck horns ringing in my ear, that statement rang true.  On reflection, I would add change to the list of certainties, whether in Mumbai or as a general attribute of all human endeavors.  Software development and maintenance are no different. Over the past few weeks, this blog has extolled and then pilloried the virtues of both big bang and incremental change approaches (and by inference everything in-between). In the end, there is no perfect approach that fits all scenarios. How can we decide which end of the change approach spectrum will work in any given scenario?  The answer is not as straightforward as a checklist or decision tree, rather three interrelated concepts must be weighed when deciding on a change approach. The three are the organization’s propensity to fall prey to change fatigue, the possibility of tunnel vision and the tolerance for dealing with Watts Humphrey’s requirements uncertainty principle. (more…)

partially inflated balloons

Where did the air go?


The overwhelming choice of process improvement specialists is incremental change.  The 21st century has seen an explosion in the use of incremental change methods, not just in process improvement, but in software development and maintenance.  Techniques and frameworks like Scrum, Extreme Programing and Kanban are just a sample of methods that are being used.  The support for incrementalism should not be taken as a carte blanche endorsement.  In order to effectively use incremental change, a practitioner must avoid these three major pitfalls: (more…)

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 434 features our essay on Change Implementations – To Big Bang or Not To Big Bang? The knee jerk reaction amongst transformation leaders is usually a loud NO! However, the answer is not nearly that cut and dry.  Big Bang approaches to change have a place in bag of tricks every transformation leader has at their fingertips.

The second column this week is from Steve Tendon. Steve Tendon brings another chapter in his Tame The Flow: Hyper-Productive Knowledge-Work Performance, The TameFlow Approach and Its Application to Scrum and Kanban, published by J Ross (buy a copy here) to the cast.  In this installment, we talk about Chapter 16, The (Super)-Human Side of Flow. In Chapter 16 Steve and Wolfram go into detail on in Kotter’s attributes of flow state.  A good discussion and a good read.

Our third column is from the Software Sensei, Kim Pries.  Kim discusses Fermi Problems. Fermi problems or questions are a tool to teach approximation and estimation.  These problems usually can be solved logically as a back-of-the-envelope calculation. The last time we talked about Fermi Problems was when we were re-reading How To Measure Anything (Hubbard).

Re-Read Saturday News

This week we tackle Chapter 7 of Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (buy your copy and read along).  Chapter 7, titled “Parents, Teachers, Coaches: Where Do Mindsets Come From? explores the impact of some of the most intimate and earliest relationships on our mindsets. Understanding how parents, teachers, and coaches affect mindsets helps us learn to lead change.

We are quickly closing in on the end of our re-read of Mindset.  I anticipate two more weeks (Chapter 8 and a round up).  The next book in the series will be Holacracy (Buy a copy today). After my recent interview with Jeff Dalton on Software Process and Measurement Cast 433, I realized that I had only read extracts from Holacracy by Brian J. Robertson, therefore we will read (first time for me) the whole book together.

Every week we discuss a chapter then consider the implications of what we have “read” from the point of view of both someone pursuing an organizational transformation and using the material when coaching teams.   (more…)

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People involved with conceiving, directing and coaching change overwhelmingly favor incremental change methods.  The support for incrementalism always comes with caveats.  Those caveats can be consolidated into three requirements. Organizations with effective incremental change programs are pursuing a vision, have an appreciation for the need to increase tolerance to change, and embrace innovation. (more…)

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As part of the research and writing process for the series on change implementation approaches I have sought out ideas and advice from many people. Some I have talked to I have directly quoted (with permission), with others still to come as we explore continuous and hybrid models. Today I am including a longer set of important ideas and thoughts from Christopher Hurney in the form of a guest blog. Mr Hurney is an active part of the SPaMCAST community. Christopher and have talked and corresponded for several years and I learned much from our relationship. Christopher can be found on LinkedIn. Thank you, Chris! (more…)

 

Big Bang

Big Bang

A big bang adoption is an instant changeover, a “one-and-done” type of approach, in which everyone associated with a new system or process switches over en masse at a specific point in time.  Big bang process improvements are useful; however nearly every person involved in planning and executing change avoids them like the plague.  Practitioners avoid big bangs for a number of very specific reasons although at the root of these reasons is risk.  They are risky because they have: (more…)

Vinigear Bottles

Not Sweet But Useful!

A big bang adoption of a process or system is an instant changeover, a “one-and-done” type of approach in which everyone associated with a new system or process switches over in mass at a specific point in time.  There are positives and negatives to big bang approaches.  We begin with the positives.

Patrick Holden, Project Portfolio Director – Software Development at SITA, struck a fairly common theme when asked about his preferences between the big bang and incremental approaches.  

While I favour incremental improvement, sometimes we really want to get on with the new, to change the mail system, phone, house, car or even your job you will need to prepare to different extents but you make the switch for one and all, it’s a Big Bang.  

The choice depends on divisibility, scope, and urgency.

The positives:

Big bangs fit some types of changes.  Not all changes are easily divisible into increments which lead to an all or nothing implementation. As I have noted before, most of the bank mergers I was involved in were big bangs.  On a specific day, all of the branches of one bank would close and overnight (more typically over a weekend) lots of people would change signs on buildings, customer files, and software systems. Perhaps it was a failure in imagination, but due to regulations and the need for notifications, it was easier for everyone to change at once.  Organizational transformations rarely have the same external drivers, regulations and notification rules; however, because of interactions between teams, it might be easier not to take an incremental approach.  Adoptions of large scale Agile methods and frameworks such as SAFe are often approached in a big bang manner. In SAFe many teams and practitioners are indoctrinated, trained and transformed together which by definition is a big bang approach to implementing scaled Agile.

Big bangs generate a too big to fail focus.  Large, expensive, and risky changes create their own atmosphere.  These types of implementations garner full management sponsorship and attention because they are too big to fail.  Christine Green, IFPUG Board Member, suggests, “it is harder to lose focus on big bang approaches when organizational leadership changes.” Big bangs can be used to address the risk of a loss of focus in some cases.  An example of an organization manufacturing a too big to fail scenario can be found in the often-told story of the early years of Fedex (Federal Express at the time).  It was said that the founder consciously borrowed money from smaller regional banks around Memphis so that he could use the impact of the risk of default to negotiate better service and rates.  Big bang changes are often too big to fail and therefore people ensure they don’t.

Management Expectations.   In many circumstances, management has little patience for the payback of continuous process improvement. As I was framing this theme, Christopher Hurney stated, “I’ve seen leadership expect Big Bang results in Agile adoptions, which is kind of ironic no? Considering that one of the precepts of Agility is an iterative approach. The expectation is often generated by a sense of urgency.  In this situation, a specific issue needs to be addressed and even though an incremental (or even iterative) approach would deliver bits and pieces sooner, the organization perceives value only when all of the benefits are delivered.  The Healthcare.gov marketplace was delivered as a big bang.

Even if the big bang approach to process improvement feels wrong, there are reasons for leveraging the approach. Chris Hurney stated that decision makers “tend to feel as though they’ve reached a point where a process has become unsustainable,” which makes the idea of implementing a change all at once worth the risk even though nearly everyone would prefer an incremental or continuous approach to change.

Previous Entries in the Big Bang, Incrementalism, or Somewhere In Between Theme

1. Big Bang, Incrementalism, or Somewhere In Between

Next:  Big Bang, The Cons!