The Insanity of the 1s and 0s Trap

June 19, 2014 — Posted by Al Shalloway

I’ve been fortunate enough to be at several conferences with Don Reinertsen. I love being next to him watching a talk together.  More than once I’ve heard him remark – “people in this industry are too used to working with 1s and 0s and forget there are other options.”  Unfortunately, our two most popular (or perhaps, I should say – most being pushed for certification) are Scrum and the Kanban Method (which I distinguish from the original Kanban - see a Tale of Two Kanbans … or Three).   What the 0 or 1 relate to here? The amount of change.  Kanban Method is about 0 change at the start.  Scrum is the 1, the full jump to what it believes is required: cross-functional teams, product owner, scrum master, iterations, no interruptions during the sprint, …

When one considers the popular definition of insanity – “doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result” and that there are recurring challenges in both Scrum and the Kanban Method that are ignored or explained away by their promoters we have to take some responsibility for being insane for listening to them.  As I’ve long said, never do anything because a consultant has told you to do it (including me).   If you can’t see that it makes sense, then either it doesn’t make sense or you have a consultant who is not a very good explainer of things.  Either way, you should be dubious about following  his advice.

The 1 of Scrum says if we go all the way we'll figure things out.  Ironically, Scrum tells us two conflicting things here (meaning if I believe one, I shouldn’t believe the other).  Classic Scrum consultants tell us we’re going through a phase of Shu-Ha-Ri (follow practices initially without understanding, follow with understanding, go beyond understanding).  I personally have always hated this metaphor because in the martial arts, one is trying to train one’s body and initial understanding is not needed.  Even as a beginner, you still have to think, so following anything by rote is a mistake as it is likely to be the wrong thing.  This metaphor is attractive, however, because people want a solution at the beginning.  But the same solution for everybody is seriously unlikely to be the right solution for everybody.  What’s odd to me, however, is that the same classic Scrum proponents say you should be minimalistic and let folks figure things out.  How? While they are following the practices because they were told to do so?

The 0 of the Kanban Method assumes one can get out of the local optimization by merely setting up a Kanban system.  That that will provide insights into what to do.  Unfortunately, evidence (patterns of stuck behavior) has shown this not to be true.  There is no evidence that managing flow by managing work in process (WIP) is more effective than what can be achieved by load balancing up front, by reorganizing teams, by changing workflows via test-first methods or even a few others.  And yes, in all situations understanding where you are is essential (or you are back to the other extreme of 1).

So why do we have to do 0 or 1?  We don't.  I suggest you find someone (likely one is available in your own organization, or find a consulting organization that actually does both Scrum and the Kanban Method, not merely someone who does Scrum and says they like Lean) and discuss where the best place to start would be, according to where you are.  Any competent consultant can provide that to you, so you team can get the starting practices they want.  By the way, in my opinion, if a consultant only knows one or two approaches, they are only competent in very limited areas.

What do we need to do?  Well, look through my blogs or send me a question.   Actually, I’m doing a webinar on some of these issues next Monday (What Is Required at Scale) as well.

 

 

 

 

Ignoring the fact that our charges are getting the same result over and over again is a deeper insanity.

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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With over 40 years of experience, Alan is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, SAFe, Scrum and agile design.



        

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