Finding the Right Balance With Agile

August 21, 2018

Posted by Joe Van Os

Software Development

 

While the now-mainstream agile model of software development is a great way for product teams to build software, those adopting agile development are prone to rush through the process, risking costly mistakes.

Agile teams can often focus so much on speed, they virtually ignore quality and forget the principles of the build-measure-learn loop. While agile is meant to help bring valuable products to market faster, making these mistake can slow a team down in the long run.

Take Facebook’s famous mantra, “Move fast and break things.” It’s problematic because such a high-speed approach may move things along more quickly in the short term, but mistakes can pile up. That technical debt must be dealt with at some point, often at greater cost than addressing problems when they arise.

Facebook eventually revised its mantra, removing “break things” in favor of “stable infrastructure.”

“The idea here is that as developers, moving quickly is so important that we were even willing to tolerate a few bugs in order to do it,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a developers’ conference in 2014. “What we realized over time is that it wasn’t helping us to move faster because we had to slow down to fix these bugs and it wasn’t improving our speed.”

Ignoring quality simply pushes problems down the road, like interest compounding on a credit card. Developers risk unplanned problems when that technical debt is left to grow and are left with a shaky product foundation. The issue compounds as products get more complex. Small issues can spiral into larger ones, leading to more time lost developing fixes.

Taking a moment to evaluate an issue when it arises allows teams to be faster in the long run. You can learn from mistakes and avoid a similar one down the road. Team leaders need to set a precedent to spend 20 percent of their time correcting that technical debt and learning from it.

Maintaining the appropriate balance between speed and stability is the key. Don’t let too much technical debt pile up and don’t spend so much time fixing problems that your product is forever delayed. Both alternatives increase the chances of a bad product. Find the ratio that works for your team.

Read more thoughts about the pitfalls of agile from Aptean Product Manager Joe Van Os in his article, “Agile Gone Wrong,” at productcoalition.com.