Preston Smith's Corner

Is there a development process for flexible product development?

pril 2008 Quick Tip

It seems that we feel more comfortable having a process for completing things. If I have trouble with my computer, installing a video driver, for example, when I finally resolve the problem, I write myself a memo on how to do it—a process— so that I don’t have to struggle with this task again.

As flexible development and its cousin, agile software development, mature, there is great temptation to turn it into an established process so that it is repeatable and predictable. Management often encourages more process (see our last Quick Tip “What drives – or should drive – our product development?“). Unfortunately, more process often moves us toward rigidity, which is the very thing we seek to avoid with flexible or agile development.

So how can we have a process without it becoming rigid? There are several things we can do. One is to standardize only for basic activities (for instance, installing a video driver), and leave upper layers open for change. I explain this on pages 206-207 of Flexible Product Development. Another is always to realize that the process should emerge from the needs of the market, the technology being applied, and the capabilities of the development staff.

Leaving the upper layers open and letting the process emerge from the needs of the project both imply that you have some people on the team who are experienced in tailoring processes to projects, what I call Cockburn Level 3 people in Flexible Product Development (pages 129-131).

You can read more about avoiding rigid processes as flexible ones mature in our recent article “Remember: Agility is Lack of Rigidity.”

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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