I’m reading an esteemed blogger’s post this morning…about how to address micromanagement by tracking it with a spreadsheet.  I’m summarizing for dramatic effect but you get the idea.

This is only a recent example of what we all see every day.  Agile, in its simplicity and, well, agility, flies in the face of structure and control as we know it and have come to depend on it.

I’ll say it again.  As a species, and by extension, our organizations, struggle when we value low value things…particularly, certainty.   Does that mean certainty can never be useful?  Of course not.  But think of instances where certainty IS valuable.  Think of three.

Most of the things you came up with probably touch on one of two areas – math, science, or engineering, and survival (or at least personal security).   Nobody wants to rush into things where there’s a good probably we will lose something important to us – our comfort, our reputation, our safety, our lives.   So we check the odds before we gamble.  We test software before we release it; we take a breath before we go and yell what we really think to the boss.

This is all natural.  In our DNA we have instructions to keep our eyes peeled for tigers, so we can either switch in to beast mode and fight (or flee), or, if it seems like the best option, to freeze and hope it gives us a pass.  This behaviour is ‘hardwired into ROM’ – there’s no decision-making involved.  See threat, handle threat. Fast processing so we can use all the blood and oxygen we’d need to give to the brain for other, more important stuff, like running fast.

It’s also supremely useful, at times.   Strolling into a rival gang’s neighbourhood is inadvisable,  and so is betting against the house in Vegas.   Not double-checking your work if you’re designing a massive high-speed commuter rail system or lightweight braking mechanism is also careless.

But figuring out what to build in the next two weeks is different.  There is no tiger.

If you want to stop setting your company’s money on fire, learn when to shut off your developer brain.  Your logical mind is great for solving problems and making scalable solutions, but when it keeps you from shipping product, its not so great.

Remember this – you have survival programs in your DNA but you have other programs in there too.  If you’re pregnant, you’re pretty much having a baby no matter how much you worry about it or how many books you read.  We’ve been making babies in every species since the dawn of time, and I’m talking quite a while before Excel came out.   When we detect risk and long for certainty to buffer it, we are pitting one program against another, and we’re not meant to.

Consider this.   Where’s the tiger?  How much certainty is right for a given situation before  you ‘ship’?   Could we find a way to stop setting money on fire today, staring down our fears and making clear choices and committments, despite the uncertainty?  I believe it is when we do excatly this that Agile has the opportunity to create better teams and better product.





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