The Agilist Network

Tales and Tips from Agile Software Projects

Balancing Mechanization, Psychology, Sociology and Business on Agile Projects

Posted by kenhoward on December 5, 2008

I’m not frustrated by Brett’s comments about assertions in my Blogs. I’m actually flattered, and happy that he’s reading them. Tenure doesn’t necessarily earn me any more credibility than smart successful people with fewer years of experience.

My eclectic undergraduate training (Mgmt Science/Operations Research + Psychology minor) augmented later by an MBA illustrate where my interests lie. I’ve always been a fan of Franklin and Lillian Gilbreth’s time motion work in the early 1900’s, and later of Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints. On the other hand, my interest in Psychology and Sociology tends to clash with the concept of applying a pure process optimization approach to software development. I’m further fascinated that software developers took so darned long to pay any attention at all to those old proven methods. It’s all these things that I find so fascinating.

When it comes to human behavior in a social environment, there are few wrong answers. There are far too many uncontrollable variables to be able to treat human processes as a science. I am fairly certain that most humans don’t want to be cogs in a machine. Even those who are willing to be cogs will probably dislike it after a while. (Then again, I’m sure you can’t say that about everyone.)

I do agree with Khan that lag time is the primary cause of delays on projects. (btw – per your comment, I updated my blog with a link to the referenced work.) The Ops Research bug in me says to attack the lag time to compress the duration of work. The Psychology bug in me tells me to evaluate the personal motivations and interactions that cause people to do (or not do) things that waste time. And the MBA bug in me causes me to look at projects from a purely P&L and ROI perspective. I believe that proper balance of all three perspectives will lead to true optimization.

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