Uncharted Territory – exploration vs. guided tours

Yet another case for the use of adaptive methods in product development…

The good tour-guide…

… be it in a city or in the outdoors, has been to all the places he guides you to, has friends in every second venue, has intimate knowledge of the secluded spots so he can show you what the eye of the unknowing passer by would surely miss. That’s the kind of tour guide I would want on a tour in well-known territory. But then again: what about the truly explorative excursions? Those places, I want to go to, to discover new things, unknown wonders or scarce resources – would I really want the same guide for this?

… may not be the best scout

If I go into uncharted territory my main focus is not to have a guide who knows all the places (that would somehow contradict the “uncharted” part, wouldn’t it?), but someone who knows how to read the terrain, who knows how to work a compass, how to triangulate a position even when we haven’t been moving in the intended direction for quite a while, someone who can figure out how to go about it if we need fresh supplies, and so on. Maybe the tour-guide from the previous paragraph also has those qualities – but the skillset is definitely quite different.

What’s that got to do with software development?

Well – when Tom and I worked on our Hands on lean and Agile practices course I once again realized that, while traditional methods mostly took the tour-guide approach. Most of the tools in the Agile toolset really help you to be a better scout while the lean toolset seems to cover both aspects with a special emphasis on the transition. That way I like the Agile practices for allowing me to navigate in uncharted territory while the lean tools give me a way to quickly make this territory accessible for repeated tours.

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