Agile Software Development

Five Common Myths about Iterations

Typically, iterations are a common aspect of agile implementations. However, ideas of what an “iteration” actually is have mutated over time. In a post for the Clever PM, Cliff Gilley shares five tips that dispel false beliefs:

  1. Iteration does not always mean a “full bite of the sandwich.”
  2. Iteration does not mean doing the same thing every time.
  3. Iteration does not mean that every step is perfect.
  4. Iteration does not mean that you will go faster.
  5. Iteration does not mean randomization.

Truth in Iterations

If you think the only right way to do iterations is to build every layer of the system needed to reach a goal, then you are approaching iterations the wrong way. It is nice if you do have the ability to build every layer, but realistically, many projects are complex enough that it makes sense (and is even preferable) to work within layers in a “logical order” instead. Whatever ultimately creates the least impediments is probably the way for the team to go, thus making taking a “full bite” out of the layers unnecessary.

Likewise, iterations are not a machine function that should be executed identically from one to the next. Every agile ceremony exists for communication and improvement, all yielding information that should be used to ensure iterations do change regularly. Not every sprint will go perfectly, but there are always lessons to be learned:

The idea of “wasted code” is in many ways kind of ridiculous to me — anyone who’s trying to solve a problem with an imperfect set of skills or an imperfect amount of knowledge (also known as “everyone in the world”) is going to learn best by doing and trying and possibly failing than they will by ingesting some technical specification pored over by a Product Manager or Business Analyst.  Human beings learn best by doing and trying, not by merely relying on the work of other people.

Working in iterations is not a way to hit a “turbo” button for the business either. Use of iterations does speed up business, but mostly in the sense that improving processes eliminates waste; iterations cut down on rework that likely would have occurred under more traditional work methods. Properly utilized, iterations will always build on previous work, with minor pivots here and there. If work changes randomly and completely from one week to the next, something is wrong.

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