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⚡️The One-Minute Methodology

❓Does your management insist on mission impossible delivery schedules? Want to develop software really fast? How about one minute? This methodology incorporates such exciting concepts as total data independence (the output has nothing to do with the input); the notion that management is not interested in information, only in being happy; and a one-minute life cycle whose speed leads to happiness. Welcome to the One-Minute Methodology, in Ken Orr’s 1984 novella.

With tongue in cheek, Ken lampooned the sad state of software development. “Everything today is speed, speed, speed,” he wrote. “Our executives . . . want everything now and to be told that getting information is going to take time is just unacceptable. I simply had to come up with a better method.”

The One-Minute Methodology took a satirical swipe at the state of software development in the early 1980s, but does it have anything to teach us 40 years later? When I look at the state of agile methodologies today, there appears to be a comparable problem.

😫 “Our senior Scrum consultant tells us that we can’t ask how long a development project will take, or how much it will cost, or what the feature set will be,” was a question raised during my mid-2000s meeting with a group of European software managers in Munich. “What is your position on this?”

“I think it’s nuts!” I replied. “What happen when you make this kind of statement to your executives?” They all grinned. But the issue doesn’t have a simple yes (Plan) or no (Don’t Plan) answer—it is more complex than that.

🚀Enterprise CEOs make quarterly earning commitments to Wall Street. Marketing VPs commit to revenue. Product Development VPs make product commitments. The product dev team says, “We don’t make commitments; Agile/Scrum says so!” How do you think that goes over? But dev teams do have a valid complaint. Too many organizations practice what I’ve termed, “Wish-Based Planning.” So agilists hop on the “No planning,” bandwagon. If you don’t have a plan, then you don’t have to make commitments to a bad one.

😀 I worked with a product development team in Canada that had a clear business goal and product vision. They had ideas about features and a fixed time constraint.  Within this vision and constraints, they delivered features every two weeks and then adapted their plans. The product was created with an Envision–Evolve mindset rather than a Plan-Do one.

👍🏻 This dev team committed to deliver a viable, valuable product by the fixed deadline. They didn’t commit to a fixed feature set. Executives committed to adapt. This give and take makes product development, agile of otherwise, successful. Demands to adhere to either extremes—wish-based plans or no-plans—just doesn’t work.

Note: The One Minute Methodology was republished by Dorset House Publishing in 1990. Some of this post’s text is an edited version of the DH book description. Ken Orr was my friend.

Copyright © 2023 by Jim Highsmith