Many years ago on UK Television, there was a comedy panel game called If I Ruled The World, hung on the hook of the behaviour of professional politicians. One of the rounds of the game was I Couldn’t Disagree More, in which a contestant had to strongly oppose obviously good ideas proposed by the opposing team, explaining why Motherhood, Apple Pie, Clean Air (and so on) were fundamentally flawed in both concept and execution, and therefore why no right thinking person could support such a proposition.

In one show, team captain Graeme Garden was on the spot in this round, and from the opposing team, long time collaborator Tim Brooke-Taylor put the following statement to him:

Now is surely the time for a return of The Goodies.

Fellow Goodies writer and performer Graeme’s answer was a masterclass in quick thinking:

I couldn’t disagree more.

The time for a return of The Goodies was most definitely many years ago.

#NoProjects

I keep seeing advocacy for moving the process and governance vehicle for developing Software away from a Project Model, and to one of long-lasting assets, treated as Products, much of it under the hashtag #NoProjects.

The case for this move is clear and compelling: projects manage the risk of a temporary organisation, working on a one-off value delivery:

A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.
Source: PMI

But Software is not like that; while the initial creation has some characteristics in common in that you are starting something from nothing, it is a persistent asset that requires ongoing care, feeding and operation, and it makes far more sense to keep hold of the same people who initially developed it to continue to expand, improve and run it. This becomes a repeating, routine operation of enhancement, fixing and maintenance.

In this paradigm, it makes absolute sense to time-fund a stable delivery organisation, with governance making this contingent on demonstrating continued value in doing so.

Our community however, continues to advocate for this clearly better way in fearful, dramatic terms, as if they were the storming the Bastille and clawing down L’Ancien Régime.

I’m not sure that’s necessary.

In many of those same revolutionary circles, SAFe is viewed as watered down, white bread, snake oil Agile, that compromises everything joyful, effective and effective in Agile in the name of making it palatable to majority adopters and laggards. Placebo Agile, if you like; sugar water for the credulous masses, without active ingredient.

Crossing the Chasm diagram

Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A Moore

And yet, even a post-chasm approach such as SAFe has advocated #NoProjects since 2014.

So I find myself responding to the challenge that

Now is surely the time to consider #NoProjects

by echoing Graeme Garden:

No. Surely the time to consider moving to #NoProjects was some years ago.

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Martin Burns

Services Director at CA Inc (formerly Rally)
Previously: Leader of software delivery portfolios in large scale orgs.
Specialism: Transforming complex delivery organisations to be more Lean/Agile.
Mindset: Continuous Improvement Obsessive
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