Are our efforts in Agile development really helping the organizations we work for? What does it mean to ‘help’ our organization anyway? That depends on our organization's goals – if what we are doing moves our organization towards its goals, then the answer is “yes”, otherwise the answer is “absolutely not”, we may even be inadvertently hurting the organization.
Cost accounting , the standard accounting approach to analyzing the monetary value of a project, treats all parts of a project independently and encourages local optimization. Local optimization of costs means that you focus on task completion time. A focus on minimizing task completion time means that you don't have time for refactoring and other niceties - they are too expensive.
A manufacturing study has shown that TOC is twenty times as effective as Six Sigma, and nearly ten times more effective than lean at causing cost savings. This is the only scientific double-blind study of its kind performed "in the wild", i.e. in actual business plants. These ideas are frequently discussed in Agile circles and integrated into Agile methodologies.
Although it keeps people busy, managing tasks is neither interesting nor useful. Managing value created provides greater leverage and greater risk management. Jon Kern blogged last week on creating good features (rather than tasks) by focusing on value and testability. But do we sometimes need to manage tasks, too? David Anderson used the Theory of Constraints to back an unexpected answer.
Clarke Ching has just published more chapters of Rolling Rocks Downhill, his "business novel" in the tradition of Goldratt and Lencioni. He's writing in an online "fishbowl", looking for reader feedback: a rather Agile thing to do. In chapter 21 Steve contemplates working iteratively from the start of the project - just like they do in product development. But he's got one niggling doubt ...
Stick Minds has posted two reviews of David Anderson's "Agile Management for Software Engineering: Applying the Theory of Constraints for Business Results", in which Anderson combines TOC and Agile approaches. The book targets senior IT executives, project managers, development managers, and team leads. Do manufacturing metrics really enhance Agile software development? Apparently the jury is out.