Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News Presentation: Embrace Uncertainty by Jeff Patton

Presentation: Embrace Uncertainty by Jeff Patton


In this original presentation from the Communitech Agile Event, Jeff Patton, winner of the Agile Alliance’s 2007 Gordon Pask Award, explains why one needs to embrace uncertainty in order to succeed with his/her Agile project and how to avoid some of the common mistakes leading to project failure.

Watch: Embrace Uncertainty by Jeff Patton (1 hour)

After a quick introduction to Agile, Jeff presents some practices, what they actually mean and how they are supposed to be used, in an attempt to counteract the failure of Agile projects due to misconceptions and misunderstandings. One of the first misunderstood practices to address is iteration. Iterate is not increment, says Jeff. Increment requires having a complete idea about the final product, like in this image:



Iterate allows one to “build a rough version, validate it, then slowly build up quality”, as in the image below:


Jeff takes a stand against “possible shippable product at the end of an iteration” approach. He considers it frightening, freezing creativity and the positive development of a product.

Jeff quotes Fred Brooks, author of the article No Silver Bullet: Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering, developing his conception: “The hardest single part of building a software system is deciding precisely what to build.”

The conclusion of the presentation, accompanied by famous singers’ photos and song clips, is the recommendation to embrace uncertainty. 

Rate this Article


Hello stranger!

You need to Register an InfoQ account or or login to post comments. But there's so much more behind being registered.

Get the most out of the InfoQ experience.

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Community comments

  • online shopping

    by vivek chheda,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    wanted to know how could i start wit a project regarding online shopping
    as i need to use asp or jsp and all possible details..
    plz do reply to this
    i would be very thankful to u

  • Good talk

    by Olivier Gourment,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Good talk! Was a little worried that the talk would just be about introducing Agile development yet again but.. no, it went beyond that. Jeff introduced one thing that the Agile manifesto missed completely, and techniques to avoid delivering crap applications, late. (I would add that Architecture should be addressed the same way in order not to be overlooked). "Embrace uncertainty" could be read "First, learn what your users will appreciate".

    If you have to build an application that is to deliver features that you don't know exactly how they will work yet (from the user standpoint), then watch this! Or go straight to Jeff's blog at

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p