Surfing on the learning wave

Surfing in projects

If you inspect something you will learn about it. Your learning will lead to new insights that will lead to action. Action needs to be inspected and new insights will rise new learnings and further paths to inspect. Sounds like infinite play of waves against the shores and sure it is.

If we take for granted, that we'll learn on the way while we inspect something - when we analyse something - then we cannot deny and have to admit, that the learning is something that changes reality. So staring at reality and learning about it rises the need to deal with change.

Analysing too much, before taking action on it, creates waste. It is not only the waste of missing feedback, to a greater degree I think it is the waste of not catching the insight and the learning. Not preserving the change seems like wasting the investigation at all.

Back down the big analysis change wave

Let's have look at the most project management techniques: Usually we plan, when we have the least knowledge of a project ever. There is huge front-up planning at the start of each project, so we analyse a lot. Makes sense? Yes maybe, but do we really preserve the learning we've created? Do we fully accept that we changed our view about the thing we investigated? Not sure, in most times I would say yes - if the chunk of change is small enough.

As I said: While we analyse we change our view at a lot of things. So with each analysis we need to manage more change. Again: the more we analyse, the more we have to manage change. So far the creation of a big plan, without handling the wave of change created by the analysis, leaves the learning and preservation of insights behind. Instead of making big plans which drown us, we should focus on small batches to analyse where we can cope with the change we've created. So we need to find a batch size so small, that we can cope with the change we created.

Making the drop

You are shouting "Coming down" when you are the first to drop into the change wave? Only few surfers are brave and skilled enough to survive the big waves. So why not surf on the waves big enough you are able to deal with. Even when there are always a lot of change waves following, as soon as the ocean bed flattens out:

A guy who is making the drop in a nice wave. Every investigation reveals insights, and those insights lead to a wave of change. Don't let the wave grow too big to withstand it.

At the moment we hand over our experience, means sending out our deliveries to customers and users, we create more change. Now change might increase more than linear, according to the batch size of done work and people involved. If we take feedback outside of the team into account, then there might be a good reason to move to an even small batch size of analysis to cope with this wave of insights and demands again. 

Making the drop - again

Now, how can we really make the drop - again and again? To me one answer is to work in small timeboxes, where each timebox represents a small batch size of delivery and a deadline. Furthermore I would arrange a framework around it, which is able to inspect and adapt. This framework should be able to deal with experiments and feedback: something like a plan-do-check-act cycle. Fortunately here is already something out there and they call it Scrum. Wanna try it?


PS: Socrates said: “understanding a question is half an answer”.  .. and I want to append: "the second half of answer will change the question".

The french parade - a highway road work flow system

I was impressed. Driving home from our vacation in beautiful France back to Germany I've seen something totally new to me: I saw the french highway flow system, a fast moving end-to-end road work, rebuilding one driving lane from start to end in under 8 km. Incredible, awesome and totally efficient. 

A parade in denmark. Photographed in © 2004 by Tomasz Sienicki CC-BY-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

In Germany I am accustomed to long lasting road work. Germans process road work in large batches, process the big batches layer for layer - a big waste of time and we as a users we wait extra long unit the blockade is gone. Terrible annoying.

The french road work system I've seen was so different! They did not produce much waste. They rushed through the driving lane like a parade in full motion. In front there were the guys who secured the road - to me they looked like the jugglers in front of the parade, shouting loudly: "Here we come!". Right behind them followed a small group of artists, preparing the road for the big orchestra. The big orchestra made an ground-breaking sound, so guttural that the highway next to them was shaken and torn in peaces. After the big machines came the first dancers, swinging the dirt away. Right after the dancers followed the local craftsman guild, demonstrating how easily a new road surface is created. Within the last few kilometres one group marked the new lane markers and painted them. Then the jugglers again singing: "Bye bye" and the road work was over... sitting in the car and thinking about the economic impact of using a workflow system on a highway instead of wasting time, money and good feeling with big batches.