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Pragmatic Development


A Pragmatic Approach

One approach, which I call SDLC 3.0, provides a pragmatic, experience-based approach for integrating the fragmented methodology landscape by using practices that are methodology agnostic. It focuses on yielding a useful, context-specific set of standard work advice for real product development.

It also integrates the software development part of IT with the broader enter­prise and functions such as enterprise architecture, IT service management, and project and portfolio management. Using lean as the overarching set of principles, SDLC 3.0 starts with the customer and ends with the accrual of value within IT operations. This focus makes sure that small groups don't try to optimize only their piece of the process, based only on what they know about their roles. Rather, a coherent big-picture view enables traditionally siloed communities to constructively participate rather than get bogged down in in-fighting.

Some will argue that organizational culture is a likely reason for the failure of a new development methodology. This is has been studied most recently in surveys on agile adoption. But there's not just one single corporate culture. Each practice and pattern of success grew out of various enclaves of corporate experience over the past 40 years, such as a corporate delivery environment, or work within communities or groups that tend to aggregate fragmented experience into bodies of knowledge. Each organization manifests unique environments and cultures, and "the way we do things around here" becomes embedded with the IT corporate subcultures. In other words, these approaches became "adopted" and eventually became the standards. How then to choose new practices that suit the organization?

Figure 1 shows a cultural analysis of the major practices in today's methodologies that have been harvested from the three primary groups of methodologies. The agile, lean, and unified approaches are placed on a grid that scales vertically from stability to flexibility and horizontally from an internal focus to an external focus. Each quadrant is identified by the kind of organization that its blend of values create, its orientation, and the theory of its effectiveness.

[Click image to view at full size]
Figure 1: A cultural analysis of the major practices in today's methodologies that have been harvested from the three primary groups of methodologies.

Start by examining what kind of IT organization you have, what you value, and what needs the company has. By considering that against the widely accepted universe of practices, it's possible to choose the practices from the diagram that fit your needs and incrementally change the organization in an intelligent manner. This avoids culture clashes that result from imposing new methodologies.

Think about where your company falls in the four culture quadrants in the diagram. These include:

  • Clan/Family Culture: Here you have a culture that emphasizes collaboration. Your leaders tend to be facilitators and team builders, who value commitment and communication. They think effectiveness is driven by developing people and spurring participation.
  • Adhocracy Culture: Your company emphasizes creativity and has leaders who are entrepreneurial innovators, who value transformation and agility, and have a high level of risk tolerance. They think that innovation and vision are the best paths to effectiveness.
  • Market Culture: Here the orientation is competition. Your leaders are hard-driving competitors, who emphasize goal achievement, market share, and profitability. Customer focus and aggressive competition lead to effectiveness.
  • Hierarchy/Bureaucracy Culture: Your company tends to focus on control, with leaders who coordinate, monitor, and organize. Efficiency, timeliness, consistency, and risk aversion are the watchwords. Control and efficiency are seen as the best path to effectiveness.

In reality, improving an IT organization's software delivery capability isn't about building the perfect "method mousetrap." There isn't one perfect methodology. It has more to do with successfully changing "the way things are done around here." Properly done, this avoids the branding, competitive differentiation, cultural division, and iterative wars for a particular development approach — with all their attendant costs. Instead, it focuses on what has and always will be the overriding truth: that software development is about people and what their organizations value.


— Mark Kennaley is president and principal consultant at Fourth Medium Consulting, a Canadian IT management consultancy. His book, SDLC 3.0: Beyond A Tacit Understanding Of Agile, won a Dr. Dobb's 2010 Jolt Productivity Award.


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