Details, details, details

This weekend I really enjoyed Jason Gorman’s post Everything Else is Details.

The first thing to like is the title. Compare Jason’s “Everything else is details” to my “the rest is ‘just’ the How” which I blogged about just a couple of weeks ago. Mine needed scare quotes and Jason’s doesn’t. I already prefer Jason’s!

And from the post itself just a sample (emphasis mine):

The trick to this – a skill that’s sadly still vanishingly rare in our industry – is to paint a clear picture of how the world will look with our software in it, without describing the software itself. A true requirements specification does not commit in any way to the implementation design of a solution. It merely defines the edges of the solution-shaped hole into which anything we create will need to fit.

We know of course that what works for product development often translates into organisational change and vice versa (just look at how Lean Startup transfers ideas and techniques in both directions). Let’s make the highlighted sentence less specific to software:

Learn to describe the world with the thing without describing the thing itself

It goes a long way to explaining how Agendashift works: without any mention of Lean, Agile, Lean-Agile, or their practices, we help people to paint a picture of a more Lean-Agile organisation – broad brush initially, and then in more detail around areas of opportunity. In this way we facilitate agreement on outcomes (goals in Jason-speak). After that, Everything Else is Details.

Not that we don’t care about Details – actually we care quite a lot and have tools for managing them – but we know better than to start with them. As an industry, we seem to be great at them, but have a habit of moving on before anyone dares to ask why the results are so often so mediocre!

I put much of that mediocrity down to the institutionalisation of these twin delusions:

  1. The delusion that when requirements are met, needs will be satisfied
  2. The delusion that when problems are solved, meaningful outcomes will inevitably be achieved

Delusions that are perhaps not so surprising given an industry so thoroughly in love with its ability to deliver Details. Easily explained? Yes. Excusable? I don’t think so.

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