Tuesday, 16 December 2014 00:00

Why Do Things the Hard Way

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Why do things the hard way? The hard way takes more time, requires more effort, is usually frustrating, is more prone to error and generally doesn't work as well. The hard way is more likely to involve rework and unnecessary conflict.

Does anyone of sound mind consciously decide to do things the hard way? It usually happens because they didn't plan effectively or they followed an approach without assessing its quality. Often doing things the hard way over and over again happens because no one takes the time to learn from experience or question the status quo. Sometimes, however, people take a harder way because it minimizes risk, making it the easy way under some circumstances. Sometimes the hard way is chosen for the challenge or as an experiment to see if it is better than some other way.

Effective Planning

Effective planning means taking the time and effort to identify the optimal approach for doing what you want to do, laying out the tasks, roles and responsibilities and figuring out the time it will take and how much it will cost. It includes assessing and managing risk and establishing procedures. Planning, appropriately scaled, applies not only to big projects but to just about anything you want to do, from the simplest tasks to the largest programs. Identifying the optimal approach, the best way, implies looking at alternatives. Effective planning makes sure you don't do things the hard way.

In my company, we operate IT projects under Prince 2 . For some types of software delivery we find agile methods are appreciated our customers. In these cases we use the two approaches in a complimentary way - software products of the Prince 2 project are delivered using an agile method. We find the sweet spot for Agile methods is in-house development where requirements are uncertain, there are changing needs and the development team size is 2 to 6 relatively experienced people.

The 2013 State of Agile Survey results give an industry wide view of the perceived benefits of agile methods, while Rico’s paper on the business value of agile project management , gives an overview of quantitative studies of the benefits. In terms of agile methods my company typically uses Extreme Programming and Scrum .

The advantages of agile methods that we appreciate are:

  • An agile development can effectively accommodate strict time constraints (by number of iterations) and budget constraints (the cost of the team for the number iterations) managing scope (which features from the backlog are scheduled) and maintaining required quality.
  • The discipline of delivering user valued functionality in time bound iterations manages many risks. In a project where the customer has tested and accepted deliveries every two weeks it is difficult to find a sign-off block towards the end. Any deviation from planned velocity is visible from the first iterations.
  • Detailed requirements analysis is done just in time so less time wasted in detailing requirements or features never built.
  • Early iterative delivery sometimes allows return on investment earlier.

When we think about brand, we usually think of the companies which have left indelible marks on our psyche due to the either positive or negative outcomes we have experienced with their products and services. Apple provides a great example of the power of positive branding – just thinking about that organization and its products brings a smile to the faces of many people.

How does brand help?

It provides marketing support to enable companies to distance themselves from their competition, especially when the products or services they offer cannot be easily differentiated based solely on price or features.
While this is important during prosperous times, it is crucial during economic downturns. Southwest Airlines was one of the few North American air carriers to survive and even thrive through the crippling fallout which impacted most of its competitors after 9/11.

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