Mind to Market

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Software Development as Theater

Lee Devin, who with Rob Austin wrote Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work, spoke last night at the Agile Denver meeting on "Preparation versus Planning." This one was perfect for the Agile audience; if you are unsure of what the end product will be how can you plan for it? The analogy was with a theatrical production where every performance, every night, is different. What the actors lack in planning they make up for in preparation; learning their lines backwards and forwards, rehearsing and trying out every emotional nuance, working with the other actors to work through the scenes. There is, in fact, quite a bit of planning that goes into a theater production, the point is that there is a distinction between planning the framework around the creative process and planning the creative process itself. I do have some feeling that the script gives the actors and directors somewhat more of an advantage than software developers. Although the developers have roles, and some ideas from other projects, they pretty much write or assemble the software as they go along.

Does this make the planning process in software development irrelevant? The model of software development as a manufacturing process has proven to be flawed; software projects cannot be as tightly controlled as manufacturing and therefore planning them as precisely as manufacturing is a waste of resources. However, providing a flexible structure, such as Agile methodologies, to the development is essential to creating quality results.

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