In modern work environments and businesses, it is crucial to expedite learning cycle and create a knowledge workplace. In order to shorten the learning cycle, you can apply the scientific approach, which comprises of three stages, i.e., making a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis and validating test results. Generally, the test results leads to another hypothesis, and another cycle of experiment, validation and then publishing results. At the end of each cycle, you learn something knew, thus the shorter your cycle the faster you learn. Following are few variations of this approach used in manufacturing, research and development:
John Boyd revolutionized military aviation strategy by designing lightweight fighter planes that were based on a shorter loop of
John showed that light-weight planes that provided quick feedback to pilots proved better in dogfights. It showed that speed of loop beats quality of iteration.
Theory of Constraint
The theyory of constraint creates flow of an activity and finds all constraints from end to end and then tries to remove biggest constraint. It then repeats the process and identifies next biggest constraint and solves that constraint.
Lean manufacturing is based on Toyota production system that emphasizes waste elimination and creating value for customers. Lean production system stresses reducing activity time from start to finish and continuous improvement or Kaizen.
Lean Software Development
Lean software development applies lessons of Toyota production systems to software development by eliminating waste, reducing in-progress work (inventory), and amplifying learning. It speeds up learning process by short cycle of iterative development.
The startups generally start with visions or hypothesis that are unproven. Lean startups borrow ideas from Toyota production systems by creating rapid prototypes that test market assumptions and uses customer feedback evolve the product. Just like the scientific approach, it uses a cycle of product-idea or hypothesis, product-development or preparing an experiment, releasing the product, where startups collects data about value to users. The test results help startups adjust the product and another round of tests are followed. The Lean Startups emphasized validated learning that you gain from running actual experiment than just guess work.
Spiral methodology is a software development process that uses iterative development and encourages prototyping and experimenting. Each iteration starts with objectives, constraints, and alternatives, which are then evaluated, developed and then validated.
Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile software methodology for project management. It uses short sprints for software development, where each sprint starts with planning meeting that defines the user stories or features to be delivered, followed by development and release. At the end of sprint, the team holds Sprint review meeting and retrospective to identify impediments so that team can improve the process. The whole process is repeated with another round of short sprints.
Other Agile Methodologies
There are a number of other agile methodologies that also founded on short iterations and incremental development such as Agile Unified Process, Crystal Clear, XP, Feature driven development. These methodologies encourage transparent, collaborative and open work environments, which provide foundation for adoptive and knowledge workplaces.
Test-driven development is a software development process uses a short cycle of development, where developer writes a failing test case for desired functionality, then implements functionality to pass the test and finally refactors the new code. It eliminates the waste by focusing on business functionality that is required and helps build design incrementally. Each cycle of TDD is very short and provides rapid feedback to developer if the code is working.
Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
Modern IDEs are built to shorten development cycle by providing rapid feedback to developer such as syntax warnings, errors and integration to testing, debugging, static analysis, deploying and other tools. The productivity of developer increases when the cycle from edit, build to test, debug or deploy is short.
One-on-One vs Annual Reviews
Unfortunately Annual Reviews are still annual rituals in most companies that provide feedback once a year. Instead weekly one-on-one provide shorter feedback and is more effective.
Opinions vs Data
All of us have plenty of opinions which are nothing more than guesses. Modern development methodologies such as Lean software development or Lean startup encourages data-driven approach by executing short experiments and learning from the experiments.
We live in rapidly changing knowledge economy. We need to learn how to be nimble and to create a culture that speeds up learning process by performing short experiments. Instead of working in vacuum, we need to validate our assumptions and guesses with actual experiments and take data-driven approach to test our hypothesis. This approach is more bottom-up approach but it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a vision. It just means, we are continuously learning, improving and adopting as our environment changes.