Monday, May 3, 2021

Agilish Science from the Planet Vulcan

A friend recently shared an article that described a mistake made by scientists that had us, for a long time, thinking there was a planet named "Vulcan" behind the sun that we could not see:

This reminded me of the Agile principle:
"Deliver working software frequently...with a preference to the shorter timescale." The Agile Manifesto

Here are a couple of excerpts from the article:
"It's easy to forget that there are people behind the data and equations. And when people are involved, there is always room for human error."

"in science, you don't dwell on the blind alleys... But the blind alleys are most of what science actually does. You have to go down the blind alley, you bang your head against that blank wall at the end of it, come back out again and try something else. And that's the real experience!"

If mathematical genius relies on trial and error and falls into blind alleys often, why would we expect more from mere mortals laboring daily to produce real world results from the trenches?  Human error is part of life.  It is inevitable.

The problem with waterfall is that it requires human perfection.  That is just not realistic.  The longer the time between software releases, the more complexity is added to those releases.  The more complex, the more difficult and risky the release becomes and the more blind alleys we fall into.

The only sure-fire remedy that I know is to bite off smaller chunks, to go for the wins incrementally, to deliver to production frequently with achievable success.  At its core, this is what Agile is and why it works.

To read more about the planet Vulcan, read Colin Johnston's  Vulcan: the Solar System’s Ghost Planet

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