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Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

Don’t Let the Big Get in the Way of the Small

Don’t Let the Big Get in the Way of the Small

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Sometimes the big gets in the way of the small.  While it’s great to package up value into a bigger set, sometimes this blocks flowing smaller value as you go.  For example, maybe you have a big idea that blocks your little ideas.  Or maybe you have a product that packages up a lot of value, but you can’t ship it until it’s all done.  In either case, it blocks the flow of value. 

The Big Blocks the Small
Here’s a simple visual that shows all the work in progress that piles up while waiting until it’s all done and ready to go as a monolith:

image

In the above, imagine that all the little chunks of value are being treated collectively as one big chunk of value – and it’s not done until it’s all done.

The Small Flows the Value
Here’s a visual that shows the small flowing value.  Each little chunk of value is completed and made available:

image 

From a metaphor standpoint, this might be like your waiter bringing out food as it’s ready instead of waiting until it’s all ready then bringing everything out at once.

Find a Way to Flow Value
In the early days of patterns & practices, my manager put a lot of pressure on me to find a way to flow value.  He didn’t like the fact that while the team worked on a Blue Book or guide, there was nothing available along the way.  We found a way to make our smaller guidance nuggets available along the way (How Tos, Checklists, Guidelines … etc.) as part of a community knowledge base in CodePlex before our final release as a full guide on MSDN. 

What I’ve found is that flowing value helps test your results and get real customer feedback along the way.  Additionally, internally it helps show stakeholders that you’re producing results and making impact.   This is often a key to continued funding and support.