Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Progress, not perfection, is the goal ......

A post by Chuck Frey this week really struck a chord.  Often progress on a project is difficult.  There is much uncertainty at the beginning and many involved are reluctant to get stuck in because the final product is not defined completely.  However those charged with defining the product are struggling to do so because they just don't know enough or are not sufficiently confident to commit themselves.  Perfection becomes the enemy of the good.

A way of breaking through this impasse is "successive approximation" or iterative development if you prefer.  Chuck quotes the author of a new book, Dave Gray:

“If you wait until your plan is complete – till every contingency is covered – you will never get anywhere. Progress, not perfection, is the goal… Build feedback loops into your execution mechanisms, so you can improve as you move… (Use) feedback… to enrich your thinking and improve your understanding of the situation.  Feedback is the most important and often neglected piece of the puzzle. When you first contextualize, you are guessing. When you incorporate feedback and use it to re-contextualize, you are improving… Success does not come from perfect execution, but from a fast-moving cycle of continuous improvement. The faster you go, the more you learn. The more you learn, the stronger you get.”

This is where visual mapping can really score.  Put the ideas down on paper, get people talking about them, capture the feedback and revise the map.  Keep going this way until clarity and definition take shape.

Chuck explains this very well - check out his post How to use successive approximation to improve your visual maps.

And also check out Dave Gray's book, Marks and Meaning.


Chuck Frey said...

Steve, thanks for your thought-provoking post. I hadn't really thought about successive approximation as being an antidote to the paralysis of the unknown, but you're absolutely right! We do often get "stuck" because we don't have enough information, enough feedback, enough perspective. This technique is a powerful way to work around those situations, in iterative steps.

Steve Rothwell said...

Chuck - a real find by you. I am eagerly waiting for Dave Gray's book to arrive.