inflation of good ideas

Agile used to be the hottest buzzword for project planning and progression. Minimum viable product wasn’t an excuse for low quality shit. Some ideas are overused and misused, so much so that they’re losing their meaning. I’ll look into these two, as I’ve witnessed their usage most:

 agile

Agile concepts were introduced in the 80’s, and around 15 years ago within the software industry. The “agile methodologies” then quite soon reached adoption within smaller companies. These companies would ridicule the enterprise world with notions of rigidness and waterfalls.

Scrum is an example of an agile framework with strict rules promoting agility. Following them too closely and dogmatically can be an contradictory to agile. Applying scrum orthodoxically is a challenge. At best, Scrum can promote easier approximation, planning and productivity. At worst, it’s a battle of schedules and feature-sets between people in different roles representing their own (role-based) interests. People can get caught up in the process instead of working as a team with the same end goal.

From Japan we got Kanban and the sorts. It truly tries to reach for always adjusting the the workflow and avoiding bottlenecks. When used well, it can be powerful. But since it has very little rules and regulations built-in, it is way easier to make it into a bowl of mess. Just by mindlessly moving things around a Kanban board can induce frustration and infuriation.

Whatever the implementation of agile, it has indeed become a buzzword among everyone, and is no more reserved for the small start-ups. The adoption of it within a behemoth of a company can produce an abomination, thus giving it bad reputation. What happens is that overuse and hype imposes the methodologies somewhere where they end up being misused.

I suppose lean methodologies and Kaizen are the more simpler base rules from where this stuff can be adopted. From there, each can eventually build a customised set of rules on how to organise and better themselves. Establishing one’s own ruleset takes time, but is likely more effective in the long run.

 mvp

MVP falls into that agile bundle of things too. It’s idea was to find out the most important features and implement them, so that the whole product can be later improved upon. Following agile principles, the product would then be iteratively improved upon. However, the term has been overused so much that it has become from an excuse for low quality to an afterthought of first round specification.

I feel the more the term is used in conversation, slides or documentation, the more it’s being misused. One can build a product in MVP way without ever mentioning the word, but once it’s declared everywhere I begin to rise my eyebrows.

 buzzword abuse

Much of the overuse of these terms is due to them being buzzwords. People have a tendency to use them to appear well educated and up to the times. Being current is desirable, but on the expense of actually understanding what one is talking about, is certainly not.

Half-assing something whilst ignorant of it’s core concepts is likely to give a bad impression to everyone about it. Including the one engaged in the half-assery. Sometimes people do just enough to be able to use a term, as that “just enough” matches some definition or criteria.

Let’s say a new policy is instigated at a company and people must follow it. Now people generally strive to continue doing whatever it is they’re doing. They do the bare minimum to change their current behaviour to meet the demands of the new policy.

Using terms when referring to something similar to what they mean, will induce confusion and include incorrect things into the definition. People can do this by accident, but also deliberately. They expose terms to people who don’t understand them and then omit essential details. They oversimplify and categorise.

What I see most commonly is deliberate overuse and not so deliberate misuse. People use terms when they know it’s not the correct situation to use them. Because it sounds good. They then continue on to partially implement whatever that term implies, mixing it with “the way things have always been”.

Then there’s always the need to “milk” and “reinvent” the ideas. It’s harder to sell the same book, seminar or consultation twice. Extend, modify, simplify, and the core idea is diluted even more.

 it is what it is

Someone’s always coming up with a new ideas or modifications, and there should always be room for improvement. I’m not saying the ideas should be immutable or shouldn’t evolve. It’s just that the need and the proposed solution don’t always match, regardless of the hipness of the proposition.

We should be careful on which hype train we board and what slogans we parrot. Incorrect use without understanding and overuse for self promotion dilutes ideas.

What’s possible, is to learn the facts and try not to talk out of one’s ass. Or to not partake in the half-assery. To admit ignorance, step back, and learn what’s up.

 
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