Dancing with the Uncertainty Bear

There are extremely high levels of uncertainty when building any software - especially when you are attempting to do something that nobody has done before like building an On-Demand Comparative Judgement system. Why is this, and how do we manage it?

Complex not Complicated

With RM Compare on Demand we are dealing with something that is extremely complex. Recognising and understanding this fundamental difference is essential for everyone on the project.

"Complicated problems originate from causes that can be individually distinguished; they can be address­ed piece by­ piece; for each input to the system there is a proportionate output; the relevant systems can be controlled and the problems they present admit permanent solutions.

On the other hand, complex problems and systems result from networks of multiple interacting causes that cannot be individually distinguished; must be addressed as entire systems, that is they cannot be addressed in a piecemeal way; they are such that small inputs may result in disproportionate effects; the problems they present cannot be solved once and for ever, but require to be systematically managed and typically any intervention merges into new prob­lems as a result of the interventions dealing with them; and the relevant systems cannot be controlled — the best one can do is to influence them, or learn to “dance with them” as Donella Meadows rightly said." Poli 2013 - A note on the Difference Between Complicated and Complex Social Systems.

Dancing with the 'Uncertainty Bear'

Accepting that things are complex should determine the right (and wrong) approach to take. For us this is frequently a self-check exercise against the 4 agile values

  • Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools
  • Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation
  • Responding to Change over Following a Plan

We use a lot of heuristics as short cuts to make 'calculated guesses' derived from previous experiences. We do this because we know we are dealing with high levels of complexity and this is the best way to lower risk. Allen Holub has a great list of the type of heuristics that keep us moving.

What does this mean for our partners?

We work with partners who understand and share our approach to complexity. We appreciate that we can only really know the value of something once it is in the hands of users, so we build small and release frequently. Sometimes the things we thought would be valuable just aren't. Other times we see our users getting completely un-expected value from product features (probably best to do more of this then!).

So, when will RM Compare be ready? When will it be done? When will V1.0 be complete? Good questions for complicated projects. But as we know this one is complex.

What we know instead is that RM Compare on Demand is available right now. We also know that its value will continue to increase as we learn more. This value will be constantly delivered to end users. Our partners understand this.

Join us

We already work with a number of brilliant partners who enjoy dancing with the uncertainty bear, but we are always looking for more. Interested? Get in touch (we won't bite.......but the bear might!).