Projects (programs) succeed when everyone is travelling in the same direction, towards the same destination regardless of their speed, unless they hit:
- a blockade (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelma_%26_Louise)
- a wolfpack (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convoy_SC_7)
The core assumption of 3-Speed IT is that success requires 3 parallel events to be calibrated. 3-Speed IT is not a new concept, it a small twist on a well-documented but under practiced SDLC. Sometimes called tri-model where our three speeds align to pioneers, settlers and town planners (http://blog.gardeviance.org/2014/11/bimodal-it-is-long-hand-for-snafu.html).[i]
Supporters of 3-speed IT know through experience (or common sense?) that 2-Speed IT, Agile, Bi-Modal and maybe DevOps are all missing a key ingredient – the middle distance runner, the settler, the army – those forces that turn a successful Pilot or PoC into operational, cost effective solutions that align to business strategy.
1. The Sprint
- 100, 200 metre sprinters.
- Occupies the outer circle. Closest to the crowd.
- Often referenced in Agile (Scrum), these are your commandos dropping in behind enemy lines causing disruption to internal dogmatic IT processes and possibly giving you a competitive advantage.
- Runs in short, sharp “sprints”. Fast, high performance and tactical. They either:
- give the business confidence that a solution will meet their needs.
- crash and we quickly pick them up and push them back off.
2. The Run
- 1500, 5000 metre middle-distance runners.
- Occupies the middle lane. Sometimes reaches the crowd (business, users, customers), sometimes behind the scenes.
- Has the broadest skillset. Can go faster or slower depending on need.
- Requires speed but also steady focus for longer periods of time.
- Not as glamorous like the sprint or as respected for endurance and tenacity like the marathon runners.
- In many ways, this can morph into either track when required and this is a difficult skillset to resource (try Kenya).
- If not appropriately resourced, projects risk a disconnect between the sprinters and the long distance runners.
3. The Marathon
- 42km jog or the 100km walk.
- The slow lane ensures business strategy, governance, enterprise architecture and best practices are developed and communicated.
- Long cycles of preparation and implementation.
- Their key role is in developing a roadmap for the others to use and guide their progress.
For the life of a program the business should try to put equal funding and resources into each track.
The technique managing 3-speed is simple and aligns to most software development version control numbering systems, for example you may have an application that is versioned: 7.15.4213 where the 7 corresponds to the Major version (the Marathon); the 15 corresponds to the Minor version (the middle-distance) and the 4213 corresponds to the build (Sprint).
A Kanban board can be used for managing this and ensuring you keep it light-touch, for example, you can have your 2 week sprints items in blue post-it notes (x.4213), your 3-6 month milestones for the minor build in green (7.15.x) and the major project releases (every 12 months) in Orange (v7.x). This is all very much a work in progress so please comment if you can think of any pros/cons or better ways.
- The Sprint
- Run as an Agile Scrum Sprint with a Kanban board tracking progress.
- Standups, backlog grooming, post-sprint reviews should be attended by usual resources as well as a resource from the Run.
- The Run
- Attends Standups, backlog grooming held by the Sprinters
- Attends meeting and workshops held by the marathon runners.
- Sign-off or at least peer review Sprints deliverables as well as Strategy documents to ensure both can be aligned.
- Ensures the Sprinters produce MVP products and documentation.
- Ensures the marathon runners produce achievable strategy, governance and standards guidelines that can be implemented gradually through Sprints or minor releases.
- Will initiate longer pieces of work when the risk of delivering iterative pieces of working software outweigh the business benefit. For example:
- Support costs will limit the team’s ability to continue to iterate.
- Workarounds that are unacceptable to the long distance runners (i.e. breach corporate governance or standards).
- The Marathon
- Typically hosts project initiation, workshops and meetings.
- Delivers long term strategy, governance, enterprise architecture and standards guidelines.
- Develops long term change strategies that align with business needs.
The key to ensuring success is to:
- place the right skills and on each track at the right time (obvious, but easier said than done).
- ensure the middle distance runners know when to jog slowly to conserve energy or when to make a strategic dash to build distance between themselves and their opposition for either the finish line or to get ahead of a wolfpack or around a blockade.
[i] Or Commandos, Army, and Settlers in Robert X. Cringley’s three organisational types in Accidental Empire, 1993