(This is a cross-post from the original blog: http://catalyst-zero.com/who-is-your-pace-setter/)

TL;DR: Choose your (product / development) process as you like. But make sure you inspect and adapt and have one accepted pace setter.


(Image by Paulkeller showing a Keirin race which have a speed-controlled start.)

When I talk to people about software development processes I often get very different opinions about what they think is the "best" process. There is often a breed of Scrum, Kanban or some sort of Waterfall process (although very few actually admit it). I do think there are common situations where you can apply certain kind of patterns and processes but a lot of people miss the point. Some famous Agile advocate loosely quoted said:

"I don't care how many practices you are using and how much of a certain process you are. Start with retrospectives and keep improving and you are good to go".

Many processes have these sort of mandatory feedback and improvement cycle: Like "Plan-Do-Check-Act" from Deming or "Inspect and Adapt" from Agile or Kaizen from Toyota/Lean. Although I still think an important part is missing.

I hope we can agree on that in great modern work environments continuous improvement is an accepted practice. But what often gets out of sight from individual team members are the influencing factors that require change. If you are in a startup environment, especially in a growing business, many different things force you to change: New colleagues will join, teams will form (storm, norm and perform) and departments will be restructured. But change is not only triggered from the inside. External factors are likely to change to: markets will grow and shrink. Market segments will vanish and new ones will arrive. A product/market fit will manifest or volatilise. Or your competitive advantage will increase or competitors will arrive.

Meanwhile the team members are (rightfully so) shielded away from every aspect of the business. And they are busy doing a great job and continuously improving in their context. Depending in the culture of the company the employees are updated with other aspects of the company. But it's not their duty to put every change effort in the context of the company, the position of the market or some other aspect. This is the managers / leaders job.

I think it's an important (and often neglected) duty to guide a teams effort in their change process and give them right amount of context for the upcoming weeks and months. Ultimately it’s a leaders job to set the right pace of the change efforts and give the teams the appropriate context for their own improvement efforts.

So, who is your pace setter? Is he doing a good job at it? And if you are a leader are you giving your team / department / company the right context so they can improve accordingly?