Thursday, April 12, 2018

Friction -- a consequence of debt

And, so now we've all come to the point in the art and science of project management that not only do we have a myriad of biases that have been listed and explained and examined over the past 30 years, but now we have debts. The new one (for me) is social debt, as described by Philippe Kruchten

He tells us:
Damian Tamburri, from VU in Amsterdam, has introduced the notion of social debt, as a counter part of technical debt [ICSE2013 workshop].

Social debt is .... the accumulation over time of decisions about the way the development team (or community) communicates, collaborates and coordinates; in other words, decisions about the organizational structure, the process, the governance, the social interactions, or some elements inherited through the people: their knowledge, personality, working style, etc

Now, put social debt together with technical debt -- all the myriad of little things left undone -- and you get the idea of the friction in the project -- that is: impediments to velocity; inefficiencies in productivity. And, like friction in the physical world in which energy is wastefully converted to heat, only to dissipate without adding value, these debts absorb project energy.

So, what price -- actually, for the PM: cost -- is non-value-add of friction? First, friction spreads the tails of the Monte Carlo simulation of cost and schedule, and potentially shifts the mean cost and schedule to the right. Second, and certainly a root cause of the first point, friction holds back productivity and gives rise to lost energy (to overcome friction) and lower velocity (less throughput)

Fair enough. But, what do we do about it?
  • New project? Take a look at the history of overcoming debt and make adjustments to the knobs and switches of your project model
  • Got flexibility? Reorganize, retrain, change environment or tools, or add SMEs (or dismiss the high-friction nemesis)
  • On-going project? Rebaseline. That may cancel a lot of the social debt built up in the existing project. In effect: reboot
  • Risk management? Sure, think of both technical and social debt as a risk to be managed

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