08 February 2010

The FIST Manifesto

As promised on Friday, here for your reading pleasure is the FIST Manifesto. Please feel free to pass it along to your friends and colleagues. Drop me a note if you want me to add your name to the list of signatories. I'd also be glad to send you the little cut-and-fold booklet version - drop me a line and I'll send it right over.

System development projects should be done by the smallest possible team of talented people, using a short schedule, a small budget and mature technologies to deliver innovative solutions to urgent needs. This approach is called FIST: Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny.

Short timelines increase agility and stabilize requirements, technology, budgets and people. Short timelines also force accountability, ownership and learning. To maintain short timelines, a project must also exercise restraint over budgets, complexity and size. Increases to the project’s budget, complexity or size inevitably reduce its speed.

Accordingly, the FIST approach advocates the following:
Minimize team size, maximize team talent.
Use schedules and budgets to constrain the design.
Insist on simplicity in organizations, processes and technologies.
Incentivize and reward under-runs.
Requirements must be achievable within short time horizons.
Designs must only include mature technologies.
Documents and meetings must be short. Have as many as necessary, as few as possible.
Delivering useful capabilities is the only measure of success.

FIST Principles
A project leader’s influence is inversely proportional to the project’s budget and schedule.
Creative constraints foster creativity. Adding time and/or money generally does not improve outcomes.
Fixed funding and floating requirements are better than fixed requirements and floating funding.
Complexity is a cost.
Complexity reduces reliability.
Simplicity scales. Complexity doesn’t.
An optimal failure costs a little and teaches a lot. When FIST projects fail, they fail optimally.
Iteration drives learning, discovery and efficiency. FIST is iterative.
Talent trumps process.
Teamwork trumps paperwork.
Leadership trumps management.
Trust trumps oversight.


Dan Taylor said...

Great stuff Dan. Last line is a gem. I've often seen (and felt the result of) a mistaken belief that if we just had more oversight, *then* PMs would be able to deliver. Trust can be much harder to provide than more rules.

I'd be curious to know how well these ideas have taken hold within your "official" job. Are you able to get traction for FISTy Acquisitions? Best, Dan

The Dan Ward said...

Good question - and I'm happy to report that championing FIST is indeed part of my official job. I'm working with a few project teams to help them apply it, speaking at conferences, etc... As for traction in a strategic sense, well, it's coming slowly, in a few places here and there.

The Manifesto is one of the mechanisms I'm using to build up that traction, by collecting signatures and giving people an opportunity to sign up for it in public...