21 April 2011

Two Objections

It's not often I get push-back when I talk about the FIST (Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny) approach to developing new systems. Most of the time, people tend to agree that it makes sense, etc. But on the rare occasion a skeptic speaks up, the objections tend to come in one of two flavors:

1) We've already tried this and it didn't work.
2) We've never tried this, so how do you know it would work?

What's even funnier is when both objections come out of the same person. Yes, that happens.

Allow me to briefly address these two objections. On the first objection, I'd like to gently point out that's not a very strong or compelling argument. Past failure does not prove future success is impossible. And for that matter, they're trying to prove a negative by asserting the FIST approach has never worked, often based on a single attempt. And even one successful example is sufficient to counter objection #1 - and I have buckets full. What kills me is when I hear this objection immediately following my 45-minute FIST presentation, which includes a half dozen or so.

Often time, people who use Objection #1 are thinking about NASA's Faster, Better, Cheaper initiative from the 90's. I wrote about that a while back, and Howard McCurdy's Faster Better Cheaper book provides an even more comprehensive assessment, concluding that FBC can be done.

The second objection is based on an erroneous assumption. As I already mentioned, I have dozens of examples of situations and programs where we have indeed used the FIST approach to successfully deliver new capabilities.

Most of the time, I think what people mean by this objection is that the FIST term per se wasn't used by the P development team. That's often true. What I try to explain is that FIST is a term I use to describe a particular pattern of decision making. So when I apply FIST to an old story like the P-51 Mustang, I'm being descriptive and saying that project followed the pattern. I then suggest new projects use FIST, in a prescriptive way, to apply this proven pattern. FIST isn't some new idea - it's a consolidation of rather old practices.

There are other objections of course... maybe I'll take a look at some of those in the future.

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