Coherence vs. Standardization

George Dinwiddie is an independent software development coach who helps organizations, large and small, to increase the effectiveness of their software development efforts. He provides guidance over a broad range, at the organizational, process, team, interpersonal, and technical levels. He is currently crusading to break down the barriers that hinder effective collaboration between the business, the programmers, and the testers. George is a frequent speaker at Agile conferences. See his blog at

It was only a few weeks to the scheduled release date of a new version of the software. Final release testing was running behind because the production-like environment needed had been in use by others. To make up for lost time, everybody was going to test: release testers, testers embedded on the development teams, programmers, analysts, team managers…everybody. Everybody set to organizing the work together.

A small group gathered around a whiteboard planning how to handle the issues that were noticed. They labeled columns for “identified” and “in progress”, then quickly inserted a column for “in triage” between them. They finished with columns for “resolved” and “backlog” for the end states of all issues. It was amazing watching them develop their bug-tracking strategy in under 60 seconds.

The release manager looked up at the board and asked, “Has this been standardized across all the teams?” I chuckled to myself. Of course it hadn’t, having been just now invented. People rushed off to share the Official Standard Triage Board with the other teams…

Allowing experimentation that drives improvements
During the next few days, I noticed that while every team had a board that looked the same, they seemed to be using them in slightly different ways. On some boards, issue …

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"Impartial observers from other planets would consider ours an utterly bizarre enclave if it were populated by birds, defined as flying animals, that nevertheless rarely or never actually flew. They would also be perplexed if they encountered in our seas, lakes, rivers and ponds, creatures defined as swimmers that never did any swimming. But they would be even more surprised to encounter a species defined as a thinking animal if, in fact, the creature very rarely indulged in actual thinking."

- Steve Allen

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