Last Responsible Moments
By John Herman PMP, CQE, MPM
Lean Software Development is an agile software approach based on the lean concepts of Value Streams, and the work of Taiichi Ohno, who is considered the father of the “Toyota Production System” and “Lean Manufacturing”. Using the lean philosophy, Lean Software Development developed six best practices that continue to influence Agile methodology. The six are:
No doubt today’s Agile methods have seen benefit from Lean Software Development, which originated in the early 2000’s. The discussion of all six best practices is too much for a single blog posting, but I’d like to draw your attention to the second, “Defer Commitment” for a short lesson in agile risk management, and software project methodologies.
In an earlier blog entry, I discussed Alexander’s Question, and Last Responsible Moments are generally based on those building blocks. While Alexander’s Question encourages deferring decisions until certain critical information can be obtained or better understood, the Lean “Defer Commitment” states that the best possible solution can emerge by deferring design until the Last Responsible Moment.
The Last Responsible Moment occurs when any advantages of acquiring additional information are offset by potential risks of delaying a decision any longer.
Note that there can be several such moments within any project or iteration, with aspects of the design and process in opposition to various risks, with overlap and feedback mechanisms also within consideration. If it was easy, anyone could do it, right?
Thus the Last Responsible Moments, and the practice of Defer Commitment in general, are dependent on solid risk management. This point is invaluable in any debate regarding the viability of agile methods when unknowns and risks are running rampant, and especially in defense of agile methods from those who are entrenched in Traditional Waterfall software development methods.
I urge you to continue to evaluate each software project’s methodology based on the project itself, and without any preconceived notions regarding the best approach, until the Project Management team has gathered as much information about the project as it can. Which is, of course, a Last Responsible Moment.