Posted by: Tony Shannon | June 29, 2011

Software Development; Simple+Complicated+Complex+Chaotic

In a nice article on the Cynefin guest blog by Joseph Pelrine  (and in more detail in a longer paper here) he explores the varying  perspectives of the software world, from those who understand it as all complex (e.g. Agile) to those who see it as a production line (e.g. Lean).

His useful survey of over 300 people involved in software development helps to illustrate that these differing views are not mutually exclusive.

Many software projects will have simple elements, other complicated elements, they often become complex (particularly when trying to scale up or maintain a solution in my experience) and can verge on the chaotic at times.

The Cynefin framework of Simple, Complicated, Complex and Chaos can be very helpful to understand this range better, as we have explored in an article on Cynefin & Information Technology previously.

I hope Joseph wont mind if I directly quote a particularly useful paragraph about software development;

“The activities tend to be weighted more to the complicated and complex domains, with activities related to the coding aspect of software development landing in the complicated (or sometimes simple) domain, and activities associated with project management landing in the complex (sometimes chaotic) domain. Tasks dealing with interaction with a computer tended to be in the ordered domains, tasks dealing with interaction with other humans tended to be in the un-ordered, i.e., complex and chaotic, domains.”

Thanks Joseph, it is good to see a growing move towards this perspective…


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