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Linear Culture, Iterative Culture

A Linear Think Technical Culture (LTTC) equates error with sin. Thus, iteration to remove errors and mistakes is “not allowed” and schedules don’t provide for slack time in between sprints to regroup, reflect and improve quality . In really bad LTTCs, errors and mistakes are covered up so that the “perpetrators” don’t get punished for being less than perfect. An Iterative Think Technical Culture (ITTC) embraces the reality that people make mistakes and encourages continuous error removal, especially on intellectually demanding tasks.

The figure below shows the first phase of a hypothetical two phase project and the relative schedule performance of the two contrasting cultures. Because of the lack of “Fix Errors” periods, the LTTC  reaches the phase I handoff transition point earlier .

Phase I

The next figure shows the schedule performance of phase II in our hypothetical project. The LTTC team gets a head start out of the gate but soon gets bogged down correcting fubars made during phase I. The ITTC team, having caught and fixed most of their turds much closer to the point in time at which they were made, finishes phase II before the LTTC team hands off their work to the phase III team (or the customer if phase II is that last activity in the project).

Phase II

It appears that project teams with an ITTC always trump LTTC teams. However, if the project complexity, which is usually intimately tied to its size, is low enough, an LTTC team can outperform an ITTC team. The figure below illustrates a most-likely-immeasurable “critical project size” metric at which ITTC teams start outperforming LTTC teams.

Going Backwards

The mysterious critical-project-size metric can be highly variable between companies, and even between groups within a company. With highly trained, competent, and experienced people, an LTTC team can outperform an ITTC team at larger and larger critical project sizes.  What kind of culture are you immersed in?

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