An Ecosystem That Ships Software

An Ecosystem That Ships Software

"Methodology is a social construction," Ralph Hodgson told me in 1993. Two years went by before I started to understand.

Your "methodology" is everything you regularly do to get your software out. It includes who you hire, what you hire them for, how they work together, what they produce, and how they share. It is the combined job descriptions, procedures, and conventions of everyone on your team. It is the product of your particular ecosystem and is therefore a unique construction of your organization.

All organizations have a methodology: It is simply how they do business. Even the proverbial trio in a garage has a way of workinga way of trading information, of separating work, of putting it back togetherall founded on assumed values and cultural norms. The way of working includes what people choose to spend their time on, how they choose to communicate, and how decision-making power is distributed.

Only a few companies bother to try to write it all down (usually just the large consulting houses and the military). A few have gone so far as to create an expert system that prints out the full methodology needed for a project based on project staffing, complexity, deadlines, and the like. None I have seen captures cultural assumptions or provides for variations among values or cultures.

Boil and condense the subject of methodology long enough and you get this one-sentence summary: "A methodology is the conventions that your group agrees to."

"The conventions your group agrees to" is a social construction. It is also a construction that you can and should revisit from time to time.

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