Mapping the Value Storm

— A hasty post, based on a couple of tweets, and a short conversation at #SFAgile2012.

1. Streams are uni-directional, they don’t have feedback. It’s an odd metaphor for knowledge work.

2. Consider mapping the Value Storm: starts from single input, behaves wildly and unpredictably, settles to a new state, changed by itself.

Knowledge work is not linear. It is chaotic, and rife with feedback loops. It swirls. I believe the activity of software development is more storm-like than it is stream-like. Why does this matter? Maybe it doesn’t, but I sometimes worry that the metaphors we choose guide the work that we do. If we focus on “streaming” we may be force-fitting a manufacturing mindset onto a creative endeavor, inadvertently causing software organizations/departments to comply to a way of working that could well be unsuitable, and possibly detrimental to great product creation.

I’m trying to picture a visual map for a Value Storm. We start in calmness. Someone has an idea—this is conception, a trigger moment. Sometimes the idea fizzles, other times it gathers momentum. Much will depend on the environment, and the prevailing conditions. The idea gets lifted up—accepted. The weather bureau issues a storm warning, but with very little detail. We enter a period of uncertainty. Some ideas will move swiftly through the uncertainty, with little to disrupt the system, and settle gently into to completion. Other ideas will cause chaos. Our map could show the dangers we are in with each idea-in-progress being displayed at some position, or with some indicator showing the severity of the storm. And this will change in the life cycle of the idea as it moves from acceptance through to conclusion. Each idea will settle into a new future—a future altered by itself.

I clearly haven’t thought this through, and it may be a storm in a teacup (pun fully intended). It’s late, I’m about to drive to LA through the night, and I’m done for now. If this inspires you, annoys you, or causes some other emotional or intellectual response, please add your thoughts to the comment section. I may expand on this another time. Or I may not.

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