Methods and Frameworks

The Plague of Methods and Frameworks

I know of no industry in the world that is as infested with methods and frameworks as the software business. Whether it’s RUP, XP, Scrum, AUP, DAD, or SAFe, it seems IT businesses are always looking for yet another method or framework that they can “implement” next month.

This disease seems not to have spread to other creative or knowledge-intensive industries. No matter whether it’s movies, music, fashion, healthcare, or transport, they all seem capable of moving forward without a plethora of three- and four-letter acronyms describing roles, tasks, and processes. Is there a defined method for designing a wedding dress? Is there a documented framework for producing a blockbuster movie? Can there be an end-to-end formal process for developing a new medicine? I don’t believe it.

Do the other industries have principles? Sure.

Tools and techniques? Obviously.

Individual “best” practices? Definitely!

But I’m sure any person in these other industries would agree that it’s very uncommon to combine principles and practices into larger fixed methods and frameworks.

Why bother? The tighter the coupling of practices, the smaller the chance the combination will work for anyone else!

The selection and bundling of individual practices is best done on a case-by-case basis, by knowledgeable people, either using their experience, or with the help of a coach or mentor. Only the naive think it’s valuable for others to offer an arbitrary cross-section of practices, attach an acronym to it, give it a logo, and present it as an industry-wide branded method or framework. The smart ones usually only do this because they can make money off of clueless people who are unwilling to think for themselves.

Feel free to ignore the frameworks, but please do consider the practices!

p.s. People are asking me which companies have “implemented” Management 3.0. From a financial perspective, maybe I should consider developing a piece of software, a consultancy business, and a train-the-trainer certification program. *sigh*

image: (c) 2007 Timothy Allen, Creative Commons 2.0

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  • Collin Rogowski

    I like frameworks as a starting point. Sometimes principles and practices are too abstract: you don’t know when and how to apply them. That’s something frameworks typically tell you. Once you get a grasp on the underlying principles and practices, you can start tinkering with the framework or abolish it altogether and roll your own…

    • jurgenappelo

      I think other industries usually solve this with expert guidance. To me it seems that only in IT the assumption is made the expert guidance can be done indirectly, through a documentated framework.

  • Marcin Floryan

    The film industry sounds particularly interesting. I wonder if they, too, have coaches or is that also (apart from sports) an IT peculiarity.

    • jurgenappelo

      I’ve heard of coaches in the movie business, but I don’t know if there are as many as in IT.

  • Jonathan

    The film industry does have a framework . It’s the script. The script runs everything. The story is the baseline for the script . The plot is the baseline of the story. There are only handful of plots which are then customized . Changes to scripts are done in a very formulaic manner and there is software that can be purchased that helps produce scripts based on the medium ie short, doco, theatre , action etc.. In my humble view the problem isn’t the framework , the problem is how the framework is applied and monitored . No one trusts people to delivery using their judgement and everyone wants in on the decision making , frankly most people aren’t empowered in the IT industry.

    • jurgenappelo

      IMHO, a movie script is not a framework, it’s a design. The whole idea of a framework is that it’s exactly the same no matter to which production it is applied. This is obviously not the case with movie scripts. A script is a preliminary design.

  • Piotr Uryga

    Jurgen, while I agree with you on the principle level, one thing is disturbing to me. I’ve found those frameworks very valuable in past.

    Don’t you think that some framework (f.e. Scrum or Kanban as those are easy targets) are valuable for beginners?

    Sure, for experts, holding tightly to some specific framework doesn’t make much sense, yet it’s simply easier to start with some set to avoid situation of implementing one, selected, easiest and usually most irrelevant practice.

    • jurgenappelo

      You’re correct. I wrote this also in my first book. As a “memeplex” they serve a function to successfully introduce a set of practices to novices. But as standard frameworks they fail, IMHO. That is why I offer my management practices as a memeplex of workout exercises, not as a framework. 🙂

  • Gerardo Barcia

    “As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble”
    —Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Andrzej Dobrucki

    The problem with typical IT approach is that everything seems to be implementable. I’m using some of the tips and tools provided in Management 3.0 to build up my mobile team and could never say something actually IS implemented. We pick some good practices, apply them, see the results, learn on the way, combine with a portion of common sense, hopefully produce our own customized best practices and so on and on.

  • David Pethick

    Hi Jurgen. I’ve been looking at this same disconnect, but from the perspective of a manager who has become aware (and more than a little bit jealous) of some of the tools used by software developers. Too often management learning begins and ends with an MBA.

    I am very much enjoying reading Management 3.0 because it is one of the few management books that puts the focus on the practice of management and offers some great tools to help us to be effective.

    In our startup ( we’re focussed on building tools for managers that have great management frameworks hard-wired into them. Rather than learning through theory and training, we’re jumping straight into learning by doing. We call it “accidental learning”.

    Kind Regards.

    Dave Pethick

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