A story of quantity vs. quality (and a bit on the wonders of sleep)

This excerpt from Art and Fear showed up on Chris Corrigan’s blog (via Kevin Kelly):

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality,” however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

Hmmm. Sounds sort of like iterative development and waterfall, doesn’t it.

Projects that use an iterative development cycle have a natural opportunity to learn from experience and apply insight to the next “pot” — if they take the opportunity. I’ve seen plenty of teams working with an iterative lifecycle who keep making the same mistakes the entire project.

Of course people can reflect individually, AND the effects are amplified when a team reflects and learns together.

So hold a retrospective after each iteration or sprint.

End-of-project retrospectives tend to show up different patterns, so do a retrospective after the release, too.

And if you’re working on an waterfall-ish project, don’t wait till the end (though it’s helpful to reflect back then, too). Find natural opportunities to reflect while the project is in-flight — at milestones, or at a set interval..

We have a choice about what to do with our project experiences… might as well learn something from them.

And while I’m on the subject of retrospectives, I found another interesting bit, from an article on WebMD reporting on a recent sleep study:

“…sleep may help the mind unravel mysteries and gain unique insights into solving problems.”

I’ve noticed that groups who start their retrospective one day and continue the next have a different level of insight than groups that try to finish in day. Sleeping on it does seem to make a difference, and now we’ve got the research to prove it.