It’s an Ecosystem

Companies regularly attempt to customize a tool, strategy, technique, or process without understanding how it’s parts compliment each other.

Suppose you visit a friend with some land, and you discover that this friend has the most peaceful and amazing koi pond you’ve ever seen. A reasonably large pond, with beautiful trees and vegetation surrounding it, and the clear water allows you to see the koi perfectly. Best of all, there are hardly any insects bothering you.You resolve to recreate this enviable spot, but with one exception: The noise that all the frogs make annoys you.

So, you dig a similarly sized pond. You plant the same vegetation, you get the same size and number of koi. You come back after a season to enjoy your paradise, but you’re horrified to find that you’re eaten alive by insects. The same insects are ravaging the vegetation you planted, and there are so many mosquitoes nesting in the still water that you can’t see your beloved koi.

You neglected to understand how the ecosystem worked before you modified the formula. The frogs kept the insects under control, and now the ecosystem is out of balance.

So many times, I see companies try this approach. “I like Scrum, but I can’t seriously let teams determine how far to go in each 30 day increment…” “We like SAFE, but there’s no way we can separate value streams like that…” “We do DDD, but we don’t like aggregate roots…” The implementer is disappointed when they don’t observe the value that the technique/process/tool promises. Why are teams not committing to work the way Scrum says they will? Did you take away part of their self determination? Did you demand fixed scope on fixed time, or not allow teams to self-organize?

Scrum is an ecosystem of ideas. Safe is an ecosystem of ideas. The GitHub-centric way of doing open source is an ecosystem of ideas, practices, and norms.

You may have adopted part of a system that only works because of the harmony of all it’s constituent parts. Beware modifying an ecosystem you don’t understand, lest you find yourself disappointed after a great deal of effort.

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