Monday, March 23, 2009

SDLC and Intuition

I'm very excited to be giving a talk on SDLC at the Sacramento Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Its a refreshing change of pace to climb back out of the trenches for a while and go back to the roots, which is theory and process.

SDLC always seemed so obvious to me, especially having both software engineering and PMBOK backgrounds, but there are some companies that really struggle with it. I've come to the conclusion that intuition and process cannot easily coexist in the same brain. Add to that a regulatory-compliance mentality, where the regulators tell you what you must & must not do, and life gets really complicated really fast.

The intuitive problem solver relies on relationships and feelings to solve their problems. Things either "feel right" or they trust that others have done their part to solve the problem and know when all the pieces fit together because of the way it feels. They tend to get sidetracked by too much detail.

The logical problem solver, on the other hand, understands the value of reasoning and breaking down a problem into its component parts and process flows. No level of detail is too great if the problem is important enough.

Now ask yourself, have you ever tried to build a process flow chart to document your organization's trust relationships?

Or have you ever tried to feel your way to the answer to a complex mathematical algorithm?

Each problem solving style works great for certain types of problems, but fails miserably for others.

And this is the SDLC nightmare I have been living with one of my clients: trying to build process into an intuitive corporate culture.

Starting with more modest goals, ie an "SDLC Light" for the business side and a full-featured SDLC for the IT side, has allowed for faster adoption and better results in other companies. Starting with a few core departments and slowly spreading it throughout the corporation over a 2 year period generally creates less pain. Many have found putting less emphasis on templates and more emphasis on communication and responsibility will always yield high return on investment. Hiring a VP with a Six Sigma blackbelt and no people skills is just not the right strategy for an intuitive corporation. But what a rare bird to find an intuitive, process-oriented person who can lead and teach.