FB

9/05/2012

Organizational Dept

In the field of software development, there is a metaphor called "technical dept".  In short, this metaphor says that while you are programming you almost always build up dept. Dept in this case means that your code base decreases in quality over time. You will have to invest time and work to amortize this dept. If you do not amortize your dept, interests will take effect. Thus, as with regular dept, you will always be better off to amortize the dept as soon as possible. Otherwise compound interest will be the effect and at the end you will pay heavily - if you are able to pay back at all anymore.

Speaking about Agile transformations there is another kind of dept. I would call it "organizational dept". It is based on the same concept as technical dept but on an organizational level. As your organization grows, you will take hundreds of decisions. Not all of them will be perfect and thus, you will (with every decision) increase the organizational dept. How does organizational dept look like?

There are multiple instances of organizational dept. Just to mention a few:
As with technical dept, if you do not regularly and fastly cope with organizational dept, interests will occure and over time compound interests will make your dept almost unbearable. At some point you might not be able to pay back at all anymore! Speaking of technical dept, the consequence for a software system is then to be displaced by a new system. What do you think will be the consequence for a company if you get into this state with organizational dept...? I think, we all know!

This is one point why Agile is so successful. Agile folks generally reject living with dept and always try to pay back as soon as possible. The incarnation of this attitude is e.g. the retrospective in Scrum and the focus on continuous improvement and impediments in all Agile methodologies.

Update: Sven Winkler picked up the idea of organizational dept on Boris Glogers Blog and adds some interesing points of view.