agile ux · conferences · UCD process

Waterfall Bad, Washing Machine Good (IA Summit 07 Slides)

I was on a panel at the IA Summit over the weekend titled ‘where does IA fit in the design process‘. I was staking a case for Agile UCD, and these are the slides I used to outline my case in 5 minutes or less (Of course, you could talk about this topic for hours, so this is very much just an overview!).I’d be interested to hear your thoughts/experiences!

54 thoughts on “Waterfall Bad, Washing Machine Good (IA Summit 07 Slides)

  1. Leisa – you obviously remember the Baker’s Delight ads – very cool preso (and good work on SlideShare – I was following your tribulations on Twitter!)

  2. Great presentation Leisa.
    Very clear, simple to comprehend and with personality. Nice.

    This I assume is commonplace in product design but less so within digital. The biggest hurdle is firstly education and secondly budget.

    When you talk on these summits how much are you talking to the converted rather than the heretics? Seems to me the message needs to go further into the marketeers who hold the budgets. (or perhaps the agencies who hold their ears)

    This will change as digital becomes even more product/content based and the only real differentiation for brands is quality and being better. So the smart ones will pay to get the product right. More power to agile!

  3. Hurrah for *iterative* design – I’ve not heard the washing machine metaphor before though – interesting as the first thought that sprung to my mind was the very linear nature of the programmes: fill, add soap, wash, rinse, condition etc. etc., not the spinning quality. ;-/

    How comfortable with this potential ambiguity do you typically find team members? Moving from a familiar, concrete easy steps routine to a fluid, flexible back and forth (but hey you get to ‘build’ stuff sooner!) gig can be a bit weird ;-)

  4. Leisa, great presentation – one of my favs from the conference. Quick question? Have you ever encountered project sponsors who have trouble with the uncertainty of an agile approach? I recently started a project in a washing machine but the leadership craved date certainty and we ended up barrelling down the falls….obviously we missed the mark on communicating the agile method…any insights?

  5. Down with powerpoint! Up with stickies!

    Very nice analogy. Mind if I borrow it from time to time?

    A quick aside: I don’t see pairs as strictly agile, more of an optional add-on taken from extreme programming. In terms of selling-in, I’ve found agile much easier to sell than pairs, since pairs cost effectively twice as much for the ‘same’ output. The result has been that we use pairs only occasionally for critical parts, the rest is more of a ‘huddle’ approach.

  6. Now, if you’d *really* like to get into why people are inside the wachine machine … after a few days I gave up trying to explain that part to my team back in NZ.

    Nice suite by the way.



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  8. Everyone has to get over Powerpoint bashing already. It is just a tool and, like any other, can be dangerous if used improperly. It’s become so trendy to bash the tool that it’s become just plain obnoxious.

    Great speakers are great because of what they bring to the party and can do so with PowerPoint, photos of Post-its, or a box full of sock puppets.

    My favorites have always been well-prepared, passionate, and dynamic speakers who are knowledgeable in their material. These people are naturally engaging and you know what? Most, if not all, used PowerPoint.

  9. ooh, i have a comment backlog to catchup on! sorry guys, I’ve been offline thanks to moving house over Easter! thanks so much for all your comments. much appreciated.

    I love that the post-it note approach has touched such a chord. I originally took this approach because I was ‘designing’ my talks using post-it notes, so it just seemed like the next logical step. That, and the fact that whenever I try to do ‘nice’ traditional powerpoints, they always look rubbish!

    responses to individual questions coming now! :)

  10. @ sandoz – in my experience, definitely not preaching to the converted. Lots of people seem to have had some exposure to Agile methods and work in companies that have, are, or are thinking about adopting them, but it tends to be very much something that the technical team owns… sometimes very protectively!

    One of the big ideas of Agile is to get the ‘owners’ of the project more involved in it’s development so this protective approach seems couterintuitive. I think you’re right tho’ that the higher up the chain people understand and support more agile and UCD driven methods, the better for all involved.

  11. @ Alex Nisbett:
    ‘How comfortable with this potential ambiguity do you typically find team members? Moving from a familiar, concrete easy steps routine to a fluid, flexible back and forth (but hey you get to ‘build’ stuff sooner!) gig can be a bit weird’

    One of the things I didn’t get to talk about in this version of my Agile UCD soapbox talk is about the people you need for Agile work… my thoughts are similar to what the 37 Signals crew say about their ‘Getting Real’ methodology… you need the right kind of people to work well within this method. They need to be bright, motivated, passionate and talented. If you’ve got someone who’s not particularly interested in their work, or not particularly good at it, or just plain lazy… they’re not going to change just because you’re changing your methodology, and Agile is not going to suit them as well as Waterfall, because it’s very much driven by lots of regular deliverables… so there’s not much room to hide.

    But then… I don’t really want people like this on my team. It’s not the methodology that needs fixing in this situation!

  12. @ Dara: Have you ever encountered project sponsors who have trouble with the uncertainty of an agile approach?

    Absolutely. I work as a consultant, and there are really only a few ‘clients’ I have who are willing or able to take an Agile approach. A lot of the time the deciding factor is politics. People need to be able to fill out a forms that have fixed requirements, deliverables and dates/budgets associated with them. This is all pretty anti-agile.

    But then, AgileUCD says that there’s no point sticking to a list of requirements if you discover in the first iteration that you’re building something that no one wants, or that some of the foundations of your thinking in designing/developing the product are inherantly flawed. So, you might not get the product you expected, but you will get a product that people want and that can be used effectively.

    In effect, this is a lower risk than spending a fixed budget over a fixed time period on something that may be completely useless when you’re done.

    That can be a fairly compelling argument… but in a lot of cases, politics and playing it safe will trump good sense. Not much we can do about that except find better clients. ;)

    disclaimer: not that I want to suggest that an Agile approach is the absolute best approach for every project. It’s not. But it should be considered a lot more often than it currently is. And considered in a somewhat differently to the highly development centric manner it’s often framed in these days….

  13. @ olly: A quick aside: I don’t see pairs as strictly agile, more of an optional add-on taken from extreme programming.

    Olly, I agree, I don’t think that pair designing or programming is strictly agile either, but it is something that is v important in the agile manifesto and that’s where I originally borrowed the rationale from to support my argument for pair designing.

  14. @ femmebot and others who commented on my spelling. You’re right. I always get that word wrong! Does anyone know some kind of a meme to help me remember which is which?

    principle/principal (I have the same problem with stationary/stationery)

    this is the downside to post-it notes. No spellcheck :)

  15. Awesome! I can’t say enough. I have to do a powerpoint for a graduate school class I am in. I have never done one and had been dreading it! Like everyone else all powerpoint presentations I have attended sucked and put me to sleep. The presentation is on single-sex versus co-ed schools. Can I steal your idea? I’ll even give you credit at the end.

  16. Great stuff!

    If only it were so straightforward…

    I’ve been advocating an iterative development process for years now, and our department seemed to be heading in the right direction (but gradually – nothing more agile than RUP).

    Then management decided to outsource all development – we now get to specify the requirements and overall architecture, then hand it all over to some company half way round the world to program.

    Makes the battle to get usability incorporated into the process even more difficult…

  17. Re: 29
    Leisa – hook to distinguish principle from principal:

    principal == concrete: person (e.g., school principal) or primary (e.g., principal objective). Hook: my pal is the principal.

    principle == abstract: ideal, precept, rule.

  18. Thank you for sharing your insight on methodologies, and posting your slides. I downloaded your podcast from the dConstruct site and was very inspired.
    I think the failure of many projects is due to a general lack of communication between customers and developers.
    How refreshing it would be if system integration projects practiced more of a washing machine approach… What a wonderful world it would be.

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