DEV Community

Lee Hambley
Lee Hambley

Posted on

The Importance of Cadence, and the trade-offs you make.

My personal philosophy on work is shaped strongly by two books in particular:

  • The Principles of Product Development Flow (978-1935401001)
  • Joy Inc: How We Built a Workplace People Love (978-1591847120)

They both arrive at sustainable, productive, predictable practices for working on project delivery (mostly software delivery) using very diverse methods.

Joy Inc puts the focus on psychological safety, inventing structures that ultimately minimize risk and leave people feeling safe.

The Principles of Product Development flow takes a radically different approach, speaking of systems as a series of pipes and junctions, and using very dispassionate language to talk about size of work, flowing between nodes in a graph, and talking about "building healthy systems".

Despite the wildly different approaches, both basically arrive at what you may already better know as "agile principles". Short cycles, bite-size chunks of work, frequent contact with stakeholders and predictable cadence.

Short cycles minimize the risk of investing in the wrong direction; bite-size chunks are less likely to cause a "log-jam" when someone loses half a day reading long docs or code reviews; frequent contact with stakeholders ensures nobody is ever surprised, and a predictable cadence is a two-way contract between stakeholders and makers that goalposts won't move, and scope won't creep (..until the next cycle)

The cadence trade-off is one I see most frequently misunderstood in contemporary business practices.

When a company settles on three month cadence for planning (as many do); if you get new information a month into the quarter in theory you should stick to your plan. You planned for three months, presumably that planning investment was not small; and you should not break trust with teams by approaching them in the middle of a cycle with new information.

For many companies, a quarterly cadence, if taken strictly is utterly unthinkable.

If your planning in March for Q2 can be invalidated in early April information about a new potential customer tender, then you cannot run your business on quarterly plannings.

If you allow external stakeholders to dictate your timelines, for example, in the middle of a quarter, you learn on the 19th of the month that you have time until the 30th to scramble to provide something to appease external customer tenders you will undermine all trust from your teams in your processes and deadlines.

Mid quarter, 11 days, a weekend and a public holiday in the middle? What kind of cadence is this? You're sewing disruption into your teams and undermining your credibility as a leadership group.

Conversely, when you do this, you signal desperation to your stakeholders, an acknowledgement that you are inexpert in your field, and you bow to their whims.

Top comments (0)