Experiment and Leap

3 minute read

As a technical leader, you must make software development decisions that minimize risk for your company, and doing nothing may seem like the safest path. However, sometimes the risk of doing nothing can be the most significant. So, how do you know when to take a leap and go for it and when to hold steady?

Software development can be like a roller coaster ride - thrilling highs, nerve-wracking drops, and unwelcome surprises. But it can also teach us an essential lesson about risk-taking: sometimes, you must go out of your comfort zone and take a leap of faith to succeed.

The consequences of inaction

In software development, it pays to be paranoid. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of creating something new and shiny, but the optimal move is often to take a step back and ask yourself: what happens if I do nothing? What are the potential risks involved in introducing changes to the software now?

Taking a few moments to assess the situation is like having insurance - you won’t need it immediately, but when things go wrong, you’ll be glad you took the time.

Usually, the riskiest thing you can do is nothing at all

Although the saying “no risk, no reward” might be cliche, it’s still true. If you want to make something happen or achieve a specific goal, the only way to realize those ambitions is to take action.

Additionally, failing to take any steps can have an outright detrimental impact: development teams need practice, leadership, and direction from a technical leader to progress. The landscape your software operates in is bound to change and will need architectures and aesthetics updates. Business models may shift around the software, requiring new features and fixes.

So when faced with a decision, remember it’s always better to err on taking some action rather than staying idle.

Small Actions with Big Impacts

Not all actions need to be flashy or large - even making small decisions and taking small steps can help ensure you make the right kind of progress.

Performing a code review and deciding on staying the course is an action too.

Agile software development is about responsive improvement

Agile software development encourages responsive changes to shifting business parameters and client expectations, but while this approach enables flexibility, there is still a line between calculated risk-taking and foolishness. Rather than recklessly throwing caution to the wind, considering decisions only after weighing potential outcomes will result in far more significant gains.

So what does agile software development theory tell us about how can you gather more information to weigh the pros and cons?

Run Small and Rapid Experiments

You could toss a coin, use a complex decision tree or throw your hands up in despair. Or, you could do what we do at Opreto and conduct Small and Rapid Experiments.

The beauty of running short software experiments is that they allow you to try different approaches and see what works best for your project. It also enables teams to develop creative solutions quickly, as the process involves:

  • Defining the problem.
  • Brainstorming a variety of solutions.
  • Testing those solutions against established criteria that describe success.

These experiments help narrow down options for the development path and provide feedback on the effectiveness of the different outcomes. In short, the agile approach helps make decisions simpler, faster, and better! So why not try this agile software development practice to help you choose what to do?

Ultimately, the choice is yours

Should you take a risk and potentially reap great rewards, or play it safe and avoid any possible downside? The answer, of course, depends on the situation. Sometimes the safest thing to do is to take a chance; other times, staying put is better. Of course, making the correct decisions is critical for any technical leader, but knowing when to take that leap of faith can take time and effort.

Luckily there are tools you can use to help move forward. For example, small agile tests can help you bridge gaps and learn more context, allowing you to make a more informed decision.

If you still need help making this kind of technical decision, get in contact with an agile software consultant. We would be happy to help you navigate these waters and ensure that your next big move is the right one for your company.