Continuous Delivery and Management Pathologies

I believe continuous delivery is a foundational practice. In fact, it’s mentioned right at the top in the “Principles” section of the Agile Manifesto:

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

There’s a lack of trust that develops amongst stakeholders when the gap between “developer done” and “I can see that it’s done” is too great. In a perfect world, everyone trusts everyone, but that’s just not the case on real projects a great deal of the time.

You want to know how to cultivate trust? Deliver consistently. Perhaps, continuously.

I believe one of the greatest causes of managers behaving badly is a fear that the things that need to get done are not getting done. This is one of the great causes of micromanagement, which technical folks tend to hate (I know I do).

By reducing this fear, you can head off several management pathologies. You can prevent a hundred status meetings by sending a URL to someone and saying “see for yourself.”

I’ve come to believe that on most software projects, the speed of progress is not particularly important as much as steady progress. Optimize for steady, externally-visible progress.

CD is the ultimate progress indicator of your project. As Jenifer Tidwell says in Designing Interfaces:

Experiments show that if users see an indication that something is going on, they’re much more patient, even if they have to wait longer than they would without a Progress Indicator. Maybe it’s because they know that “the system is thinking,” and it isn’t just hung or waiting for them to do something.

Note that this is the same lack of trust that makes otherwise intelligent software organizations hesitant to embrace remote work. What if my daily work produced artifacts of working software that you can look at every day whenever you wanted? Would that assuage your concern that I’m sitting in my pajamas and watching cartoons all day?

I see CD as a sort of great equalizer. Working software in front of the people who paid for it levels all arguments.