Mary Poppendieck

Owner at Poppendieck.LLC


Too Much of a Good Thing: Finding the Balance
Friday 17:10 - 17:55
creative tension

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Virtue is a balance between two extremes, according to Aristotle. So, you always need to be careful not to go too far – there is always danger of “Too much of a Good Thing.” Too much autonomy – not enough cooperation. Too much efficiency - not enough resilience. Too much consensus – too few new ideas. With agile we learned how to avoid too much design, but there was scant advice on how to avoid the opposite extreme - too little design. With DevOps we learned how to deploy frequently and rollback fast, but there wasn’t much advice about when rapid deployment might not be a good idea. Great products and services are the result of great tradeoff decisions – striking just the right balance between competing values. This talk is about how the skillful use of creative tension and constructive disagreement to create the new choices that are found at the core of all great innovations.


Mary Poppendieck’s first job was programming the #2 Electronic Switching System at Bell Labs in 1967. She programmed minicomputers to control high energy physics experiments at the University of Wisconsin during the 1970’s. Moving to 3M, Mary developed digital systems to control roll-goods processes, spearheaded one of the first Just-in-Time production systems in the company, and led new product development teams which commercialized products ranging from digital controllers to lighting systems. Upon retiring from 3M in1998, Mary was surprised to discover that the typical software development process was quite different than the engineering-inspired approach she had found effective with control systems. So she wrote the now-classic book: Lean Software Development: an Agile Toolkit, proposing an approach which focuses on consumers, respects software engineers, concentrates on learning, and leverages flow. Mary is a popular writer and speaker. Sequels of her first book include Implementing Lean Software Development: from Concept to Cash, Leading Lean Software Development: Results are Not the Point and The Lean Mindset: Ask the Right Questions.