In September 1977, the TV sitcom “Happy Days” had über-hip Fonzie, clad in leather jacket and swimshorts, water-ski over a shark to prove his mettle—and at that moment even diehard fans knew that the show was past its prime. They were right. After that episode, ratings plummeted, and the expression “Jumping the Shark” was born. When a TV show, or anything else, jumps the shark, you know it’s on its way out.

Our question this month: Have any of your software development practices jumped the shark?

For example, are there boundaries around people’s roles? Some organizations tend to confine people to roles such as developer, architect, business analyst, user experience expert, database administrator, network administrator, project manager, tester and quality assurance analyst. Deliverables are role-focused, and cross-fertilization is discouraged or even prohibited. Among the worst effects of role-boundary-itis is handovers: Each player focuses on a discrete deliverable, throwing it over the wall from one “role” to the next.

Agile and lean methods challenge role segmentation. Just as in the early 1990s, product development using cross-functional “heavyweight teams” boosts design and development efficiencies and productivity. These methods aim toward a delivery team focused on the goal, not the role. Many times we’ve seen how adopting a tester mindset increases a team’s ability to explore requirements, how looking at a project through the eyes of an architect helps businesspeople reduce risk and increase quality, or how channeling a business analyst helps avoid costs and protect revenue.

Or maybe your team has jumped the documentation shark. Is the documentation you create truly valuable for its consumers? Is it both usable and useful?  

Do your development practices focus on projects, rather than products and portfolios? For your business partners, the value of the software you create doesn’t come from project completion but from delivering business value.

Hit the pause button
Stop and consider. Hold a team retrospective session and take a close look at your last two or three efforts—or even one that’s going on now. Seek feedback from your team members and business partners.

What are you doing well? Those are practices to leverage.