Iterative vs. Front-loaded Processes

Why iterative processes are good for uncertain environments while font loaded processes are better suited for more certain environments.

When looking for the light switch in a pitch black room, you are better off taking two steps at a time then feeling around than charging ahead 10 steps before getting your bearings. It’s difficult to assuredly measure your progress, but you are less likely to ram your knee into something and more likely to catch yourself early if you are headed to the wrong wall.

Like a dark room, entrepreneurs often work in highly opaque and uncertain environments. Like your search for the light switch, entrepreneurs are advised to do a little work on their product and then asking the market if they are headed in the right direction. This is called iterative development and in most cases it works a lot better than charging full speed into the darkness and hoping for the best.

What if the objective were to turn the light on?  It would be ridiculous to take two steps and “feel around” for the light switch when you know exactly where it is, what you need to do to get to it, and how to turn it off. When the light is on, it makes perfect sense to take ten steps at a time.

This is the usual business case. You know what you are trying to do (increase efficiency, reduce scrap metal, increase customer satisfaction etc.). There are often efficiency gains for batching your work and it’s easy to measure your progress.
Note: I suppose the optimum formula for the number of steps to take deppends how likely you are to be headed in the right direction, what you learn from each step, the cost of going in the wrong direction, cost of checking where you are, and the efficiency that might result from batching your steps, among other things.

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