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The great wall of what-if’s can be intimidating. A team can end up spending hours on what feels… simple. Why? One of the reasons is a focus on exceptions, even though the exceptional cases are usually, well, exceptional. This relates to an old idea, called Parkinson’s law of triviality:

“Parkinson observed and illustrated that a committee whose job was to approve plans for a nuclear power plant spent the majority of its time with pointless discussions on relatively trivial and unimportant but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bike-shed, while neglecting the less-trivial proposed design of the nuclear power plant itself, which is far more important but also a far more difficult and complex task to criticise constructively.” [1] [2]

Why do we focus on the trivial instead of the complex? Is there something wrong with us? Maybe, it’s not the who, but the where. Can you solve the complex in a meeting? Most of the time, you can’t even solve the trivial, hence the non-productive meetings. Maybe the correct arena for solving is at the salt mines, doing actual work, to just start. [3] Do we need to make decisions before we start? How can we defer these decisions, embrace uncertainty and start with what we have, how can we avoid premature optimization? Shouldn’t we analyse more and remove doubt to ensure we make correct decisions?

This talk will guide the listener through a case study of an online transactional system, where the just start principle was implemented to answer the above questions. Key disciplines important for making the just start approach work, will be highlighted. We will adventure into a real life story of how this change of mind in one single project exploded to influence the whole company culture.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson{6b0d2667ce3e862a710371ddcad071d42f80ce355f6c975cf5f5e426d041b86a}27s_law_of_triviality#cite_note-parkinson-1
[2] Parkinson, C. Northcote (1958). Parkinson’s Law, or the Pursuit of Progress. John Murray
[3] Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer & Paul B. Brown (2012). Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future.


Tjaard studied computer science at the North-West university and obtained his master’s degree in image processing, pairing with a well-known astrophysicist.  After his studies, he dived head first into the industry at the giant consulting company called Accenture, doing software development for 5 years at clients like SARS, Edcon & Liberty.  He then decided to join Synthesis in 2012 at a time when it was still small and has since enjoyed seeing the company grow.  He has seen all the bad and ugly of traditional methodologies and experienced the change of mind to the agile philosophy in practice.  His agile evangelism seems to attract some and have others avoid him around the water cooler.  He has seen simple agile projects, executed well, build up to change a company’s culture, what could be more exciting than that?  Tjaard is a software developer by heart and loves adventuring into the detail of the software craft but tries to always map this to the real world.  Software development is on the one side something very technical and on the other side, a person. Tjaard has an unhealthy love for bridging this gap, hence his fit with the Synthesis digital channels capability.  Delivering a simple yet beautiful user experience while trying to keep the complex beast of software architecture under control. He is an early adopter of anything tech. Tjaard tries to balance his geekiness with any kind of sport or music.

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