Headline driven development

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2024-04-01 09:00:06

Here is a simple process for shipping software projects that works. First, decompose the project into a stream1 of headlines. Then pick an aggressive date to ship the first headline and work like hell to meet that date. Have everyone work only on one headline at a time– the upcoming one. Ignore everything else. Don’t work on anything that doesn’t help you ship the headline. Once the headline is shipped, switch to the next headline in the stream and repeat. That’s all, you can fire your agile consultant.

A headline is a very short sentence that contains only the highest order bit, with all the other bits culled. Imagine you bump into someone on the street after not having seen them for a few months and they ask what you’ve been up to. What kinds of responses work well in this situation? “ I trekked through Southeast Asia”, “ I switched jobs”, “ I got married”. Software release headlines work the same way. “ You can now rent VMs through an API ” , “ we rolled out FSD autopilot”, “ Treasury is available in India”.

First, headlines is how humans process change. If you ever found your users confused, your boss frustrated, your investors anxious, your peers indifferent– these problems go away when you organize communication around a stream of headlines. But it doesn’t work as an afterthought. Communicating through headlines but developing in some other way is like leading a double life. It gets too messy. So to communicate with headlines you must develop with headlines too.

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