The Opposite of ‘More of Something’ Is Not Less of It

One pattern I see often is that people (me included) apply more of some X, if applying the usual amount doesn’t yield the desired result (anymore).
Two examples from very unrelated fields:

  1. If a dog or other pet doesn’t react in the desired way to a command (‘sit’, ‘down’…), many people start shouting at the dog again and again, which may or may not work at first, but will also fail eventually. Stopping to shout at the poor dog won’t solve the problem either.
  2. In software development I’ve seen rules and policies added to a given process again and again. In these cases the goal was to make the teams produce better products faster (and probably more predictable). That doesn’t lead to the desired results either. But reducing the number of rules is not enough to get teams out of trouble.

So when X doesn’t work, or doesn’t work anymore, applying more of it won’t help. Alas reducing it (less/no shouting at the pet, removing process load from projects) won’t solve the issue.

It seems to be a lot more promising to try an entirely different approach. After realising issues with waterfall projects, we (as software developers) found agile methods to be helpful. In the case of training a dog it’s another way to help the dog learn a new command. In some cases it may even be necessary to teach it its name before.

Did you see anything like this? Let me know.

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  1. Hello Stephan,
    maybe this fits: if you try to raise a flower in the wrong soil (too sandy), watering helps at first, but the plant suffers. More water doesn’t help, nor does less. Only a different approach helps (replanting, fertiliser, different flower, etc.). All the best for your new blog! Anja

  2. Reminds me of this article: Right versus pragmatic. “The pragmatic approach is to address the demand.”

    • Thanks for sharing the link.
      Being right seems to be less important than doing the right thing, yet both have (some) value. I guess what’s considered to be generally more acceptable/desirable depends on your cultural environment, too.

  1. Agile methods do not fit every software development project | Svein Minde Blog

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