by Leon Rosenshein

Raspberry vs. Strawberry Jam

    “The wider you spread it, the thinner it gets.”

         – Gerald M. Weinberg

Otherwise known as the Law of Raspberry Jam. You take some raspberry jam and spread it over so many slices of toast that it just add as little bit of color and a hint of sweetness. None of the wonderful flavor or texture of the raspberries you were trying to add. I’ve called it peanut buttering things before. Either way, you declare that you’re going to take advantage of something. Then you take the idea, set of resources, your time, or level of effort and spread it so thin that you don’t get any of the benefits you’re expecting. When it doesn’t work (or at least not as well as you expected) you declare that doing it was a waste of time and go back to the old way.

That just doesn’t seem honest to me. If you’re going to give something a chance, you should give it a chance. Really try it out. Put enough effort behind it to know if it works. Unfortunately, in reality you can’t always drop everything and put full effort into an attempt. There is, however, something you can do.

Because Weinberg has another law. The law of Strawberry Jam.

    ”As long as it has lumps, you can never spread it too thin.”

That’s the important difference between strawberry jam and raspberry jam. Strawberry jams, at least the good ones, have lumps in them. Things that you just can’t spread too thin. No matter how hard you try, those lumps of strawberry don’t get spread around. They might move around, but they don’t get smaller and they retain that great strawberry taste. The idea is to apply that idea to the thing you’re doing/trying. The indivisible nuggets of the idea, resource, time, or effort you invest.

Consider the simple idea of a sprint. If all you do is change your planning from every quarter to every 2 weeks all you’ve done is change the cycle length. You haven’t actually changed much. Instead of seeing how many stories you can fit in a sprint, start by deciding what the goal is. Define what benefit/value your customer/user will see when you’re done and then ensure that you’re working on the right things to make that happen.

That’s the indivisible nugget. Defining the customer value and implementing it. Do that and you’re not just changing the cycle time for the sake of changing the time. You’re changing the time so that you deliver more customer value sooner.

That’s giving the idea a chance.