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02 May 2010 @ 08:28 am
"sprints" vs. "marathons"  

Is it true that every large task can (usefully) be divided into quasi-modular subtasks which can be completed in a relatively short time? This notion is certainly useful for tracking progress (and spotting a lack thereof so corrective action may be taken)—it's the "sprint" model (of project organization) currently in favor in industry. Might we, however, be making an unexamined choice of trade-offs by exclusively using this model? Might the (previous? older?) model of "mileposts"—regarding a task as a marathon rather than as concatenated sprints—be more productive and useful in some circumstances?

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dd-bdd_b on May 2nd, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
For the vast majority of commercial projects, "good enough" is the right goal, and it may be fairly well served by the "sprint" model. At least most of the time.

But it does seem to exclude anything where you don't know at the start where the end is, for example -- any sort of real research for sure.
the laughing leaping waterminnehaha on May 2nd, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)
Can you explain a bit how you see the difference between the "quasi-modular subtask" and the "milepost"? How are these not different ways of saying the same thing?

K.
David W. Schrothdavidschroth on May 2nd, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
I'm unfamiliar with the sprint model, but it sounds like an attempt to establish Death Marches as Standard Operating Practice.
et in Arcadia egobooapostle_of_eris on May 2nd, 2010 03:01 pm (UTC)
Dear Rav Fred (I hadn't seen that portrait before!) --
One size fits all doesn't.
Marissa Lingenmrissa on May 3rd, 2010 12:50 am (UTC)
I find that some things cannot be broken down into their tiniest component parts and still function. This is very obvious with music: if I only have the time to play two notes, it is not significantly more useful as practice or as artistic expression than if I don't sit down at the piano at all. I think the degree to which it's true of fiction varies from person to person: some people really can take a ten-minute chunk and write down as many sentences as they can and do it again the next time they have a ten-minute chunk and add up to a story. It is very difficult for me to do this with chunks of less than 25 minutes. (I discovered this early on in the vertigo process, when 20 minutes at a stretch was about all I had for computer time before I became unbearably dizzy.)

So in that sense, the quasi-modular tasks of "scene" and "chapter" are of some use to me, but the quasi-modular tasks on the single-word or single-sentence level really are not.

I'm not sure if this is what you were asking, but it's what I was thinking at the moment and seemed unlikely to offend too badly.
songs in the key of me: Reki Loungingchorus on May 4th, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC)
Yes, of course it can be more productive to finish a task in one go in some cases. But it's all the same basic strategy, in theory: you figure out what you need to do vs what you can do in a given timeframe. If they come close to matching, sure, you might be better off doing it as a single project; if they don't, it's probably better to break it down into sub-tasks.

The tricky bit is determining what constitutes "can or can't do", because depending on what kind of project you're talking about, it may simply be infeasible to be sure. So some people err on one side or the other, and it's really difficult at best to be sure which way is really "right" (inasmuch as there is such a thing), especially since some people work better with consistent short goals, and some work better with long-term plans.

Which is, I guess, a really long-winded way to say "it depends".