Evolving with Every Step: My Insights into the Power of Iteration

January 24th
Iteration, Self-Reflection

Over time, I've explored numerous methodologies that advocate for iterative processes. These range from various iterations of Scrum, including DIY Scrum and "Certified" Scrum, to Kanban, Lean, and other Agile methodologies. Each offers a unique approach to embracing and implementing iteration in project management and product development.

While I don't particularly endorse any specific system, and this discussion isn't intended to critique Scrum or similar methodologies, I'd prefer to center on the concept of iteration. I believe iteration is a fundamental driver of constructive progress and a pivotal element in fostering positive change.


(Fast) iteration is the key to success and better solutions

they said. But what does that mean exactly.

Here is my opinionated perspective on what iteration means for me:

  • The fundamental premise is that our goal is often nebulous and resists precise definition from the outset. For straightforward tasks like purchasing bread from a bakery, iteration is unnecessary. However, in complex endeavors such as developing a software solution with various stakeholders, it's impractical to anticipate every detail in advance. In such scenarios, adopting an iterative process proves to be an effective strategy. The Cynefin framework gives a map on complexity.
  • Iteration essentially involves addressing the most significant aspect first - constructing the foundational core and crafting a rudimentary, yet complete, end-to-end solution as the initial version. The comprehensiveness of this approach is crucial; it allows for practical usage and intuitive assessment of the solution's effectiveness. Building upon this foundation, subsequent iterations enhance and refine the product. This is what Lean Startup Method proposes with its Build-Measure-Learn Mantra.
  • When building the next version, not only iterate the product, but also iterate the tooling. Today, I’m super keen on building a good tooling infrastructure very early on and align the whole team around it. I tend to keep it very simple and almost brute force like in the beginning and gradually increase structure while the product evolves. This not only applies to coding (DevOps), but also to Design (DesignOps), Marketing and other work.
  • Iteration involves not just addition but also subtraction. Products often evolve into intricate entities; compare Microsoft Word 1997 with its todays counterpart. While sophisticated user experience can mask this complexity, it's evident that Word was simpler in its early versions, and it's likely that most users, including myself, don't utilize 95% of its current features. This principle is even more critical in manufacturing. Whether in digital or physical realms, each component of a system requires construction, maintenance, consumes resources, and has the potential to fail.
  • Iteration also means making the deliberate choice to exclude feature X.
  • Iteration is distinct from repetition. Repetition involves performing the same sequence of actions repeatedly, while iteration means taking steps repeatedly but adjusting each time based on ongoing learning. This process may even lead us down an entirely different path.

For me in summary:

Iteration is the art of using fresh knowledge to craft an enhanced and refined next version towards a desired outcome.

You might argue that the concept I'm describing aligns with what is commonly understood as "agile." I wouldn't contest that. To me, agile represents a more expansive term that encompasses not only iteration but also various other elements, such as decision-making approaches and the degree of structure in processes. This topic warrants a separate discussion, perhaps in another blog post. However, it's true that my personal interpretation of agility places significant emphasis on the aspect of iteration.

Iteration in business

Regrettably, in numerous organizations, the practice of iteration isn't firmly established. Throughout my professional journey, I've frequently observed scenarios where individuals made (or were compelled to make) misguided decisions. These missteps often stemmed from misalignment due to management by objectives, command-and-control paradigms, rigid budgeting processes, or simply excessive bureaucracy. I recognize that larger organizations require more structure, which, unfortunately, can diminish the prevalence of iterative thinking.

Yet, it's heartening to note numerous positive instances across various industries, not just in tech. I am grateful to all the forward-thinking individuals and leaders who have challenged conventional management practices and bureaucracy, instilling a sense of hope. My appreciation is not aimed at the trend-followers or 'New Work fashionistas' on LinkedIn, but at those genuinely pioneering change.

My personal growth has been significantly shaped by revisiting the Agile Manifesto, implementing techniques from Sociocracy and Holacracy, and engaging directly with real-world challenges, followed by reflective analysis during retrospectives. And I'm still curious, how I can craft an enhanced and refined next version.

Iteration in nature

Nature provides compelling examples of iteration:

  1. Evolution serves as a prime illustration of a prolonged series of continual iterations, where species adapt and transform across generations.
  2. Succession showcases an interactive process, where a bare land gradually transforms into a forest. It begins with early weeds creating the initial soil layer, followed by shrubs and small trees, and eventually, larger trees establish a stable forest ecosystem. Throughout this transition, the forest constantly adapts to external influences like animals, weather, and nutrient availability.
  3. Seasons in Switzerland vividly delineate a cycle of spring (awakening), summer (growth), autumn (harvesting), and winter (rest). Each season is a distinct iteration, with nature adapting and evolving based on the experiences of the previous year, demonstrating a cyclical yet progressive pattern.
  4. Gardening naturally embodies iteration, as it's tied to the rhythm of the seasons. My passion for gardening teaches me with each season, not just about nurturing thriving plants, but also about the subtle art of observing and engaging with nature's cycles. Each season is a lesson in growth, a testament to the gentle, iterative process of planting, nurturing, and harvesting, reflecting the broader cycle of learning and evolving that resonates through all aspects of life.

At NETNODE, we place considerable emphasis on embracing the concept of "living systems", drawing parallels between our work and the dynamic, interconnected systems found in the natural world.


In conclusion, embracing the mindset of thinking in iterations is empowering. It offers a sense of liberation, with the understanding that each iteration presents a new opportunity for advancement. I hold the hope that the potential and power of iteration will be recognized and valued by more individuals.


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