The 5 Pillars of Process Iteration

Ever wonder what something as simple as iteration can do to an individual? A team? A company? Look no further!

Iteration is a constant.

Individually, these two words are polar opposites. Iterate (to obtain successively closer approximations to the solution of a problem or to improve a system) implies movement & change. Constant (to stay the same or not change or occurring continuously over a period of time) implies stability. When these two words are put together or one is defined using the other, there seems to be another meaning that unlocks. By defining iteration as a constant, this suggests improvement will always be on the forefront, always be a guide for doing business. It implies there is never a “good enough” to settle into. It indicates an attitude of efficiency, seeking alternate routes and thinking outside of the box. If iteration is in fact a constant, then you unlock the ability to get closer and closer to the solution, more often than not.

Iteration takes failure.

Getting to a version X is very important when iterating. Version 1 is by far the hardest to get to because it takes guts to step out and say, “Hey everyone, here is the new widget, gadget, process, script, content, etc.” knowing that the first version will attract the most feedback. This feedback should be constructive (assuming the culture and environment promotes iteration). Simon Sinek says it well: “The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.” Once the feedback is discerned, a version 2 (or X+1) is spawned and this version may make version 1 (or X) look a little ridiculous. That’s okay. At least version 1 happened. Even if it fell on its face, an opportunity was born for a version 2 from the failure of version 1.

Iteration forces humility.

The nature of solving a problem and coming up with yet another solution to that same problem hints at failure. Why would somebody resolve something they have already figured out? When thinking outside the box and constantly iterating, you might uncover these reasons. Perhaps it was a new piece of knowledge that was not present when version one was developed. Perhaps it was a new type of technology or skill that is now available. Perhaps it is a better, faster, stronger way of doing the same thing (going back to that old saying, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”). Either way, being honest and accepting that a better solution might be out there is the first step. This forces one to swallow their pride and enjoy a nice dose of humility.

Iteration forms partnership.

Iteration builds trust. Iteration shows character. Iteration fuels speed. Iteration powers development. As a byproduct of all of these, partnerships arise quickly. By bringing a fresh model to the table, with a continual focus to refine the solution, propose alternative ideas, and strive for even greater customer satisfaction, small companies can make a big impact on the world. The bond built due to the personal ownership placed on iteration can be a bond that sparks new opportunities, forms a culture of trust and (that’s right!) more iteration! Win, win, win!

Iteration builds a legacy.

A ruin could be equated with extinction. Ruins provide the history or context of something long past (think Machu Picchu). They show a snapshot of what was happening at that time. They display what once was, and to some degree how it once was. A legacy on the other hand could be equated with activity. Legacies provide the guideposts with which to live. They are a part of a living, breathing being within us. CEO of CloudOne, John McDonald suggests, “It’s a strange industry we’re in, where everything we do today is obsolete in less than a decade.” One way to protect against becoming obsolete (a ruin) would be to iterate. The outcome of iteration leads to multiple versions built on themselves and a legacy of consistency, humility & trust. Don’t be a ruin, build a legacy.