The Sunshine Path

The Smart Tips Agile Methodology (SAM)’s concept of The Sunshine Path is underpinned by the Pareto principle, the rule which states that the majority of your outcomes come from the minority of your inputs. The Pareto principle was coined by the management consultant, Joseph M. Juran. He attributed it to the eponymous Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, who in 1906 observed that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population. It has become a common rule of thumb in business and although the 80/20 ratio may vary, the rule holds.

SAM puts the Pareto principle to work by moving attention away from those minor exceptions that can so often eat up a disproportionate amount of time and efficiency within an organisation and focussing efforts instead upon getting the most common processes an organisation undertakes right. The Sunshine Path is business as usual – when a process works exactly as expected, when everything goes right. This method ensures that the team stay mindful of the bigger picture; that they deliver core functionality rather than getting caught up with edge cases, thereby risking project creep and failing to deliver the value the business needs.

Determining an organisation’s Sunshine Path happens at the very beginning of the project, during the very first Sprint, to ensure that teams can work iteratively to deliver the most value at the earliest possible opportunity. Finding the Path is a matter of understanding the way a business works by running stakeholder engagement workshops. Encouraging businesses to reflect upon their processes in order to define an appropriate critical pathway can be challenging but is key to the overall success of the project. Understandably, organisations tend to be focussed upon catering to the exceptions that cause them the most “fear”. For the success of the project, however, exceptions should remain exceptional: mere deviations from the common path.

However, taking a stroll down the Sunshine Path should not mean that exceptions are rejected out of hand. Using the Sunshine Path and identifying all of the exceptions allows the business to prioritise the order of delivery – enabling feedback on the most common exceptions first. What’s more, this could save time, as there’s less work to be done if minor exceptions happen to be solved along the way by happy accident. Sunshine Path thinking is not unbridled optimism, then, but an approach that works to ensure that solutions work optimally most of the time – and when and if the process strays off track, they can easily flex in order to meet and manage the exception.

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