Don’t let a marshmallow crush your project


“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford

When people can think of the team before themselves, the team can achieve great things #HoskWisdom

Code not in production has no value, you don’t know if it will work, get it live in the shortest time possible.


  1.  Get your code finished into production and the customer starts to get value
  2. The longer code isn’t in production, the larger the risk it won’t work or be what the users need
  3. Test your design with a prototype is always better than having a design on paper
  4. Politics and positioning for power can slow and divert projects
  5. Adults fear failure/mistakes more than children and because of it they make bigger mistakes

Build a tower

A popular team building exercise sets teams of four people to build the tallest tower possible using 20 sticks of spaghetti, sticky tape, string and a marshmallow which has to sit on top.

Ted talk – Build a tower, building a team

here are some crazy designs

I attended a similar exercise using spaghetti and jelly babies.  It was a fun(ish) but lacked a point but getting to know your team is important, so it all helps.

Common problems

Many individuals waste time jockeying for position, trying to assert their authority at the expense of doing the task well.  The video states children don’t waste time doing this, they focus on the task not people and position.

Many of the people doing the exercise will create the spaghetti tower and leave putting the marshmallow on the top at the end, with one minute to go.  This leads to a either successfully putting the marshmallow on the top or the marshmallow destroying the towr because it‘s too heavy.

Most teams leave creating prototypes and testing their designs until the last minute, with no time to adjust.

Mr Stay Puft visits your project

Dr Ray Stantz: [after Ray thinks of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and it appears, stomping through New York City] I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never, ever possibly destroy us. Mr. Stay Puft.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Nice thinking, Ray.


Leaving the marshmallow until the end is the classic waterfall approach to projects, the marshmallow in the project can be

  • Show the customer and finding out it‘s not what they want
  • The functionality does not work
  • The functionality doesn’t work the way the users/business needs
  • performance problems
  • The integrations don’t work

Waterfall projects leave the risk (the marshmallow) until the end and leaving no time to change or adapt.

You can tell Mr Stay Puft will visit your project when the requirements and functionality are not linked to business goals and there is a lack of business input.  IT projects are a collaboration between the business and developers.

If it smells like agile

The most successful teams created prototypes and put the marshmallow on their tower at the earliest moment.  Creating working examples is key, you can try a different design if the marshmallow squashes your design and you can adapt working designs.

Agile aims to get functionality finished and into production as soon as possible, allowing user to see and use it as soon as possible.  This stops the two sides drifting apart because at the end of every sprint they are pulled together to review progress and get feedback.

Agile is great when done well and the customer engages in the agile process, I have discussed Scrum in a blog post before

There are many projects which are Agile in name but chaos in reality #HoskWisdom 

Many businesses cannot fight the desire to plan out the project and costs, despite everyone knowing long term planning is never accurate.  It helps to remember another name for estimate is guess and adjust your confidence levels accordingly.

On your next project, get code into production as soon as possible to ensure you are creating what’s needed, what’s wanted and what works.

pictures from here, here


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