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LitheBlog

Agile insights from LitheSpeed
8
Dec

Healthcare.Gov Issues: No Thin Slice?

This is the second in a series of posts about the ongoing Healthcare.Gov saga.  In my first post, I suggested that the project had simply too many cooks in the kitchen to be successful. In this post, let’s take a look at whether the project team got some fundamental things correct.

joseph

One of the fundamental of agile methods is “thin slicing or sashimi slicing.”   According to Andre Dhondt, this is a keystone habit of agile.  Ever since, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber popularized Scrum, the leading agile method, a couple of decades ago, the powerful mental image of “sashimi slicing” has stayed with me.

The basic idea is that we develop systems one “thin vertical slice” at a time. That is, each “slice” is instantiated as a epic or user story (system feature) from end-to-end across multiple tiers at a time: the front-end, middle-tier, and the back end persistence layers of the system.  By doing this, we can incrementally build our systems one slice at a time. We can check each slice against a predefined Definition of Done (DoD).

Further, these slices are meant to be driven by the end user experience, and tested rigorously one slice at a time.  Clearly, that did not happen with the Healthcare.gov system.  So, despite building a relatively trouble-free front-end using agile techniques, the team ran into trouble because they did not thin slice – that is, they did not extend the slice from the UI tier across the remaining tiers.

So, no thin slice, no agile!