Iteration: the past, and how we do it today

What is iteration

Iteration is when you repeat a certain process or processes with the aim of achieving a particular result or generate an infinite sequence of results. The process might be short or long, but the primary objective is to improve the outcome of the previous result.

In many cases, iteration is an ongoing process, and this sequence is successive meaning that the next process begins right after the end of the last one. The more the iteration processes, the closer we get to the desired result. In this regard, we would need quick and short iteration processes to achieve the goal you want much faster.

Every result from an iteration process is always better than the previous process because there are many chances of improvement thanks to the learning opportunities that arise in between these processes.

History of iteration

Iteration is a process that probably started immediately after the innovation age. In this context, the innovation age would be maybe between 1945 – 1971. If you look keenly at today’s modern world, virtually everything we use is as a result of an iteration process that begun back then. Virtually everything we have today existed in those days although improved through a series of iterations.

A good example of a historical iteration process that has been of great value to the modern world is the German automobile industry. The industry was born out of desperation after the Germans were barred from producing and selling weapons post war and had to look for alternative income generating methods. Through a series of iterations, the Germans were able to secure a spot in the automobiles world map permanently. Volkswagen is a prime example of iteration to the point of perfection.

The iteration process

The iteration process starts from an idea and goes through a series of iterations and finally ends at a premeditated result. The idea behind this may be derived from the adage saying ‘practice makes perfect.’ In every new iteration process, there are a few changes made.

In most cases, these changes come from observation, learning from own and other people’s mistakes and the need to move with time. For example, the first automobile made by Karl Benz in Germany had three wheels, a one cylinder engine and only produced 0.9 horsepower. Today, our cars are cheaper, more secure and sophisticated thanks to the numerous iterations between 1885 and 2017.

Iteration from a managerial POV

There is a controversial notion that if you spend around 10,000 hours doing the same thing, you are an expert in that field. The concept was introduced by author Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers where he argues that if you decided to do something over and over for at least 10,000 hours, you are likely to become an expert in the field.

Malcolm’s theory would be useful if you think about Albert Einstein’s quote ‘’insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’’. In this regard, we expect a lot of changes in various elements in the 10,000 hrs. and therefore consider the hrs. as an iteration process with numerous iterations.

In today’s world, as a project manager, it’s better to complete most of your projects through a series of iterations where you set specific goals to be achieved in a specified amount of time.

Unlike the old waterfall approach where you design, build, implement and then test before closing a project, this method has a few benefits to it which include but not limited to; enhancing work processes after thoroughly reflecting on the previous iterations.

You can identify problems and make changes before moving on to the next iteration process.

You get a chance to determine what works for you and iterate it to get better results.



Mercedes Benz

Malcolm Gladwell