A mainstay of movie cliffhangers, the phrase “To be continued…” has been appearing at the end of serialized movies since the days of The Perils of Pauline. For nearly a century, film and television producers have employed the cliffhanger and its “to be continued” harbinger to keep audiences tuning in to the next installment, while behind the scenes they negotiate actors’ contracts, await series renewal, or simply give the writers time to figure out what’s next. Whether it happens or not, the intention is that there will be a next installment. That the story will continue.
And therein lies the Agile lesson.
Conventional practices too often treat research as a one-off event, or as a series of disaggregated investigations. The result is too much repetition and redundancy, and too little connection and continuity. When we try to contain the entire story in one research project, we end up jamming too much into the project itself and the research becomes delayed, diluted and ultimately devalued. Worse still, for the sake of expediency, we neglect to include the markers and measures that would allow us to understand the bigger picture, and in so doing forgo the opportunity to understand the full narrative.
Agile Research assumes that research is a process, not an event. That we need to be looking forward to the next issue, challenge or change, even while we are gathering insights to address the topic at hand. And that our job is to follow the storyline as the marketplace shifts inexorably forward.
Embracing an Agile Research strategy means taking a cue from the entertainment industry, and keeping in mind the ending of some of the most gripping yarns:
To be continued…