"Bodging is a wonderful British word that means to patch together, to make temporary repairs. A bodge is clumsy, it's inelegant, it'll fall apart, but it'll work. And it'll keep working as long as there's someone around to bodge it again if it breaks." -- Tom Scott -- The Art of the Bodge: How I made the Emoji keyboard (2015)
Tom Scott's brilliant definition of bodging in his 2015 video (Tom Scott by the way is in the running for the greatest living Englishman shortlist... more on that later) captures perfectly and succinctly the art of bodging. A much maligned skill and approach in many scenarios which I don't think gets enough credit and is universally frowned upon in most "professional" settings.
But maybe, just maybe, we could learn a thing or two from the art of the bodge. Let's face it, us humans are really quite bad at doing large scale complicated things. Try to remember for example the last time a large scale, national infrastructure project ran on time and on budget **cough** Millenium Dome **cough** The Channel Tunnel **cough** HS2. Try to remember the last time a medium sized work project ran on time and on budget and still satisfied all the initial requirements.
In a world where the job is often awarded to the lowest bidder we are regularly encouraged to make over optimistic initial forecasts. I assume the theory being that by the time everyone has to accept how far off we originally were we'll be too far in to turn back. Everyone knows this. Everyone knows that the price being quoted is based on everything going better than expected (that never happens), it's based on a really well defined scope that doesn't change (that also never happens). We're willfully bad at these things due to a sort of mass hysteria and collective, unspoken agreement that we will all pretend that this quote is as accurate as it can be and this scope is as accurate as it can be, when deep down, we all know really that it's all wishful thinking. Everyone plays by those rules and so we are all forced to play by those rules.
It might sound cynical, but seriously, almost every single project of any consequence, whether it be national infrastructure, technology, architectural and so on and so forth fails to meet someone's expectations. Either it is late or over budget or both or the scope is so drastically reduced to stay within the confines of time and money that the result is basically useless and really serves no purpose other than satisfying a very deliberately worded contractual document.
So what does this have to do with bodging? Well I put it to you that if we can all agree how bad, deliberately or otherwise we are at actually planning and executing complex works over long periods of time, especially in an IT setting, we may as well restructure the bidding processes to a "bodge off". Get all the interested parties to come along and bodge their little hearts out for a couple of weeks and see just how well everyone does. Go with the best bodgers.
This might sound stupid, you might think I'm joking here, but really this is already getting some traction. I'm having a bit of a mental blank, but you might have been involved in a "hot house" session or a "something-a-thon" or a whatever it's called. Getting a bunch of people together and time boxing an exercise for them to come up with ideas and execute at least a rough and ready prototype of a solution gives a good return in terms of value gained versus time spent. It's a great way to run a one off session or a project really. Obviously the things that are initially bodged are iterated over to improve quality over time, but we are allowed to quickly prototype and "fail fast" and all that other good stuff.
Afterall, what the hell do you think Agile is if not a fancy name for bodging?