The Tick-Tock Innovation Model Applied to Agile Methodology

You’ve probably heard of the tick-tock model that Intel is using.

It’s a model where every 18 months, there’s a new focus on the chip architecture: the tick is a shrinking of the chip (which requires retrofitting their manufacturing process to support the smaller size) and the tock is an upgrade of the architecture itself, using the current manufacturing process.

I’m trying out a similar model with my team. We’ve been very successful with our sprint goals so far, but one thing that I’ve seen is that the goals are decided just then and there. Tick-tock is a refinement of the sprint goal determination process.

With every Tick, the primary focus is on the development of new features (plus business as usual stories, bug fixes etc). With every Tock we spend more time on refactoring, code quality, updating standards, documentation, and cleanup (and of course any new feature that is deemed “very urgent that it can’t wait another week,” as well as bugfixes.

From the retrospectives, I’ve seen that many of my team’s speedbumps (which deals mostly with legacy code) come from code that isn’t as good quality as we hoped. Every new feature and code that we write is already up to standards, but it’s the older code that keeps us from going forward as fast as we can.

Tick-tock will allow us to maintain an innovation cadence while making sure we start paying our debts before they overwhelm us.


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