Thought-provoking post by Jurgen Appelo on the teleology of software projects (post here, check the perceptive comments too). More properly, he points out that projects do not have a goal in and of themselves. In his words, they don’t have intrinsic goals (other than self-preservation).
For me, this insight points to the limits of self-organization in initiatives. IMO, without some degree of design — or extrinsic goals — a self-organized system (or pieces of that system) can get off the rails. There is a tremendous amount of power in emergent-friendly systems — that’s what social media is all about. For example, what emerges from Wikipedia is clearly emergent, but it has a explicit goal and with an extrinsic design model:
Finding the proper balance between design and emergence is a fascinating topic. In fact, my take is that this topic is the subtext of many of the arguments among methodology adherents — waterfall vs. agile.
I’m always a bit leery of purist arguments. In fact, I have a syncretist’s instinct to “square the circle”. Perhaps what I’m looking for is something like Deng Xiaoping’s modifications to traditional Marxist dogma… How about “Waterfall with Agile Characteristics”?