The phrase ‘Empirical process’ sounds so formal but in reality it just means learning from experience. It’s one of those things that you do all the time but don’t know the name for, like having awful griffonage or struggling with dysania in the morning.
When in reality…
Griffonage just means illegible handwriting.
Dysania refers to the state of finding it hard to get out of bed.
AND empirical means relying on observation/experience.
So, how about a real-life scenario of the empirical process then?
It’s a cold morning and you have just woken up after having a really good nights sleep. You inevitably crawl out of bed wearing your duvet as cape and glance at the time. The dread sets in, It’s 9 o’clock and you’ve already missed your first meeting.
You do the office walk of shame and profusely apologise to your colleagues. Worst start to the week ever…
By the end of the day, you have already decided that you don’t want the same thing to happen tomorrow. You probably just went to bed way too late last night and will go to bed 4 hours earlier ( just to be certain of course).
You have tragically woken up at 4 am and for the life of you, you can’t get back to sleep.
For the rest of the week you keep on adjusting what you’re doing until you find that perfect balance of a good nights sleep and waking up in time for work.
This is exactly how it works when you do Scrum in the Tech industry. We iterate over and over until we get the outcome we wanted by learning from our experiences.
The Three Pillars of Empiricism
If you think of the ground as empiricism, imagine three plants that have grown from that soil and pop out of the ground. Those plants are called Transparency, Inspection and Adaption.
Transparency means having all the facts available to you. It’s like in our scenario one, if you weren’t aware of what time you went to bed the previous night or how much caffeine you had, how will you ever know what caused the problem in the first place?
Inspection forces you to look at all of those transparent variables and work out where you think it all went wrong. Imagine for our scenario one, sitting having a coffee break at work, walking through the events of last night. You look through your calendars/todo lists and realise all the things that prevented you from waking up in time. The top of that problems list was probably not setting an alarm…
Okay, so now what? You have a clear picture of everything that’s happened. You’ve looked back and can recognise what went wrong. Now all that’s left is to make those changes and adapt. Once you have adapted you can look back and learn which changes led to which outcome.