We all know that it's important to invest in improving, editing, polishing, finalizing or in some way taking a second look at our work. I expect this when I work with clients and you expect it as part of your work. What I see is that the "iterative approach" all too often morphs into a cover for the need to do failure work--that is, doing the same work over and over because it was so poorly done the first few times. While there are true uses for an iterative approach, too often the concept of iterations is applied inappropriately to other work.
Using the iterative mindset as a cover for failure work is insidious. It seeps into the habits of the organization and is an attitude that becomes part of the culture. People expect to have many opportunities to get things right and routinely schedule their work to allow for it. There is no demand to get the best work done early.
The worst part about the practice of iterations that turns into part of the company culture is that it allows for--even calls for--those with ultimate authority to defer their participation until the first few iterations are passed. "Why bother to provide input early," these decision-makers think, "when there will be several more iterations before it becomes worth my time?"
I would love to see these decision makers use their authority to set expectations for far fewer iterations. They would provide their requirements and guidance at the very beginning, the team would have clear directions to follow, could check off their work against the guidance, and thereby reduce their own failure work.
Decision-makers: why not address the time-wasting, energy-depleting acceptance of failure work? Team members, why not ask your decision-makers for their guidance early, explaining that it is a way to reduce failure work, freeing you up to do new, additinal, value-enhancing work?