Is a Crusher the same thing as a Spike?

Category: Rocks

Yes and no.

Yes, because both a spike and a crusher serve a similar purpose, which is to create the knowledge we need to make better decisions moving forward.

No, because a crusher is for learning about the problem space, while most of us associate a spike with learning how to implement a specific solution. This may sound like we are being a bit academic, but we have several justifications for simply not re-using the term spike:

  • First, the term spike has a very strong meaning for software development teams, and expanding the definition may have come across as confusing. Our industry has a very bad habit of creating confusion by overloading well-known terms. Consider the challenges people have with terminology like Epics, and Capabilities.
  • Second, the usual scope of a spike is maybe a day or two of investigative work, whereas a crusher may be close to the full duration of a sprint.
  • Finally, the term Crusher fits nicely into the Rock Crusher model metaphor. The term was inspired by the additional ore processing steps in the mining industry, where heavy steel balls are added to the rock crushing process. Some mining processes also use what are call “rod mills” where instead of heavy balls, heavy rods are used to crush mineral bearing ore.

A Ball Mill for Crushing Mineral Bearing Ore