In the previous post: Are you Agile? In business? In Life? Three practical practices Based on our practical consulting and coaching experience we discussed three of the six criteria to verify whether an approach is Agile: Adaptation, Incremental Iteration and Time boxing. In this post we describe the remaining three: Assuming an empirical approach to problems and challenges, Focusing on the important rather than on the urgent, and being Collaborative customer driven.
Assuming an empirical approach to problems and challenges – an empirical approach suggests that solving problems and overcoming challenges is based on observation and experimentation. Many times it involves a creative investigation of solutions. An empirical approach can be contrasted with the theoretical approach which many organizations employ.
One of my clients in research and development of aeronautical components spent too much time theorizing possible solutions to complex engineering challenges; lagging behind the competition. They collected data, analyzed and projected in order to apply it according to a theoretical model without practical results. By implementing an empirical approach, as part of their Agile transition, they proactively changed structural elements and followed through according to the results, similar to software spiking, thus receiving faster feedback, reducing risks, and progressing faster.
Agile individuals and organizations prefer to experiment and observe rather than theorize. Acting based on a given set of data, observing the results and tweaking/updating the approach to yield better results. This is quite similar to the Deming Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle which is the basis of the Agile reflection.
In this sense, being empirical, assuming an empirical approach to problems and challenges is a bit like being a Satisfier rather than an optimizer.
Families and individuals can also experiment with being empirical, by committing to small changes, observing the results and changing their environment in the process. Rather than preparing a thorough plan to change the dietary intake, practically altering small elements and observing the impacts.
Much of my Gestalt therapeutic work is based on the empirical approach of small experimental changes – the personal results are always impressive.
Retrospect – are the meetings you lead, involve an innovative empirical approach to learning? Or are you wasting time theorizing and procrastinating without moving to action?
Focusing on the important rather than on the urgent – this well-known technique which is at the epicenter of Time management training, is crucial to enabling Agility for individuals and organizations.
Jonathan Mead author of the blog JonathanMead.com discusses his 5 Ways to Stay Focused on the Important
- Set 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) for the day
- Focus on providing value
- Think long-term
- First things first
- Have a clear vision
The concept of Urgent and Important in time management, reminds me of the Parkinson’s law of triviality. According to Wikipedia:
Parkinson’s law of triviality, also known as bike-shedding, bike-shed effect, or the bicycle-shed example, is C. Northcote Parkinson’s 1957 argument that organizations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues. Parkinson observed and illustrated that a committee whose job is to approve plans for a nuclear power plant spent the majority of its time with pointless discussions on relatively trivial and unimportant but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bike-shed, while neglecting the less-trivial proposed design of the nuclear power plant itself, which is far more important but also a far more difficult and complex task to criticize constructively.
Agility in organizations is more than just focusing on the Urgent and Important; it is also knowing what is important, what delivers value, what is crucial to the client and focusing the efforts on the important items.
Retrospect – do you regularly update your weekly important and urgent lists?
Collaborative customer driven – we kept this criterion to the end, and yet it is by no means of lesser importance, on the contrary. Agile approaches are collaborative development efforts, focusing on the customer. The ongoing, mutual impacting and trustful exchange with the customer is crucial in achieving Agility.
Collaborative customer driven is actually a result of the first five criteria:
- Adaptation allows us to change the process according to the market and the customers;
- Incremental iteration enables verification and delivery of small elements – thus the commitment is limited in scope and the frequent feedback enables a change of course when necessary;
- Time boxing grants predictability while limiting the allocated time and budget/resources to a certain effort – often increasing the visibility towards the customer;
- Empirical approach is cornerstone in moving forward and providing innovative, breakthrough solution, many times involving the customer;
- Focusing on the important rather than the urgent, demands an understanding of what is important, what delivers value and what is crucial to the customer.
Agile approaches instill a collaborative environment, inviting the client to participate in the process, while aligning the process according to the customer.
The above practical tests together with the three described in the previous post, validate if an individual and an organization is Agile.
Can you rank your organization according to the six criteria?
Meanwhile I invite you to read: Agile Decisions – Agile Decisions – Driving Effective Agile Decisions in Business published this June, which discusses the relationship between local Agile decisions and top down command and control decision processes.