Possibly the greatest barrier to becoming agile is dealing with the illusions of causality and certainty . In a production environment in which requirements and technology are relatively stable, we are better able to predict the futureto plan and expect conformance to that plan. As uncertainty in the external world increases , though, managers who have been successful in stable environments attempt to apply the same processes and performance measures to unstable environments. Their certaintyand the belief that if they just push hard enough they can "cause" the right results is likely to result in failure rather than success.
Causality is easier to believe in than emergence; it's more tangible . Yet nature thrives on emergent results. Evolution itselfadapting to ecosystem changesis an emergent process fueled by experimentation. Every individual action changes an ecosystem and fosters other changes in response. Just as a theatre play emerges from the interaction of actors, playwright, director, and the audience, a product emerges from the interaction of project team members , the product and project managers, customers, and competitors . But the illusion of certainty continues because in many organizations it's considered poor form to be other than certain. The certainty should be in the vision and the broad goals, not the specific path to reach that vision. When we confuse vision and path , we confuse causality and emergence.
New product development isn't Plan-Do but Envision-Explore. Where there is no uncertainty, no risk, there is no opportunity. Production projects are controlled by predicting schedule, cost, and scope. NPD projects are constrained by schedule and cost in order to deliver on vision. Scope is restrictive , vision expansive, yet vision isn't "anything goes." Poor visioning leads to uncontrolled experimentation in the same way that overly detailed requirements lead to rigid compliance.
It's important to remember that no product, and no organization, can be infinitely agile in all dimensions. Agility always occurs within certain boundariesplatform architectures for products, organizational frameworks for people. It balances structure and flexibility, dependence and autonomy. A restrictive architecture reduces a product's ability to respond to the product vision and market ecosystem, while too little architecture increases the likelihood of increased cost, duplication, and suboptimization. A restrictive organizational framework reduces a team's ability to respond to changing conditions, while too little framework causes chaos and confusion.
The martial arts are all about balance. Whether defending or attacking, martial artists keep their bodies centered and in balance. Project management artists should also be in balance. Finding that balance is key to agility, and it isn't easy; there isn't a formula. The balance point for every product, for every project team, is different. Finding that balance point requires technical excellence, because it builds both quickness and agility. Skill, talent, and knowledge breed quicknesscompelling people to go faster breeds hurrying. Agility can only be achieved through an unwavering focus on technical excellence.
The Agile Revolution
Guiding Principles: Customers and Products
Guiding Principles: Leadership-Collaboration Management
An Agile Project Management Model
The Envision Phase
The Speculate Phase
The Explore Phase
The Adapt and Close Phases
Building Large Adaptive Teams