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Balance
 
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Balance

Posted in [Strategy] By Mike Jones

Now that I have proposed a Strategy Pattern for Agile, it is time to pick it apart a bit. After all, it is only a model, and a stereotypical one at that.

Jim Highsmith hits the balance issue on the head in Agile Project Development:

Agile Teams can place too much emphasis on adaptation or evolution and too little on anticipation (in planning, architecture, design, requirements definition). Failure to take advantage of knowable information leads to sloppy planning, reactive thinking, excessive rework and delay. Remember: Agility is the art of balancing.

This suggests that one cannot ignore the upper quadrants of the strategy diagram. From a company culture point of view, how do you pull that off? I suggest that what one does not want are tribes within an organization subscribing to one of the four strategies trying to balance each other, say executives operating from Planning and developers operating from Adaptive. This creates a us vs. them mentality. The idea would be for stakeholders to know how (behaviorally) to operate from all quadrants, but as a minimum, from one on the predicability side and one on the non-predictability side. This flexibility allows teams to draw from both.

I imagine balance as development loops taking paths through quadrants like a chaotic attractor that bifurcates as needed to include whatever quadrant is required given the reality the company faces. The role of executive leadership is to gently push the pattern into the shape required whenever it is stuck in a maladaptive pattern. It gets stuck whenever someone lacks flexibility or foresight to recognize that the current pattern is maladaptive.

How do you create such an organization? Leadership, proper selection employees, coaching, education, example, collaboration, etc. Lot of soft skill stuff. There is a natural tendency to use control, but I think this is one place where control is helpless. Creating balance is more like guiding emergence than putting rockets into space.

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