If you know the way broadly you will see it in everything.
– Miyamoto Musashi
This is my agile field manual. It is based on economics and military leadership principles and its purpose is to deliver wins.
This field manual is evolving, it borrows from everywhere, especially Jocko Willink’s podcast and book Extreme Ownership (with Leif Babin), and the Unforgiving 60 podcast. Please see the References page for details.
The logic is simple:
- Agile methods for prioritisation and execution maximise results. This is because agile expects and manages the pervasive uncertainty inherent to complex and rapidly evolving situations.
- Leadership and constrained optimisation thinking are the key factors for successful agility.
- War and market economics are the best sources of wisdom as these disciplines focus on optimal risk-return decision making, and winning team leadership.
WINNING Results are the value derived from achieving objectives. Results are maximised when creativity and productivity are maximised. 1. Objectives – Must be stated, agreed, and backed by clear strategic intentions. They should have measurable success criteria and be related to meaningful purposes. 2. Creativity – Ideas maximise value. They are expected from everyone. Communication and trial drive creativity. Creative reflection should be given to everything, including strategy, quality, and productivity. 3. Productivity – Efficiency is driven by communication, a focus on objectives, and an understanding of the strategic context. Productivity should be visible, high quality, and minimise waste.
LEADERSHIP MISSION FIRST, TEAM ALWAYS. Leaders maximise creativity and productivity through relationships and standards that optimise communication and ownership. 1. Ownership – Enshrine a culture of Extreme Ownership*, everyone owns the objectives, owns the design and quality assurance, owns the problems and owns the solutions. The leader never blames anyone, does not make excuses, and always gives the credit to others. 2. Relationships – Are driven by communication so lead people not resources, lead in all directions, out-flank instead of attacking fortified positions. LISTEN to everyone. Be humble but not silent, respectful but not passive, disciplined but not inflexible. Give purpose, autonomy and mastery. 3. Standards – Are set by the leader, and are not what is stated but what is demonstrably accepted. Details and thoroughness do matter. Be disciplined but adaptable. "Take the high ground or the high ground will take you."
EXECUTION Creativity and productivity are maximised when actions are prioritised, agile and disciplined. Understanding the objectives are imperative to tactical agility. 1. Prioritise - Determine where you and understand the objectives and strategy. Prioritise to maximise the effectiveness of the next immediate actions. Give value to actions that reduce uncertainty and minimise high impact risks. Remember that every action, including planning and trialling, has a cost and an opportunity cost. 2. Optimise Agility – Embrace uncertainty and learn from it by having a bias to act. Be "default aggressive" but be prepared to tactically pivot. Track outcomes, detach and re-evaluate effectiveness, re-prioritise and decisively adapt. The strategy should be in the tactics. 3. "Discipline = Freedom"* - Agile is a response to uncertainty. Be disciplined but not inflexible. Without discipline the uncertainty will overwhelm. With discipline creativity and productivity will thrive in the face of uncertainty. Ignore this at your peril.