The CynAgileanUXanbanicrumify Method

3.0, ™, Copyright 1885–2016

In this past month, I have used the following practices, methodologies, perspectives, etc. I’ve flattened the list (many are related and nest logically):

Agile, Modern Agile, Lean, Lean Product Development, Lean UX, Agile UX, Design Thinking, Jobs-To-Be-Done, Scrum, Lean Analytics, Kanban, Kanban Method, Enterprise Service Planning, Google Ventures Sprint Process, The Spotify Model (and Henrik Kniberg ‘s work more generally), Organize for Complexity, Impact Mapping, Cynefin, Management 3.0, Lean Startup, Customer Development, Radical Focus (OKRs), Don Reinertsen’s The Principles of Product Development: Flow, Systems Thinking

I am eternally grateful for the great work these communities and individuals have done. My personal ROI to learn, mix, match, and apply these methods has been amazing. Sure it looks like a buzzword soup. But that’s what learning is all about. “Consume responsibly! Test for staining!”

If you think its easy to do research, write a book, organize conferences, give talks, complete projects, and [ — — — — ] you are mistaken. Sure, much of it isn’t “new” (and the curators wouldn’t claim otherwise) but the presentation is crisp and thoughtful. In some cases — take Lean and Agile, for example — the body of work is massive, spanning decades and tens of thousands of people. Sure, some people want to cash in. But don’t we all, on some level?

Put bluntly, there are no shortage of ideas and perspectives to apply to your current challenge. Perhaps too many. It is a “learner’s market” … you’ve got a lot to work with. However ….

In most cases, organizations are not blocked because they picked the “wrong model”. Rather, they are blocked because their organization lacks the pre-requisites for experimentation, reflection, and continuous improvement (a challenge addressed in many of these approaches, though often glossed over by the reader). Or they’re truly burdened by past decisions. There’s nothing original in this observation. We’ve all played the old salt reminding people that there is no magic bullet. There’s a reason why it took years for Inuit to adopt a design thinking approach.

That said, I find myself making the same mistakes repeatedly:

  • Taking too broad of a systems thinking approach. Sometimes the problem is truly local. You’ve got a toxic, power hungry, maniacal person in a position of power. And that sucks. Granted, the fact that they remain in power is the root cause, but I digress :)
  • You can’t measure someone’s passion for change by how loud/quite they are. Some people love to complain. Others are scared to speak out. Partner and form alliances with care
  • Timing. Many orgs are digging out from a mountain of ____ debt. It manifests as having product issues, but the reality is that nothing tangibly will happen in that area until they’ve worked out other issues
  • Assuming that folks feel safe to experiment and fail. An executive sponsor may be terrified at the prospect of trying X and failing on the first go round
  • Payday. Some people are just riding things out. They’re waiting to be 100% vested. They have a lot to win and gain. It doesn’t mean they approve of what’s going on, but just that they’ve come to peace with their desired outcome
  • The power of “good enough”. Because something is working moderately well doesn’t mean that 1) it will continue to work, 2) it can be improved upon without major changes. But that is difficult to explain and sometimes very difficult to refute
  • Only the “front-line” is bought in. Most of these approaches appeal to the front lines. But that doesn’t mean anyone else is paying attention. The reverse is often the case
  • Underestimating the sheer power of the status quo. It is easy to imagine it as static, instead of respecting the powerful dynamics required to keep something “stable”
  • Not being empathetic to “change PTSD” … namely, the prior damage of poorly thought out change initiatives done under the banner of a “way”. Lots of senior execs suffer from this, and it drives their skepticism
  • The need for people to own and take credit for improvements and change. In many cases the methodology is being “hired” to give a particular team member power and influence. And sometimes we fall into that trap ourselves. I’ve dealt with people who steadfastly resisted methodology X, and then embraced X+”UX” because they owned UX
  • Lack of shared understanding. My “customer focused” is your “UX obsessed” is their “build features to close the deal”
  • Limited CIP: change in progress. The limited capacity of any system to absorb change. It wont all happen at once
  • Believing everyone thinks and learns the same way
  • Not reflecting and retro-ing on the change effort itself. Is it working? Why? Why not?

So, when mixing and matching your favorite perspectives (or implementing your own), remember to keep this all in mind. Work first on the operating system: cultivating an environment friendly to experimentation, reflection, and continuous improvement. And then go to town at a sustainable pace.

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