First Principles

How many different schools of thought within business, within management, product development, project management, process and methodology management do you know?

None maybe? You just get on with it, right?

Two or three? Waterfall, Agile, er… Six Sigma.

Which are you using? Do you know? How would you pick if you were asked to choose a new one? Have you ever started to dig into it all?

Let’s just look at software engineering, as we all seem to be in that game to some extent. There’s Waterfall, V-Model, Spiral, Iterative & Incremental, Scrum, Kanban, Disciplined Agile Delivery, SAFe, Feature Driven Development, eXtreme Programming, blah blah… I could go on and on!

Here’s the thing. The schools of thought could be multiplied ad infinitum. We could have religious wars about which is best where and why. Some folks do and make good money out of their methodology arms-race.

All those schools, and the dozens of others you can find, were at some point a perfect fit for someone somewhere.

Excited by their results, they thought they had “The Answer”. Some went on to try and sell that to others, convinced and convincing, that they could help. Such good intentions.

What works in one place, in a world that is as complex as ours, might not work at another. In fact, it might be harmful despite all protestations that it should work just fine. “We tried that, it didn’t work…”

But when you dig into them all, there is at heart a relatively stable underlying set of principles, a philosophy, that is more or less consistent across them all. If you understand that philosophy, that source, then you have access to whole new worlds of what’s possible in your work. You could even pick an existing school of thought that really would be a good fit, you could Frankenstein together a new approach from the parts of others (“It’s alive!”), you might even be able to generate one from a clear blue sky that’s a perfect fit for you.

That’s what I find interesting.

I’m designing workshops with the intention of helping people become familiar and skillful with those first principles, and so become dramatically more effective, fulfilled, and successful in their work.

If you are interested, drop me a line at

Like what you read? Give Wisdom at Work a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.