Culture, part 4: Agility
This is the fourth installment in my Culture series. Agility is how we get things done effectively and efficiently. It is the best way for us to reach Excellence and relies on our focus on Truth. It enables performance.
Break work into small batches. The utter core of agility is to break tasks down into small batches, in fact into the smallest viable unit, and get that batch done 100%, review, learn, adjust plans if necessary, and then move on to the next small batch. This simple approach allows us to dramatically lower the risk of projects -- improving both quality and time to market -- by giving us continuous opportunity to learn and adjust along the way. “Big bang” projects, where you toil for a long period of time before having anything to show for it, are almost destined to fail. The ‘small batch’ approach is the heart of the Lean movement, which is just another way way of looking at Agile. Not only do you want to keep each batch small, but you should strive for utmost simplicity in the whole project. That is how you move fast and light.
Be Antifragile. Agility is by its nature Antifragile. The continuous Agile process of learning from the past, taking in new inputs from the present, being able and willing to change course, and back up when you’re headed down the road, is the heart of why biological systems can resist entropy and in fact grow strong in the face of adversity. Agility / antifragility naturally give you optionality, which is a powerful form of leverage.
Try stuff out. When you have a small batch mentality, it is easy to try stuff out. Each ‘try’ is of limited cost and risk, and the payoff is innovation. Making lots of small controlled experiments, perhaps in parallel with multiple teams, if that’s feasible, and then having the discipline to choose the best option and walk away from the others, is how real innovation takes place and shows the critical link between innovative thinking and agile execution.
Think like a startup. Sometimes the blank canvas can be the biggest impediment to getting started. Constraint & necessity are the mothers of invention. Need drives innovation drives creative thinking, not the other way around. So embrace the constraints and challenges that confront you — they may be the catalyst you require to do something extraordinary. And don’t waste resources. In a startup, you are highly constrained by many things, but most obviously by money to invest. You have to be frugal. It’s not different in a large company: having lots of money does not mean having unlimited money, and you still have to prioritize and make wise choices about where to place your bets. Put in the effort to not waste money on the little things so that we have more to put against the stuff that matters.
Be Scrappy. Leverage what you have. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Stand on the shoulders of giants. Progress in the world is largely incremental (even when it takes an unexpected direction) and builds on what came before. Likewise, tap into the collective intelligence, creativity, and experience of those around you to help accelerate your efforts and get that critical feedback before your next iteration. That’s the power of partnership.
>> Culture, part 5: Confidence
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Philip Brittan is the General Partner of Crazy Peak LLC
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