Can we apply Agile ideas to the definition and execution of Strategy for our businesses? Trent Hone, award winning Naval historian, Karl Scotland, Agile Strategy pioneer, and Henri Mårtensson, long time author on the topic of business strategy got together to discuss just that.
What is Agile Strategy?
We start this episode by discussing what is Agile Strategy, and how that differs how we apply agile ideas in our business.
Agile Strategy is loosely based on previous strategy work, and we discuss the OODA loop (Orient, Observe, Decide, Act) that was developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd. Boyd applied his strategy experience in the military to other domains in a way that favors agility over raw power.
The OODA loop helps understand how, even the development of strategy is a discovery endeavour (what is the right strategy?), that requires an empirical process, based on defining assumptions (the stated strategy), and then iteratively progressing to adapt it to the information we learn when we try to apply it.
What is Skin in the Game? And how does it apply to Strategy?
During the conversation we drift into the topic of #SkinInTheGame and why in Strategy definition and application it is important that the people defining the Strategy are also responsible for its execution/results.
Strategy can be developed collaboratively in a process called “Catchball” (some refer to it as “backbriefing”), to further improve shared understanding, and involve all those executing the Strategy in its definition.
We also refer to
- Steve Bungay: The Art of Action, a book that influenced the participants in their definition of what is Agile Strategy.
- Crawford slip, a collective brainstorming method
- Theory of Constraints, a method to drive continuous improvement of organizations and processes
How to get started with Agile Strategy in my work?
At the end of the podcast, we do a round-table discussion on the methods and tools that the participants have used in their work to apply the ideas and concepts of Agile Strategy.
In this part of the conversation, we discuss what is needed to define Strategy, how to do it with a larger (or smaller) group of participants, and the importance of looking at Strategic Options as experiments that are to be proven in practice when execution starts.
- The X-Matrix tool for Strategy definition by Karl Scotland, and TASTE, the acronym that defines its components
- Trent Hone’s book on naval strategy: Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898–1945
- And Tempo, a business novel by Henrik Mårtensson on how to step by step move from strategic vision to feasible execution plan.
About the participants
Trent Hone is a Managing Consultant with Excella Consulting (blog) and an award-winning naval historian. He helps software and IT organizations improve their art of practice, increase effectiveness, and accelerate learning. Trent regularly writes and speaks about organizational learning, doctrine, and strategy and how the three interrelate. He has presented at the Annual North American Agile Conference, Lean Kanban North America, Lean Agile Scotland, the Society of Military History’s Annual Meeting, the McMullen Naval History Symposium, and other conferences. His latest book, Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898–1945, will be published in June 2018.
Karl Scotland has, over the last 15 years been an advocate of Lean and Agile approaches to achieve this, working with companies including the BBC, Yahoo!, EMC Consulting, Rally Software, Cisco and SDL. During this time, he was a pioneer of using Kanban Systems and Strategy Deployment for product development, a founding member of both the Lean Systems Society and Limited WIP Society, as well as being active in the community and a regular conference speaker. He has been awarded the honorary Brickell Key Community Contribution Award at the 2013 Lean Kanban North America conference.
Henrik Mårtensson is a systems thinker. He works with companies and other organizations to solve complex problems:
- How to make companies more agile and resilient
- How to make work more fun and engaging
- How to shape and communicate strategies effectively
- How to reduce costly lead times
Henrik writes to bridge the current gap between theory and practice in management and leadership. He provides strategy coaching, and helps improve processes. His presentations, live and on video casts, have been seen by more than 70,000 people.