Project Management

Start at the end or the beginning? Perspective Counts!

From the The Agility Series Blog
The Agility Series focuses on agile and agility across the organization not just in software and product development. Areas of agility that will be covered in blog posts will include: - Organizational Agility - Leadership Agility - Strategic Agility - Value Agility - Delivery Agility - Business Agility - Cultural Agility - Client Agility - Learning Agility

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In my recent articles on Outcomes-focused Agility I talked about starting with the end in mind. I said that Outcomes-focused agility helps us to figure the WHY before we focus on the WHAT, WHEN, HOW, or WHERE of our portfolios, programmes, and projects, let alone which products we should build using Scrum. So it makes sense to start at the end.

This is of course premised on the idea that your starting point is from Vision and Strategy and you have to figure how to achieve certain results.

So when does it make sense to start at the beginning? When you want the process to help you determine where you are going! So what's an example of that? The Agility Series of books that we started last year.

When you decide you want to write a book (in a work-world context) it's usually because you feel you have something worth-while to share. Whether you write alone or have a co-author or two, you have a pretty good idea of what you want to write about. So when I wrote Agile Value Delivery: Beyond the Numbers (available here and here), I had already written a few blog posts that had some of the ideas. The rest were developed as it was written - but the core ideas and what the book would cover, were mostly figured out in advance. That is, the expected results were pretty much known.

The Agility Series, is an entirely different exercise. I have no idea where it`s going to end up. You can read more about the call to action here that we sent out for the second book we published in the series Leadership Agility: Enabling Sustainable Organizations. In it I ask potential participants to come on an adventure with me as the Agility Series Facilitator, as I have no idea where we end up together. It's an entirely different approach than an outcomes-focused one.

We start by asking a series of questions of a Wisdom Council, that I co-develop with 3 others, Jen Hunter of GreatWork, Claude Emond, and Charlotte Goudreault. We ask Council members to offer up individual ideas (as many as they'd like to) for each of the questions which range from 5 to 7 questions in total.

Once we get all of their ideas, we analyze them and look for common themes within each set of question responses. We then go back for the second round where we slightly re-word the questions and ask them to rank the themes in a series of pair-wise comparisons. From this set of results, I have the base for the book, to which I add our further analyses and complimentary research.

The cycle-time has been roughly 3-4 months for each of the first two books from start to finish. But when we start each book-writing exercise, we literally have no idea where it will end up. It's actually quite exhilarating to get started each time, and extremely rewarding when we finish.

The model is based on Jen's truly great work and model that she has used successfully in helping organizations make difficult decisions. By asking powerful questions, she is able to help clients identify the most compelling options to strategic choices that need to be made. In this way she able to help her clients get broad support from their stakeholders for the decisions they ultimately have to make. You can see an example of that over at her website.

So perspective counts when deciding whether to start at the beginning (with no idea of where it might lead), versus starting with the end in mind ,where you would first articulate the results you want to achieve.

The really interesting part, though, is this. With Outcomes-focused Agility we actually utilize both perspectives. We do indeed start at the end in order to determine what we need to do and the order (or sequence) in which we need to do it. But once we start, we adopt parts of what Jen uncovered in her work that helped her create her great work contribution to her clients. That's the agility-side of Outcomes-focused Agility, as we use an inspect and adapt mindset to iterate our strategies, and to also re-frame our expected results based on what we discover along the way.

So we start at the end, and also at the an iterative manner throughout delivery.

So what do you think? Beginning or end? Does perspective count?


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Posted on: January 11, 2017 07:40 AM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Alaa Hussein Program Manager| MEMECS Baghdad, Iraq
Totally agree Lawrence, thanks for your insightful article!

Mansoor Mustafa Senior PM| Government Department Rawalpindi Punjab, Pakistan
Thanks for sharing Lawrence

Najam Mumtaz Retired Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Keeping end in mind and then developing plans iteratively (applying corrections on the way) to reach the desired end result.
Yes perspective counts.

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