December 2015 - End of year, new subject line and workshop promo

Agile is not a substitution for vision

Using Agile to define vision is not a strategy. It's bad leadership.

Scotland, in this case Edinburgh, is beautiful in any season and from any angle.

In his blog post from 2011, Mike Cottmeyer, an agile consultant and coach, listed off the 13 most common reasons his clients began their agile transformation. The list contains reasons like, “faster time to marketâ€, “early ROI†and “risk reduction and predictability.†My sense is that this spectrum of drivers falls along a timeline that reflects agile’s increasing rate of adoption over the past 15 years. Speculating further (me, not Mike), I would guess that items like “cultureâ€, “morale†and “feedback from real customers†are near the beginning of that timeline with “faster time to market†being the overwhelming driver today. One thing missing from Mike’s list is “to find our strategic vision.â€Poor implementation of Agile along with Lean Startup in the enterprise has led to a rising chorus of critiques lately that these methods are being used as crutches for organizations that lack a strong strategic vision. The critique continued that these processes serve as a substitution for a clear vision using experimentation, iteration and continuous learning to “feel their way through the dark†to a solution (and de facto vision) that works well enough.It’s worth pointing out the flaws in this argument. Mike’s list is over four years old now, but the number one item on there still holds true. Agile, as it’s being implemented today by most companies, is an attempt to make software delivery more efficient and predictable. This may not have been its original intent but that is the primary driver for its adoption in my experience. Lean is a manufacturing philosophy focused on reducing waste through continuous improvement and optimization of flow. Lean Startup is a methodology designed to help organizations learn which solutions stand the greatest chance for success. None of these methods explicitly tells an organization WHAT they should work on at the strategic level. Strong opinions about market opportunities and ways to capitalize on them are core to the success of any business. Your corporate leaders are abdicating their responsibilities if they’re iterating their way to corporate vision. This is not the fault of a specific methodology or process. It’s just bad leadership.

Early last week I announced a significant change for me personally and professionally in 2016. The short of it is that I've decided to move on from Neo and go into business for myself. The slightly longer version of the story can be found here.I hope to collaborate with many of you in the months and years to come.

To kick off my new solo adventures I'm hitting the road to some of my favorite cities in the world in Q1 of next year. The list is below. I hope to see you and your teams there.Happy holidays and a joyous new year to you all. Thanks for an amazing 2015.Upcoming workshops:

Paris - January 11-12, 2016 (a 2-day event with my friend Tomer Sharon)

New York City - February 4, 2016 (hosted by Pearson Education)

Richmond, VA - February 9, 2016 (hosted by SnagAJob)

Tokyo, Japan - Feb 17, 2016 (hosted by IDEO)

Toronto, Canada - March 1, 2016 (hosted by Telus and The Lean Enterprise Meetup)

Don't see your city? Let me know. I look forward to seeing you next year.


Have you signed up to learn about my new book with Lean UX co-author Josh Seiden?


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