What’s my plan? That’s a question I was asked recently. It occurred to me in that moment that I didn’t have one. Sure. I had a vision, I knew the next few steps, and I knew where I wanted my teams to get. However, the longer term was fuzzy, and it depended on how a few bets panned out. Those bets would tell me if I should amplify or dampen something we were doing. So if I didn’t have a plan, what did I have?
I realized what I had instead was a north star. Well, maybe a few of them. Or maybe they’re better described as a set of heuristics? Guiding principles? I don’t know what to call them. What I do know is I’ve collected them over the last decade as an agilist, and they drive my decisions and how I interact with world around me. They look something like this:
- People over everything. Always. In all things.
- Favor others’ solutions to your own. It provides them ownership of the problem space and agency to execute in your absence.
- No good problem stays solved so never assume today’s solutions will solve tomorrow’s problems.
- A work place is a complex adaptive system. Treat it accordingly. Further, recognize the fallacy of best practices as it applies to effective teaming. (Reference: Cynefin)
- You’re rarely right. They’re rarely wrong.
- Plans need not be comprehensive, complicated, or complex. But they do need to be useful. Favor simplicity.
- Make it work. Then make it better. Then make it scale.
- Make decisions at the last responsible moment.
- Never use ten words when five will do.
- If you feel you’ve learned all there is to know, you’re obviously wrong.
- Success is a terrible teacher. Failure is a catalyst for learning. Teach those around you how to recognize failure and use it as opportunities for learning and growth.
- Favor questions over statements. Doing so inspires collaboration and thought, it diffuses confrontation, and it creates space for learning.
- Exercise a bias toward several domains: innocence, action, silence, and honesty.
- The tool is not the solution. After all, no one expects a hammer to swing itself.
It’s funny how, until recently, I had never thought to put to words many of these philosophies that I had internalized. Thanks goes to a colleague of mine–Hide–for inspiring this post. Now it’s your turn. Do you have a north star? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.