Context: Creative people—such as engineers, designers, managers, researchers, lawyers, architects and investors—increasingly work in project teams.
Creative teams take too long
Creative people often brush off customers with, “It will be done when it’s done!” If creative professionals had done it before, we could expect them to estimate and deliver on time, but copying isn’t creative, and real creativity naturally involves uncertainty. Many have tried to impose detailed planning to creative efforts, but overplanning has produced extraordinary failures costing billions of dollars [char2005]. Nevertheless, the value of creative work often depends on timely delivery, and patrons can become desperate.
Context: We have a goal requiring creative effort. We want to succeed.
Overplanning increases risk …
When embarking on a creative project, success seems certain. We plan optimistically, and then almost immediately after we start, delays and challenges emerge. The plan and likely outcome keep diverging. We become more realistic. We double down on effort. We plan with more detail, but encounter even more problems.
Context: When unimpeded by outside forces, we rapidly adapt to circumstances and succeed, but this perfect independence rarely exists.
Problem: External factors limit our flow …
We don’t have the knowledge, specialty resources, elasticity or authorization to do everything ourselves, but relying on others puts us at risk.
Context: We measure our economic progress and experiment with processes and products. However, experiments can take a long time, and failures can have huge costs. We have a lot of balls in the air, a lot of inventory to sell, and a lot of great stuff that isn’t quite done yet.
We have a problem …
We adapt too slowly …
Creative people with limited resources, such as product managers, developers, CEOs, investors and artists, must choose which items to assess, staff or fund. They compare value, cost, flexibility and risk to make a decision.
Faced with too many options, we choose badly …
Pattern languages can help us understand complex systems. Read how pattern languages work, and how you can write your own. We are defining agility and its practices using a pattern language called the Agile Canon. Using the first five patterns in the Agile Canon, you can diagnose whether your team is agile, whether it can keep its agility, and whether it expands agility beyond the team’s boundaries.
Context: Plenty of data informs us. We can forecast when things will happen. Our progress metrics are aligned with long term goals. But externalities impede our progress: competitors emerge, delays harm us. We are passive victims of outside circumstance.
Reacting to events can be too late …
We suspect unknown dangers, economic loss, and growing ineffectiveness. Our friends reassure us, choosing their words carefully. Existing data is eerily stable. We aren’t learning anything new.
Context: It takes us time to decide to fix problems, and we let some problems fester because we don’t want to get anywhere near them. When we are on a team, we can blame someone or something else for a problem, and often do. We might blame our own permanent flaws for a problem, feeling guilty. None of this blaming seems to fix anything, but we stick to our comfort zone. Pitching in to fix problems can associate us with the problem and put us in danger. It might be a tar baby.
We delay improvement by avoiding responsibility, leaving problems unresolved…
Creative organizations, teams and leaders often encounter problems, as they explore new frontiers.
Seeking to prevent a problem’s recurrence, our biases may lead to a dysfunctional “fix”…
Context: We can study others who succeed, imitate their activities and gain their skills. But these activities create nothing new. Once we have reached their capabilities, how do we know if we’ve improved?
Long-term success metrics provide poor short-term guidance …