It’s hard to escape the influence that the Lean and Agile movements have had on innovation-driven enterprises. They have grown from their manufacturing and software roots to converge in the new product development, innovation and start-up space. And done mostly good things along the way.
I’ve attended conferences with tracks devoted to each discipline and witnessed a few encounters between their disciples that have ranged from attempts to harmonize, minimize or demonize the precepts of the “other side”. All way above my pay grade …
What’s not beyond my reach is to see where the two movements must necessarily and finally converge – at lean and agile thinking. And because they are primarily focused on creating a new and better future, that implies lean and agile decisions.
Methodologies that address how to attack complex challenges can’t reverse the arrow of time or change the fundamental human condition. To change the course of the future, a human being must make a decision (or many) in the present. Those who make decisions (and follow through on them) create the future; those who don’t live in the world decided by others or by entropy.
Neither Lean nor Agile change the fact that human beings must break down a complex strategy or design challenge into smaller thinking “chunks” aka decisions or that these decisions follow a pattern that can be reused to create a Decision Breakdown Structure (DBS). Neither control the reality that decisions vary in their importance such that the DBS can be simplified into a Top Ten Decision List to guide a team’s time and attention.
Neither Lean nor Agile change the essential data it takes to inform a decision. Their decisions still require criteria that express what stakeholders’ value. They will need to generate a set of alternatives for each decision; possible solutions to the problem posed by the decision “question”. They will need to gather data to estimate how effective their alternatives are at satisfying the criteria and score alternatives holistically against them. Their alternatives are subject to failure, so they will be wise to capture risks that could prevent a great alternative from reaching its potential. Any alternative that they commit to implement will have consequences – derived requirements that constrain other decisions or implementation tasks that will drive their project plan.
In short, Lean and Agile are great complements to a Decision Management process; they are never a replacement for this critical enterprise capability. Wherever you are in your Lean and Agile journey, please think about how these methods will help you make the decisions that will create your future. If you want to get there faster, please give us a holler at firstname.lastname@example.org.