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    Entries in be like water (1)


    Agility – It’s not just for cats and coders anymore!

    Image: rkramer62 - Flickr

    Lately I’ve been trying really hard to implement a certain set of principles into every facet of my life.  I first found them as I was combing through key concepts behind the best teams of software developers in the world.  Based on a number of previous “lightweight” approaches to software development, a new system of development or workflow was codified at a meeting in Snowbird, Utah in 2001.  You can find more information here (or ask your favorite dev guru), but in particular, my thoughts were captured by the opening points of their Agile Manifesto:

    The Agile Manifesto

    We are uncovering better ways of developing software anything by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

    Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

    Working software anything over comprehensive documentation

    Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

    Responding to change over following a plan

    That is, while there is value in the items on the right…we value the items on the left more.

    You’ll notice that I made a couple small changes. This is because after examining their reasoning, I firmly believe that those values are applicable to all aspects of following your dreams and creating a business too. I have seen too many critical business decisions rely entirely on the right side of those rules. As pointed out above, you should certainly value plans, negotiations, documentation, and finding the tools/processes to get you where you want to go, but you should be very careful when doing so. If I had to pick out a theme to define each side, I might say that it comes down to fluidity vs. rigidity.

    Bruce Lee captured this beautifully in the following philosophy:

    Flow in the living moment. — We are always in a process of becoming and NOTHING is fixed. Have no rigid system in you, and you'll be flexible to change with the ever changing. OPEN yourself and flow, my friend. Flow in the TOTAL OPENNESS OF THE LIVING MOMENT. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.”

    If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. 

    Do this, and not only will you be able to impress all the guys and gals at your next party pulling off incredible feats with your new found wisdom, but you’ll also allow yourself a much better chance of succeeding in reaching any of the goals you’ve set.

    I think if I had to pick a favorite from the manifesto's principles, it would be valuing response to change over following a plan. You might also call it knowing/learning/loving adaptability. I can’t tell you how many times the rigid adherence to a predefined plan of action, without regard to how the situation is playing out in context, has led folks I know into business trouble. You, your partners, coworkers, or managers might have the greatest business plan in the history of the world…on paper.

    But if you don’t allow yourself to lift your head above the water every now and then to survey the surroundings, then you just might find yourself adrift.

    I’m not advocating throwing the plan out the window here by any means.  You need your plan to set specific and measureable goals for you and your team - to give everyone a clear idea about where you’re going and how you’ll get there.  I only take issue when people let their business plan blind them to the many ways they might better pursue these goals.

    Now I know I already claimed a favorite, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also give a nod to valuing individuals and interactions over processes and tools as an extremely close second.  This one hit very near to home for me. Not so much on the client side (though that's extremely important), but moreso as far as the internal team dynamic goes. Please, please, please...keep in mind that those many ways toward your goal will multiply rapidly as you allow your people to stretch their wings and contribute as much as possible. Keep everything transparent, accept all input, and keep the conversation going. The buck will stop somewhere (you) eventually, of course, and the call will be made about what is going to work best. But if you can empower all of your people to experiment and fail forward, then your plan, your product, your people, and your business…will be absolutely killer.

    Allow yourself to experiment with all the paths toward your ultimate goal – be flexible and reap the rewards.