Decisions are made on the basis of existing knowledge and gain in clarity as learning cycles become shorter and shorter.
At the beginning of an initiative, all boundary conditions can rarely be fully known. Obstacles and new unknowns can and will arise at any time as the initiative progresses.
Empirical process control is an essential feature of agile working methods: Decisions are made on the basis of existing knowledge and ideally at the latest possible point in time.
Empirical in this sense means reducing uncertainties and ambiguities through concrete experience and fact-based findings – gaining more clarity with the shortest possible learning cycles.
The prerequisite for a short learning cycle or feedback cycle is an effective way of understanding the situation or “sense making”. Without a solid understanding of the situation, efforts to be more adaptive remain just useless exercises.
There are quite a number of effective and proven tools for this at all levels:
- OODA by John Boyd on the tactical level
- The “Art of War” by the ancient Chinese general Sun Tsu for strategy and tactics.
- Wardley Mapping for Strategy and Product Development (Simon Wardley draws heavily on Sun Tsu and John Boyd for the rest)
- Lyssa Adkins’ famous question to coaches, “can you read a room?” to raise awareness with teams about the importance of situational understanding.
In Agile Evolution there are also central tools:
- The GOOD (sense making) Cycle, which builds on the above tools
- Visualization of a transformation through focus maps
In Steve Bungay’s “Art of Action,” a version of commissioning tactics, a sense making process is explicitly used for alignment (see Strategy Implementation).