Non-linear (dynamic) thinking

A need for better support

ValueMiner GmbH, Oystein Ullnaess

Non-linear (dynamic) thinking

A need for better support

A good friend and colleague, told me once about how the Japanese always keeps one eye on the plan and one the prerequisites.

I think most of us experience that (belonging to the western civilization), we tend to fall into the trap of “sticking to the plan no matter what”. There are probably both organizational and commercial reason for this.

There is a 3rd dimension that I particularly have been interested in – the way we think. In my experience, we tend to think in linear ways – meaning that we decompose objectives to actions (with more or less precise linkage) and then freeze the actions as THE plan – independent of how much the prerequisites change.

As a reaction to this dilemma, there is more and more talk about agility – to revisit the prerequisites more frequently and prioritize the actions that delivers the best short-term actions. I think that a more frequent revisiting of pre-requisites is the right thing to do, but requires that we step out of our linear way of thinking.

There is a lot of theory and ideas on how to exercise non-linear (dynamic thinking), but in practice my observation is that we still end up planning based on linear processes and tools.

Not surprisingly, this leads to a process where the dynamics are focused on prioritizing capabilities and their timeline (sprint), while the analysis of the real preconditions (business drivers remains unattended.

In my experience, there seem to be a lack of:

  • recognition of the need to analyse business drivers and
  • practical tools and procedure to overview and manage the complexity that changing business driver may cause

Because, the consequences of changing business drivers, may have devastating ripple effect and what was originally planned. I think we therefor need to recognize that more agility requires more agile (dynamic) ways to plan – which helps you fully control the impact of changing business drivers on the actions that are required.