Meta-practices for Agility

In previous posts I talked about values and principles for fostering a healthy learning organization. In this post I’ll offer some practices. The balance between values, principles and practices is essential for any kind of knowledge work. Values inspire us, principles guide us, and practices serve us. Values represent a way of being, practices a way of doing—and principles hold that awakening, balancing space in between. 

You may also consider values as belonging to the individual, principles to the organization, and practices to the team/s. This is not exclusive, by any means, and all three cross all boundaries, but thinking of them in this way sometimes helps us to know which area to concentrate improvement on.

Practices should not be confused with tools and techniques. Kanban boards, burndown charts, story points, and velocity graphs (to name a few) are tools, while activities such as standup meetings, retrospectives, colocation, and pair programming are techniques. The practices I call out here are higher level practices, or perhaps meta-practices, the implementation of which may include some or all of the aforementioned tools and techniques, and likely to include many others, including new ones that were designed or have emerged for the purpose and context.

  1. Listen — take time to hear the needs and ideas of others; ask open, exploratory questions; practice dialog beyond discussion
  2. Collaborate — cultivate a yes-and, because-of-that, help-me-to-see-it mindset; learn to play
  3. Radiate — visualize the work, share openly, raise concerns early
  4. Reconceive — embrace conflict, rise above compromise
  5. Pause — be still; maximize the amount of work not done; breathe

I have found all five of these meta-practices indispensable when helping organizations create a learning culture. Each practice alone is helpful, but the five together are vastly bigger than the sum of their parts. The practices work in concert to generate a vibrant and edgy workplace that can utilize the framework of principles, and respect the personal values of those within it.

Related posts: Core Values, A Framework of Principles