Whole LOTA Love

The Big Hairy Audacious Goal

We have been writing a lot about Agile lately on our website. We took a look at the scrum meeting, mind mapping, and the benefits of the Agile model. Now we are going to explore the language around Agile, specifically 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0.

Successful companies see their business as a journey toward a dream or a goal, often called a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). It is the ultimate vision; the boil the ocean goal, the Mt. Everest of all mountains. It is possible to reach the summit using the Agile Project Management model, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0.

Looking up at the peak of Mt. Everest can be quite intimidating, however.

“One can easily get lost or overwhelmed by its sheer enormity on the way,” explains Mike Richardson, OTA’s Agile consultant.

“When a company attempts to climb the entire mountain in one fell swoop, they will tire, get lost, or hit a proverbial brick wall and fail to reach the top.”

The solution:  Conquer the mountain piece by piece. This is the heart of Agile. The Agile approach reduces complexity by breaking down the many months or years it takes to achieve the big audacious goal into a manageable on-ramp, of 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. When a company is able to break down a huge goal into manageable steps, success is much more likely to happen.

The success of a company using the Agile method is based on a key concept; mastery.

Like all great musicians, chefs, authors, artists, athletes, and companies will attest to, the journey to mastery of anything complex is a long and arduous journey. Mastering an instrument or a language or a martial art, for example, or achieving the ultimate BHAG does not happen overnight. It is a process and a journey, encompassing inherent characteristics of skill, creativity, patience, fortitude, hope, trepidation, and at times, failure but not defeat. These are things that make a journey a journey. Hills and valleys and giant peaks that take our breath away, time and time again.

In his book, Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long Term Fulfillment, George Leaonard says, mastery is “the mysterious process during which what is at first difficult becomes progressively easier and more pleasurable through practice. We all aspire to mastery, but the path is always long and sometimes rocky, and it promises no quick and easy payoffs”. This applies to our journey as businesses, to our journey as leaders and to our journey as students. Not least of all, it’s the journey to mastery of trading and investing that our students go on.

Mastering these hills and valleys requires a series of actions or steps broken down into phases, levels, layers, and time-lines for a company or a leader or a student to achieve their goal.

“It can be difficult at first. But as one learns to anticipate the journey ahead and be ready to shift gears when necessary, it gets easier and easier in time.” In fact, it is this anticipation and ability to go with the flow that allows masters to be ready for the hiccups that occur. And there will be hiccups. No journey to mastery is easy. Success is not linear. Nor is it based on the traditional waterfall management model in which there is an expectation that one will travel a straight line to get from point A to point B. There is no straight path. Problems are going to arise along the way. There will be boulders in the road, or a washed-out trail. Many things can happen on the way to the top.

This is where agility plays an essential role. Being agile means a master can change position efficiently when the path is blocked, or problems arise. Integrating isolated movements using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, and endurance, allows a master to overcome obstacles and move forward. Being agile also means “experimenting, testing, iterating, a willingness to fail early and often, and learning as you go,” explains Richardson. Sounds a lot like soccer, doesn’t it? That is because soccer players possess amazing agility. They can stop on a dime, change directions, and keep moving up or down the field in one fluid motion. Did you watch the World Cup?

It is important to note that agility is a skill, and like any skill, it can be learned through the five keys to mastery which George Leaonard outlines in his book:

  1. Surrender to Your Passion. Master your self-beliefs, values and purpose.
  2.  Practice.  Practice. Master your daily habits, emotions and behaviors.
  3. Get a Good Guide. Master your goal achievement and time managements skills.
  4. Visualize the Outcome. Master your language and communication skills.
  5. Play the Edge. Master your human interaction skills and problem-solving ability.

 “Maintaining innovation for the long haul is hard,” says Richardson. “A business approach must be agile enough to endure the journey. A company must not avoid the discomfort that comes with working on unclear and futuristic challenges and opportunities. This requires taking a step back at times or living on a plateau. Indeed, George Leonard says, we better learn to love the plateau, as we will spend most of our time on it, plodding along with seemingly no progress, which is very uncomfortable for most people who need some degree of instant gratification. “It requires patience, perseverance, and being comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

The old way or the non-agile way does not allow for this uncertain state. The traditional management model looks more like a relay race. A grand plan is mapped out and a baton is passed again and again. More progressive companies, however, do not pass a baton. Back to the soccer analogy - they pass a ball backwards and forwards amongst the team moving up and down the field as a cohesive unit with one thing in mind, the goal. As Mike Richardson explains, “Know where you are going. Work backwards from the future and forward from the present all at the same time and let it all take shape in the middle.” A company that can do this can achieve great things.