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Being Agile with Purpose + Simplicity

Updated: Oct 30, 2021

Everything we do at work anchors to a purpose, and the best way to achieve that purpose is through simplicity. Learn how this relates to becoming an Agile Organisation


Being Agile, Seeking Purpose

Even the most mundane set of activities has or used to have a purpose when it first began. Seeking the "why" should always be the first mission. It's easy to say this than do it because we often get excited with "what" we want to do, the ideas. Sometimes you need someone from the outside to ask you why you think the idea is worth implementing; it's not being judgemental about it but fostering a sense of purpose. The purpose is not to be confused with financial targets; that's more of a goal.

Let us say we are in the Education industry, and there is an idea to implement a new student mobile application that recommends short courses curated from the Internet. The application can improve these suggestions using analytics on preferences and learning habits. The goal set for this application can be to have 40% active users within a year of launching. Exciting, and one can picture much potential.

But why do it?

Let's start with our target market; students in the institution. Why would these students need it? Are we filling a void? Are we solving a problem for them? Getting the answer is not that easy because we need to observe and speak to the actual customers. Many ways of achieving this, but the only formula to remember is patience and not holding on to the original idea.


Being Agile, Keeping it simple

Oddly, simply doing something is more challenging than overthinking it. We often list all the things that can go wrong when implementing an idea but forget that we are building assumptions on top of beliefs. As the saying goes, "when you assume, you make a fool of yourself."

Let's go back to the example earlier and say we have found a purpose for this application; "Students want to independently guide themselves on what more they can learn because they don't like asking for advice all the time." Excellent, we now feel validated; the idea can hit the ground running; let's plan the big launch, set up a project team, start the communication to all stakeholders, request a budget based on revenue projection for five years.

Are we sure most of the students will use it, or at least the few students who claimed to have the need?

Unless there is a crystal ball somewhere, the answer would likely be a "no", and that's normal; we are still on the right path.

What would a simple way be of proving this assumption? Frameworks like Agile, Lean Start-Up, Design Thinking can help. For example, create a minimum viable product (MVP) of your application, which by the way is NOT "phase 1" of the Gantt chart you made; instead, it's a fully working product (minus the frills) to prove the basic assumption of purpose. "Would it be easier to use the application for advice as opposed to asking others?" Place this application in the hands of the students and obtain feedback through observation and interview. We should be prepared to pivot from the idea or improve upon it. Either way, it's a faster way to validate the purpose. You can do all this without needing a large budget, much inter-departmental consensus, and most of all, lying about a five year projected return.

Achieving a sense of purpose and simplicity is a long journey, and the example above is just a drop in the ocean of activities in an organisation. It requires unlearning existing work habits like over planning, micro-management and risk avoidance.

The journey may be long, but it's sure to pay off.

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