CAL Tip #11: Focus on Results for Change

Many people focus on the process for their work. When I cook, I, ahem, attempt, to clean the kitchen as I proceed. I don’t always follow the recipe, but my process is to keep the kitchen not too much of a disaster. When I write, I have a writing process that works for me. I follow an agile process (not a framework, but a general agile approach) for all my creative work.

We often follow a process. Processes help us finish work. That’s because we often discover that focusing on the process frees us to discover alternatives.

Too few of us actually gather valuable data about our process to be able to change it. In the agile community, we call this “inspect and adapt.”

Adaptable people need to inspect and adapt, too. That’s because what worked for us one day might not work the next day. Or, the next week, month or year. We need to generate options so we can continue.

We need to see our results. Only when we see our results can we decide what to change.

Results is data. What’s the “right” data? It depends on what we want to adapt.

Back in June 2015, I hadn’t been able to work out for about 18 months, and oh boy, I could tell. I needed to do something. I decided to walk. I bought a Fitbit.

I walked with my rollator so I could stay stable. At first, I looked at a combination of minutes and steps data. I couldn’t walk for more than about five minutes (part of my results). I counted my steps every time I walked (a different part of my results).

Then, I realized if I focused on time, I could compare my steps this time with steps that time. Was I faster or slower in the morning? In the afternoon? In the evening? I had an opportunity to take my data and use double-loop learning, where I could assess my results and my “process” of walking. I could use my data to inspect and adapt even if it wasn’t much of a process back then.

Notice that I’m not talking about how well I actually walked. I’m talking about gathering sufficient data—my results—to be able to create a process for me.

Now that I have several years of walking every day, I do focus on the process. Am I practicing my walking correctly? Am I spreading my walking times during the day so I gain maximum benefit and maximum steps?​

I gather data in the small about how many steps I walked during my various walks. And, I gather data in the large: what does my walking look like over weeks, months, and now years? (My travel results are different from regular results.  My travel days steps those days are at least 20% or more higher than my normal day steps.)

That’s why it depends. I need data in the small to realize what my process is. I need data in the large to adapt my process.

Adaptable people can’t just “focus on the process,” or my favorite, “trust the process.” We might not know what a reasonable process is.​

We need data. We need results, often from small experiments.

When I decided I wanted to write faster, I did the same thing. I gathered data in the small when I used varying approaches to writing. With a little reflection, I could see the process that was optimal—at that time—for me. I needed data to be able to change.

I work with my clients to help them see their data in the small and then data in the large to see their opportunities for change.

The more adaptable we want to be, the various data we need to gather. The data helps us see our reality. With that reality, we can generate options to start small. Then, we can experiment and create our new reality.

Data in the form of results helps us to adapt.

For those of you trying to “install” or “adopt” an agile approach don’t focus on the process first. Instead, gather data about how you currently work so you can decide which of the approaches might work for you. Once you see your results, you can inspect and adapt your process.

For much of what I do, my first step is to gather data, to see my results from a small experiment. Then, I can create options for change.

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