Expanding the diagram

It is useful to have just four simple words as a touchpoint for getting started, but surely life is not that simple – is it?

No, it isn’t, not when you start examining it. Each of those four words is an action, a behavior, that admits of simple and intuitive execution:
– just Collaborate;
– just Deliver;
– just Reflect;
– just Improve.

Each word also admits of a deeper, more subtle execution. There is a beginner version of each, there are many alternative, competing techniques to learn to get better at each. In fact the Shu-Ha-Ri concept of skill progression applies to each of the four actions, and to each of the sub-categories within each action.

Here is a sample expansion of the four actions into 8:


Heart of Agile expand 1

That is, for Collaborate, I chose that there is an aspect, ordinary “collaboration”, that is, people helping each other, but that there is also another topic that needs to be addressed: trust.

In order to collaborate better, you will want to increase trust. But trust is an enormous topic. It will split into more pieces as you investigate further.

And so starts the shu-ha-ri of each of the elements in the diamond.

Here is my initial breakdown of those four basic actions:

  • Collaborate
    • Collaboration
    • Trust
  • Deliver
    • Deliver for learning
    • Deliver for income
  • Reflect
    • Reflect for insights
    • Reflect for improvements
  • Improve
    • Experiment (remember, it’s just an experiment)
    • Change (actually change)

Those are not the only ways to split those original four words, but they are the ones I chose at this time to illustrate some of the intricacies involved in the four terms.

If we peek ahead one more stage, what might a next level of expansion look like? Here is one possibility:

Heart of Agile expand 2

Here we start to see how some of the complex details of running an organization appear.

In this Heart of Agile work, I will generally prefer to operate not at the super-beginner level, “Shu”, nor at the super-advanced level, “Ri”, but at the middle level, “Ha”, opening up choices to someone who has some idea, and is looking for more ideas to investigate.

The point of the Heart of Agile isn’t to pretend that complexities and subtleties don’t exist; it is to remind us to scrape away all the complexities from time to time, and restart from the beginning:

  • Collaborate
  • Deliver
  • Reflect
  • Improve


Alistair Cockburn
September 28, 2015







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