Iterate Toward Success

An Agile Framework

I have introduced several key concepts in Personal Agility, including a discussion on Agile mental processes. I have also laid some broad framework for a more tailored discussion on experimentation. In Agile processes, perhaps particularly in software development, there is a strong notion of versioning, or iterating.  The thought is, you should produce a product quickly and then make continual improvements to the product over time.

There are several reasons why this approach is beneficial. First, it allows flexibility in design which is necessary because often customers don’t know all of the design and functionality details in the beginning of a project. Second, it allows those future decisions to be made with something to relate them to, i.e. all of the stakeholders (customers, engineers, etc.) have a product to use and make judgements about. And third, having a product – even an imperfect one – makes the project seem real and helps to sustain forward progress.

Applied Personally

So let’s look at these three reasons for iterating software and apply them to personal development:

Design Flexibility

You don’t have to know all the details at the outset of a change initiative. If you’ve done your visioning work and some initial goal-setting work, you’re probably more ready to begin than you think you are. This will allow you to modify your course over time without being tied down to a rigid plan. A flexible strategy is invaluable for the sustainment of growth.

Relate Present Condition to Desired Condition

As I mentioned in Developing a Baseline, if you’re going to do vision work, you really also need to develop your understanding of the status quo. Once you know where you are, you’ll better understand how to get to your ideal state. In the same way, iterating on your personal change efforts allows you to have a baseline to compare to with each wave of attack, or iteration. This is essentially using data – and ever-changing data – to make decisions, which will almost always yield better results than just winging it. Fortunately, we’ve also discussed Data-Driven Personal Growth.

Make It Real

At some point, you’ll have to get your ideas out of your head and out into the world. Put yourself to work sooner rather than later! By doing this, it really brings your ideas to life, and if managed properly, you can generate positive energy around your change efforts by recognizing and celebrating your progress.

Jump In…Smartly

The emotional context surrounding change can make it difficult to even get started. I get that, and in fact, there’s a concept in academia known as the “Knowing-Doing Gap,” which basically means that even though people KNOW what to do, they often don’t actually DO it.

For example, you might know that you could fail trying something that you don’t want to do just as easily as you could fail trying something that you do want to do. Actually, the passion you bring to something that you do want to do can increase your ability to be successful. This way of thinking may or may not reduce your fear of failure, though. I can also tell you straight up that perfectionism is a very un-Agile way of thinking and is likely holding you back from realizing your biggest gains. But this knowledge may do little or nothing by itself to reduce or eliminate the emotional hurdles that result in perfectionism.

This is why I have advocated so strongly in this blog for a personal-reflective practice. If you are prepared to reflect on your experiences and emotional states as you are undergoing change and you will be using sound change management practices as I have discussed in this blog, you are as ready as you’re going to be to jump in and get started. In fact, you’ll be well-ahead of most people seeking change. Armed with knowledge and a workable, flexible strategy, get after it!

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