Agile Results — A Refinement
Time moves fast. Learning to manage it well is not merely a matter of productivity, but of confronting its unstoppable motion.
October 25, 2023
“Productivity systems” promise their users mastery over time and attention, but, more often than not, they end up turning attention mainly to themselves. In the end, it’s not the productivity that’s served as much as the system — administering task lists, syncing notes, coordinating calendars, and then seeking to set everything up anew when some piece of it inevitably breaks down.
None of this would matter very much were it not for the actual passage of time. Productivity, in and of itself, also wouldn’t matter so much. To be a hard and earnest worker is a fundamental human virtue, but to somehow be “productive,” to get as much done in the smallest amount for time, isn’t.
That said, failing to engage with time as it moves from season to season, year to year is another matter. During the pandemic years, so many of us wondered where the time was going, why it was going so fast. Time will not stop, but at least we can think about what outcomes we’d most like it to bring us.
That’s why at Protoclassic we prefer J. D. Meier’s Getting Results the Agile Way (a.k.a. Agile Results), as a system that ruthlessly priortizes priorities over processes.
Agile Results gives you a structure to work with, but it puts outcomes first. It’s anti-fragile unlike complicated task lists or project plans, and it’s easy to start up again after failure. What’s more, when something does fall through the cracks, our experience has been that it really wasn’t that important in the first place.
Agile Results Refined
As we’ve integrated Agile Results into our own work and lives, we’ve landed on a few refinements that make the system more effective, particularly as it relates to longer-term planning.
First, we divide the year into six-week periods, with roughly two weeks between them. This came from the people at 37 Signals, who have shown how to use time to scope a good-size project — not too big, not too small, with a focus on shipping and outcomes.
Following Agile Results, we define for each period three major priorities (or “wins”) that align with Protoclassic values.
Following 37 Signals (but in contrast to Agile Results), we don’t set larger goals for the quarter, the half year, or the year. We do have a longer-term vision, but it’s expressed more in our organizational values. We also don’t set monthly goals, though this has more to do with the focus we place on six-week periods, which are only two weeks longer than a month.
Next we divide the six-week periods into 7 six-day periods. These allow us to set priorities in time blocks that are roughly equivalent to weeks, but out of sync with them.
Besides offering the advantage of giving us one extra cycle out of a six-week period, we believe it helps improve creativity and outcome-driven organization by providing a minor disruption in processes. This, in turn, enforces thinking, reflection, and time for ideation, while promoting a sense of humility about one’s ability to accomplish everything on one’s own. (A more detailed explanation of this would no doubt make a good topic for another article.)
After this, we divide the six-day periods into three-day segments, and set a few priorities to focus on during this time.
We do not list daily wins, as outlined by Agile Results. We’ve found that daily goals often become trivial or repetitive, whereas three-day priorities let you take on something more meaningful. It gives you time to align people and do something higher in importance. To think and execute and reflect, all in one period. (It’s also helpful in this era of hybrid work, when people aren’t always together in the office.)
What It Looks Like
You can view our calendars and see how we divide the year.
As of this writing, it’s Autumn 2023, in the last day of the second three-day cycle in the fourth six-week cycle. The publication of this article is part of a larger Autumn goal of fixing and revamping the Protoclassic website, which involves a number of things, including moving to a static site and providing resources for a system of transparent project management and communication (more to come).
This article was one of the six-day priorities, with drafting taking place in the first three days, and polishing and publishing taking place in the last three days.
And with that the cycle’s done. The calendar moves forward. And new objectives take us deeper into Autumn.
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