Picking the Right Agile Strategy Tools


Have you ever watched a renovation show and headed right to the home improvement store when the credits rolled? It’s easy to be sucked in by what seems to be a “simple” fix…and then frustrated when the reality turns out to be much more complicated (and expensive!). Picking the right agile strategy tools for the job makes all the difference. The first question should be, exactly what is the job?

Case Study: Strategic Doing in Cuyahoga County

Last week I was just outside Cleveland with a group from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, co-leading a Strategic Doing practitioner training. We talked about the difference between technical problems and adaptive challenges, and the human tendency to think an issue is technical when it’s not.

Public health is full of examples: COVID response is one. In mid-2020, it was easy to think that if we could get the vaccines developed quickly (check) and plenty of vaccination sites identified so people could get the vaccine (check), the pandemic would be in our rear-view mirror. It was a shock to many people that well into 2022, infection and death rates were still very much current issues. What happened?

Understanding Technical Problems vs. Adaptive Challenges

Ron Heifetz popularized the idea of technical vs. adaptive, and while you should read up (here and here are places to start), here’s the bottom line: if addressing an issue requires changing people’s assumptions, values and/or attitudes, it’s adaptive. Period. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think people should have those attitudes – if you don’t craft a strategy that takes them into account, you are doomed to failure, no matter how much money or time you put into the effort. To return to the home renovation metaphor – you’re using the wrong tool. There are arguably many reasons that COVID strategy wasn’t as effectively as it could have been, but a critical one was thinking only of technical solutions to an adaptive challenge.

How to Identify Your Strategic Needs

An agile strategy portfolio has to include tools for both technical problems (if it’s a problematic process, Rapid Improvement ) and adaptive challenges (Strategic Doing is one of our cornerstone approaches).

Training and Expertise Available This Summer

We have trainings for both this summer (or, as we did in Cuyahoga County, we’ll come to you) – or we can provide trained experts to work with your team. Either way, the first step is to decide what kind of issue you’re dealing with – contact us to schedule a no-obligation conversation to help figure out which agile strategy tools make sense.