Strategic Experiments & Agile Responses

Most strategic initiatives involve complex environments. The emergent nature of complexity means that the use of experimentation is essential to progress. A good strategic initiatives design is one of experimenting, testing a hypothesis, and expecting emerging solutions. You want to anticipate (small) wins and enhance the benefits and keep the setbacks from getting worse.

In setting up strategic experiments, note this distinction:

Fail-safe experiments. In these situations, mission failure is not an option. The only way to assure success in a fail-safe situation is to spend heavily on resources and redundancy.

Safe-to-fail experiments. These are preferred for strategic initiatives. The experimental design is low cost and losses can be absorbed. In this situation, the purpose is to gain rapid learnings.

The strategic initiative leader needs to have a damping and amplification approach for experiments:

Amplification. The practice of amplification is one that seeks to increase the probability and impact of small wins.

Damping. The practice of damping seeks to decrease the probability and impact of setbacks.

One of the biggest challenges for project managers in their transition into strategic initiative program management is to increase the use of experimentation and experimental design.  Instead of linear, deterministic, and deductive approaches (methodology) the leader has to lean on non-linear and abductive approaches. It’s a different style of thinking.

A good strategic initiative leader has a functional forward view to anticipate the outcomes of experiments. Do you agree?


About Greg Githens

Thought leader who helps others think strategically, make strategy, and turn vision into action. Coach, advisor, board member, and hands-on leader. Seminar leader and speaker of popular offerings "How to Think Strategically & Apply Business Acumen" and "Leading Strategic Initiatives (Program Management)." Experience in driving change in Fortune 500 and mid-size companies through strategic initiatives and business transformation.
This entry was posted in Ambiguity and Strong-Minded Thinking, Competencies of Strategic Initiative Leaders, Useful Practices & Management Tools. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Strategic Experiments & Agile Responses

  1. sa35dm says:

    Good morning Greg. Your body of work continues to be a “blessing” to me as I progress to taking the PgMP exam in March 2016. Darryl Moore

    Sent from my iPhone


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