The Empirical Process

Transparency | Inspection | Adaptation

Although empirical process controls are an embedded concept in the Agile values and principles, how to actually practice these simple ideas eludes many teams and organizations. Let’s break it down from a mindset perspective.

Transparency: the quality or state of easily being seen through, recognized, obvious; open, frank, or candid. In essence, the first step in the empirical process is to be open and transparent with all aspects of the work, including communicating status. What makes this practice difficult? Often it’s a lack of psychological safety. It doesn’t matter what leaders, stakeholders, managers, or sponsors say, their actions in the past have created a pattern that creates fear and resistance to be open today.

How does a team/organization break this cycle? By actually creating an environment where people feel safe sharing their challenges and collaborating to identify potential solutions and by being open to talking about the real circumstances teams face without fear of judgement. Be practicing the saying, “actions speak louder than words,” everyone will start to embrace transparency.

Inspection: to look carefully at or over; view closely and critically. Step two in the empirical process is all about looking at what’s been accomplished, what’s to come, what is known, and what can be learned in an effort to continuously improve. What makes this practice difficult? Often, when people honestly reflect on their previous work, they will notice opportunities for improvement; however, by calling out these opportunities, it creates a sense of vulnerability that is uncomfortable.

How does a team/organization break this cycle? By creating a circle of trust where team members and participants feel safe to share ideas, thoughts, and concerns in an open and constructive manner with the intent of identifying potential solutions. When blame is replaced with collective support to do better, everyone grows and organizations begin to thrive.

Adaptation: adjust or modify to meet different conditions or environments. Being transparent provides the chance to inspect and identify opportunities for improvement so teams and the organization can determine the best options and adapt accordingly. What makes this practice difficult? If there is no true transparency, work and leadership teams are unable to inspect and identify real areas for improvement, which perpetuates the cycle of doing what we’ve always done, hence, there is no need to adapt.

How does a team/organization break this cycle? Provide an environment for true transparency. Create a safe space for real inspection and creative problem solving. Practice open communication. Break down silos and barriers to enhance collaboration. Then, be open to experimentation to learn, grow, and improve.

In a nutshell, actions speak louder than words, so be impeccable with your words and follow through, while modeling the act of vulnerability. This combination garners respect and leads to positive outcomes.

All my best,

Paulie Skaja
agile mindset muse 🙂

Leave A Comment