Goals are what you want.

Strategies are how you believe you can get what you want: diagnosis, guiding policies, main efforts.


No problem is perfect.

Even in the worse circumstances there are always examples of exceptions that are performing better. Finding and understanding these positive deviants is an effective way of improving when facing the most difficult, persistent problems.


Human working memory is limited.

There are two main ways to deal with limited working memory:

  1. Chunk. Group concepts together to reduce the number of things to remember;
  2. Externalise. Record it, write it down, etc.

Of the two, externalising is more scalable.


Experts don’t solve problems using “if A then B”.

Experts solve problems by balancing competing forces. Experts differ from novices because they have better awareness of and/or are better at balancing these competing forces. We call the recurring solutions that experts apply to recurring problems, “patterns”.

When the context changes, the competing forces change, therefore one would expect the pattern that should be applied would change.

Patterns don’t make any sense outside of the idea of balancing contextual forces.

Studying patterns is both about understanding contextual forces as well as understanding responses to those forces.

Progress in patterns is about discovering better answers for balancing competing forces.


The Fundamental Attribution Error refers to the tendency for people to overemphasise dispositional and personality explanations for behaviour and underemphasise situational explanations.

To address this, I like using the Six Sources of Influence model from VitalSmarts.

Personal, Social, and Structural; Motivation and Ability
  • Personal Motivation: what the individual wants
  • Personal Ability: what the individual knows how to…


Because org structure change can get messy, there’s a tendency to have structure drive strategy

There are several reasons why org structure changes can get messy:

  • Changing org structure can mean changing managers. Given “people leave managers, not companies”, the org structure change can trigger problems including departures;
  • Changing org structure typically means responsibilities are re-allocated. People are no longer responsible for work they used…


Let’s pretend a miracle happened and all our problems are solved. Everything is perfect. Don’t worry about how it happened, it was a miracle. How could you tell? What’s different now after the miracle?

The Miracle Question comes from Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. There are similar techniques from other sources: Remember the Future, Idealized Design, The Spice Girls Question.

The basic ideas are the same:

  • Create clarity about what you really want over clarity about what you don’t want;
  • Don’t limit want you want based on what is currently happening or whether you know how to get it;
  • Anchor off of perfect, not off of “good enough”.

I’ve found the Miracle Question encourages hope, progress, and creativity.

I typically use the Miracle Question when the answer to “How are things going? How might things be better?” is something like “It’s fine”.


Address both the symptoms and the causes

“Hold on, let’s take our time to understand the root causes of fires otherwise we’re just treating the symptoms.”

We want to address current symptoms BUT we also want to remember to explore and address underlying causes.

The Toyota/Lean community describes these activities as “containment” vs “countermeasures”.

I see it as acknowledging the importance of timing when responding to problems.

Contain the symptoms to buy time


I’ve noticed that consulting companies, at least the best ones, seem to be typically faster than even leading tech companies in building high-performing teams.

Why is this?

“You’re billing for team setup time? Haha, that’s what I like about you, all the joking!”

When revenue is based on billable hours AND the typical client doesn’t like paying for setup time, you learn how to get fast…


By “high growth”, I mean in terms of employee count and roughly doubling or more every year. Even at slower growth rates, some of the phenomena I’ll describe may be relevant.

Two reasons why building teams in high growth is difficult: can’t assume stable teams, can’t rely on cultural osmosis.

There are several options to accommodate new people:

Sink or Swim; Split and Absorb; Absorb and Split
  1. Sink or Swim. Keep the older teams as-is and add the…

Jason Yip

Senior Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl

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