If you know the way broadly, you will see it in everything.
– Miyamoto Musashi

This is the executive summary of the Frontline Agile Field Manual.

Frontline Agile is an agile method based on economic optimisation and military leadership principles, and its purpose is to deliver wins.

The logic is simple:

  1. Agile prioritisation and execution maximises results.
    This is because agile expects and manages the pervasive uncertainty inherent to complex and rapidly evolving situations.
  2. Focus on leadership and constrained optimisation thinking.
    These are the two key factors for successful agility and advantage.
  3. War and market economics are the best sources of wisdom.
    These proven disciplines focus on optimal risk-return decision making, and winning team leadership.

The ecomomics of maximising creativity and productivity:

In brief:


Results are the value derived from achieving objectives. 
Results are maximised when creativity and productivity are maximised.

1. High Quality Mission Objectives

- Objectives must be stated, agreed, and backed by clear strategic intentions. 
- They should have measurable success criteria and be related to meaningful purposes. 
- Objectives are the key consideration when valuing a requirement or task. 
- Must Haves must be delivered to achieve the objectives, Should Haves are probably worth the time and money but are not imperative to achieving the objectives, and Could Haves are every other idea suggested.  

2. Maximise Creativity 

– Ideas maximise value. 
- They are expected from everyone. 
- Communication and trial drive creativity. 
- Creative reflection should be given to everything, including strategy, quality, and productivity. 
- Continuous innovation is imperative to competitive advantage.

3. Maximise Productivity 

– Efficiency is driven by communication, a focus on objectives, and an understanding of the strategic context. 
- Productivity should be visible, high quality, and minimise waste. 
- Continuous delivery is imperative to competitive advantage.

Leaders maximise creativity and productivity through relationships and standards that optimise communication and ownership.

1. Enshrine Extreme Ownership 

– Enshrine a culture of Extreme Ownership*, everyone owns the responsibility of achieving the objectives; owns the design, the quality assurance, owns the problems, and owns the solutions. 
- The leader never blames anyone, does not make excuses, and always gives the credit to others.

2. Build Relationships 

– Relationships are driven by communication so lead people not resources, lead in all directions, out-flank instead of attacking fortified positions. 
- Listen to everyone. 
- Be humble but not silent, respectful but not passive, disciplined but not inflexible. 
- Give purpose, autonomy and mastery.

3. Maintain Standards 

– Standards are set by the leader, and are not what is stated but what is demonstrably accepted. 
- Details and thoroughness do matter. 
- Be disciplined but adaptable. 
- "Take the high ground or the high ground will take you."

Creativity and productivity are maximised when actions are prioritised, agile and disciplined. 
Understanding the objectives are imperative to tactical agility.

1. Prioritise Actions 

- Determine where you are and make sure you understand the objectives and strategy. 
- Prioritise so as to maximise the effectiveness of the next immediate actions. 
- Give value to actions that reduce uncertainty and minimise high impact risks.  
- Remember that every action, including planning and trialling, has a cost and an opportunity cost. 

2. Optimise Agile Execution 

– Execute, evaluate, and keep executing. 
- Understand the uncertainty risk landscape and use the appropriate agile tactics.
- Ideas start losing value as soon as they are conceived, so have a bias to act. 
- Embrace uncertainty, and then reduce it with each action.  
- Being "default aggressive" requires being prepared to tactically pivot and this requires understanding of the objectives. 
- Track outcomes, detach and re-evaluate effectiveness, re-prioritise and decisively adapt. 
- Minimise high impact risks. 
- The strategy should be in the tactics. 

3. "Discipline = Freedom"* 

- Agile is a response to uncertainty. 
- Without a disciplined approach to managing the uncertainty the uncertainty will overwhelm. 
- With discipline creativity and productivity will thrive in the face of uncertainty. 
- Ignore this at your peril.
- The leader sets the discipline standard.

This field manual is evolving, is based on twenty years of practical experience, and it borrows from everywhere, especially Jocko Willink’s podcast and book Extreme Ownership (with Leif Babin), and the Unforgiving 60 podcast, and Andy McNab‘s books.

* This is Jocko Willink’s mantra and most excellent book.
Do also get Extreme Ownership and read it and listen to The Jocko Podcast.

This is the executive summary of the Frontline Agile Field Manual.
We provide the full document as part of our training courses covering the principles and practices of the full disciplined method.
If you would like a review of your agile practices, or training in winning DevOps through leadership, extreme ownership, and optimization thinking, please contact us at

Please also see our field manual for user interface design:

(c) Tightship Software (2005-2020)