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

This is the executive summary of Frontline Agile.

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 Constrained Objectives

a - Objective definition must be high quality and well communicated. 
They must be stated, agreed, backed by clear strategic intentions, have measurable success criteria, and be related to meaningful purposes. 
b - Objectives must be related to constraints, these combined then drive strategy, risk management, and contingency planning.
c - Constrained objectives also define the scope, value estimations, and prioritisation of work using the logic: 
Must Haves must be delivered to achieve the objectives, 
Should Haves are probably worth the effort but are not imperative to achieving the objectives, and 
Could Haves are every other idea suggested.  

2. Maximise Creativity 

a - Ideas maximise value and they are expected from everyone.  
b - Creativity is driven by high quality objectives, learning culture, communication frameworks, experiments and trials.
c - Build creativity and review into everything and target everything. Use creativity to optimise strategy, quality assurance, productivity because continuous creative innovation is imperative to competitive advantage. 

3. Maximise Productivity 

a - Efficiency is driven by communication, a focus on objectives, and an understanding of the strategic context. 
b - Productivity should be visible, high quality, and minimise waste. 
c - Continuous delivery is imperative to competitive advantage so always be looking for productivity optimisation.

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

1. Enshrine Extreme Ownership 

a - Enshrine a culture of Extreme Ownership.*
b - Everyone owns the responsibility of achieving the constrained objectives. Everyone owns optimising creativity and productivity, including design, quality assurance. Everyone owns the problems and owns the solutions. 
c - It's always the leaders fault. The leader never blames anyone, does not make excuses, and always gives the credit to others.

2. Build Relationships 

a - Relationships are driven by communication so lead people not resources and give purpose, autonomy and mastery.
b - Listen to everyone, lead in all directions, out-flank instead of attacking fortified positions, build trust and respect. 
c - Be humble but not meek, respectful but not passive, disciplined but not inflexible. 

3. Maintain Standards 

a - Standards are set by the leader, and are not what is stated but what is demonstrably accepted. 
b - Details and thoroughness do matter but the goal is always to optimise creativity and productivity; so be disciplined but adaptable. 
c - "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 

a - Determine where you are and make sure you understand the objectives and strategy, then prioritise so as to maximise the effectiveness of the next immediate actions. 
b - Consider prioritising actions that reduce uncertainty and minimise exposure to high impact risks.  
c - Remember that every action, including planning and trialling, has a cost and an opportunity cost so track outcomes, detach and re-evaluate effectiveness, re-prioritise and decisively adapt. 

2. Optimise Agile Execution 

a - Execute, evaluate, and keep executing. Ideas start losing value as soon as they are conceived, so have a bias to act. Being "default aggressive" requires being prepared to tactically pivot and this requires clear understanding of the constrained objectives. 
b - Understand the uncertainty risk landscape and use the appropriate agile tactics. Embrace uncertainty, and then reduce it with each action.   
c - The strategy for achieving the objective should be reflected in the tactics. 

3. "Discipline = Freedom"* 

a - 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. 
b - Ignore this at your peril.
c - 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 page is the executive summary of the Frontline Agile Field Manual.

Please also see our field manual for user interface design:

(c) Tightship Software (2005-2020)