What is the GROWS Method®?

The GROWS Method® is an idea for an environment that emphasizes learning and growth—not the same old cookie-cutter, follow-a-static-process, mediocrity that many organizations are doing. More than just a static recipe, our approach suggests how to conduct day-to-day activities. But more importantly, we recommend the higher-level concepts that are almost always ignored—and these concepts absolutely make the difference between thriving and failing.

GROWS starts with support for beginners with concrete actions that develop better habits, always emphasizing short feedback loops—which includes feedback on the adoption of new habits themselves. As the team and organization grow in skill, new habits and techniques come into play, but are always driven by local outcomes, evidence, and skill level.

For a high-level introduction, check out this introductory video.

For more background information, see these pages:

What’s with the ® all over the place?

We’ve seen first-hand how words like “agile” and “scrum” have been used and abused, and we’d like to avoid the same fate. Registering GROWS Method® as a Federal trademark give us some measure of protection from companies misusing this word too.

How is the GROWS Method® different from any other agile or plan-based method?

The GROWS Method® uses existing good ideas, values and practices from agile and other approaches, but provides a more inclusive and pragmatic framework in which to work, especially more environmental issues.

GROWS elevates the idea of an experiment to a first-class part of the method, and promotes skill growth of the team and individuals. We also leverage the idea of skill growth to provide concrete support for beginners, and feedback-based support for more advanced practitioners.

The GROWS Method®:

  • Embraces the normal path humans follow when we learn a skill
  • Provides clear, unambiguous steps for beginners
  • Provides a clear path for growth, and a clear choice on whether or not to follow it
  • Provides clear, unambiguous steps and learning for developers as well as managers and execs (unlike other solely development-centric methods)
  • Provides explicit mechanisms for everyone to learn and adapt their ways of working to take advantage of their specific teams and situation

OK but really, how is GROWS different from XP or Scrum?

Extreme Programming (XP) is a set of technical practices. Scrum is a light-weight project management framework.

GROWS Method® is a more encompassing, holistic approach that addresses technical, project, and portfolio management to coordinate developers, executives, and users.

It’s not comparing apples and oranges; it’s comparing apples and oranges vs. a meal plan.

This idea of “experiments” sounds expensive and wasteful.

Compared to what? If you, and everyone in the organization, knows exactly what to do, and how to do it perfectly, then perhaps this approach is a waste. However, we don’t know the answers to these and other questions.

GROWS uses intentional feedback loops as an effective learning mechanism—an effective way to avoid using the wrong tools, wrong technologies, build the wrong product, or build it poorly.

Intentional learning is far more cost effective and less risky than simply hoping for accidental learning to occur.

Do I have to involve the whole organization?

In keeping with OneThingAtATime, even though GROWS is designed for the whole organization, that doesn’t mean you want to start with the whole organization all at once. In fact, you shouldn’t. That’s a terrible idea.

A small, pilot team is a great way to start, and honors the “take small bites always” Core Principle. But you want that team’s leadership to be on board with the idea, as far up as you can go, the farther the better.

You want a thin thread of agreement, right up the management chain. Just like our Tracer Bullet approach to thin, vertical slices of code, this is like a “management tracer bullet.”

You need at least one champion in the executive leadership to Agree To Try, so that you can help foster and improve executive involvement.

Is this material free to use?

Yes. You are welcome to use the material on this website (growsmethod.com) for your personal use and within your own organization. And please let us know of your successes and challenges!

If you’re a trainer or consultant, see the next question.

Can I teach and train the GROWS Method® commercially?

Yes, but you need to license it from us. It’s not expensive, and there’s no up-front costs. We license the GROWS Method® in order to prevent abuse and dilution of the name and these ideas. Contact us at admin at growsmethod.com for details.

Are you going to sell certification?

No. Our industry doesn’t do certification very well in general: mastery of a test or exam materials does not translate well to real-world success. We might consider some sort of portfolio-based or rating system, but it would have to be firmly outcome- and competency based.

I’ve got a practice that works well for us, can I contribute it to the GROWS Method®?

Yes, we’re counting on it! There are a lot of smart people doing really great things out there, but the mainstream methods are not really positioned to adopt them. Contact us at admin at growsmethod.com for details.

Do I need to buy a bunch of stuff for the GROWS Method®? New tools and training?

No. You don’t need fancy tools, you don’t need to throw a ton of new and expensive training at your staff. All you need is the desire and the will to learn and progress, to work together, and the commitment to try and do so to the best of your ability.

As you progress, you may well see the need for specific training in certain areas, and that’s great, go for it. But that’s a targeted, specific response to a demonstrated need; it’s not “here’s a new method we all need training!” free-for-all.

What does GROWS stand for?

Fredrick Brooks Jr first proposed the metaphor of “growing” software in his seminal work, No Silver Bullets. We embrace that notion and extend it to growing people, organizational capabilities, and indeed the entire ecosystem. We refer to this whole set of ideas as the GROWS Method®.

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