Is The GROWS Method® for You?

The GROWS Method® is based on years of published and private research and empirical analysis to help you create a high-performing software development organization. Here are some of the highlights of the more important theoretical components of our approach.

It’s a lot to take on. You can’t get there overnight, but we’re here to show you the way.

The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition

Dreyfus model stages adapted to GROWS

The Dreyfus model describes how human behavior and perception change as you progress from novice to expert at a given skill. We have used and adapted it to help make habits and advice more appropriate depending on team member’s skill levels and experience.

The biggest take-away from the Dreyfus model is that beginners (at any skill) need concrete, context-free rules. This approach can make beginners effective, but sticking with these rules constrains you to a beginner’s skill level—there’s no way to advance.

Most methodologies and processes provide rules to start with, and that’s as far as they go.

The GROWS Method® provides habits at varying skill levels as well as our Thinking Guides™ for the more complex and critical aspects.

Human Systems Dynamics

Human Systems Dynamics Venn Diagram

Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) explores behavior using a complexity science lens. Its foundation includes these premises[@Holladay:2008]:

  • An organization is a complex system with the goal of sustaining itself by establishing patterns of responsiveness and adaptation.
  • Constraints emerging from inside the system determine the type of activity and interaction that will occur in the system, requiring change leaders who are flexible and support.
  • Systemic change occurs when the underlying dynamics of patterns are shifted to increase responsiveness and adaptation across the system.
  • Simple rules guide actions and behaviors in emergent, self organizing systems.
  • A system’s capacity to sustain itself depends on repeated cycles of adaptive action.

In complex adaptive systems (like your company, product group, team) agents (your boss, his boss, your teammates, you) interact in ways that form patterns that have meaning across space time. These patterns form based on containers (something that holds focus; profession, team, buildings), differences/similarities within and between containers, and exchanges, the flow of value (information, resources, work, power).

The Cynefin Sense-Making Framework

The Cynefin model describes these five different decision-making domains:

  • Obvious: “Known knowns,” the situation is stable, and the relationship between cause and effect is clear: if you do X, expect Y.
  • Complicated: “Known unknowns,” the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis or expertise; there are a range of right answers.
  • Complex: “Unknown unknowns.” Cause and effect can only be deduced in retrospect, and there are no right answers. These systems are impervious to a reductionist approach, because your very actions change the situation in unpredictable ways.
  • Chaotic: “Emergency.” Things are actively on fire. Cause and effect are unclear, this is an emergency situation, first priority is to “staunch the bleeding.”
  • Disorder: “Clueless.” You don’t know which of the domains you are operating in. This is the murky area in the middle of the figure. Very dangerous, as any decision here is likely the wrong one.

CC BY-SA 3.0, Dave Snowden

Scrum and even waterfall can work well in the Obvious domain.

More agile approaches are required for Complicated domains.

A high level of skill and ability is needed for Complex domains. The GROWS Method® will help you and your teams navigate the treacherous waters of Complex domains, and help you avoid slipping into Chaos. (Figure by Dave Snowden, CC BY-SA 3.0)

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