Applying the Three Horizons to Agile Conferences

Relaxing after Agile2014, Eric Willeke made an off-hand comment about applying the Three Horizons Model to Agile practices. That struck me as interesting and got me wondering about how the concept could be applied to the Agile conference program.

ApplyingI have blogged about the model before as a way of thinking about value (although on reflection I’d now say its more about potential). To summarise:

  • H1 focusses on “extending and defending the core business”
  • H2 focusses on “building emerging businesses”
  • H3 focusses on “creating viable options”

The idea behind the model is to ensure a mix of investment across the horizons. Otherwise, if (or more likely when) the core business dies, it will not be ready with any new and alternative opportunities.

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If we take these definitions, but think in terms of Agile practices, rather than businesses we get:

  • H1 focusses on “extending and defending the core practices”
  • H2 focusses on “building emerging practices”
  • H3 focusses on “creating viable options”

In this case, the Agile community would be ensuring a mix of investments across the horizons so that when the current core practices are no longer appropriate or useful, there will be new and alternative ones ready to be used in their place. That leads to the idea of having a conference program which includes an “investment allocation” in the different horizons. For example a 5 track conference could have 3 tracks on H1 topics, 1 track on H2 topics and 1 track on H3 topics giving a 60%/20%/20% allocation. Or a program made up of more traditional role/discipline/interest based tracks could allocate content across the horizons within each track.

The challenge, of course, would be agreeing on what topics are in which horizon. As an example, I might say Scrum and XP are firmly Horizon 1 as tried and tested methods. The various approaches to agility at scale might be Horizon 2 as they are still being explored and refined. Ideas from Beyond Budgeting or Cynefin might be Horizon 3 as they still being understood and experimented with.

The goal would not be to try and suggest any practices or approaches are any better or worse than other. The value would be in ensuring the longevity and continuing success of the Agile movement.

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2 comments on “Applying the Three Horizons to Agile Conferences

  1. Pingback: Applying the Three Horizons to Agile Conferences - The Agile Product Report

  2. Pingback: Agile2014 – Let’s Build a Better Tribe | A servant leader's lessons

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