Blogs by Lars Kruse

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Category Blogs in English  
By:  lakruzz  
On: Saturday, February 03. 2018
Tags: | LEAN |  agile | 

The DORITH principle

DORITH is a contraction of sentence “DO the RIght THing”. It’s a principle that enables you to make decisions that will appear to be tactical and still allow you to learn as you go. Understand the in-situ challenge with being tactical and start taking small steps in the right direction.

Vision, strategy and tactics …yadda, yadda, yadda

It’s well know, that in management and leadership, the terms vision, strategy and tactics are as old as Methuselah. And all though the correlation between the terms and the way they are used does make a lot of sense - in management. It’s also one of those doctrines, that kinda make us immune, isn’t it? When a manager says “Vision, strategy and tactics” we tend to roll our eyes and think “yadda yadda yadda - talk to the hand”.

The in-situ problem with being tactical

DORITH I’ve been managing people, for ten years now, and from that point of view it really does seem to be important to ensure, that the everyday work is tactically founded in a strategy that leads to fulfillment of the vision. However, it only makes sense to think like that, it doesn’t make much sense to talk like that.

Here’s an example; When someone walks up to me and ask for advice or priority or mentoring in relation to something very specific that they are currently occupied with. Then it doesn’t make much sense to reply “be tactical about it” although that is technically not a bad reply at all. In reality however, it’s very rare that it resonates with something concrete. It’s usually quite abstract what tactical is in the given context.

Another problem with that technically correct, but in-situ fairly useless reply, is that it ties back to the strategy; Being tactical implies “…according to the strategy” and even worse - being strategic likewise implies “…according to the vision”.

Damn - that means, that as a manager, I need to have a rock solid and well communicated vision, that is manifested in an equally rock solid and well communicated strategy - The truth is, that in our company, these strategies are not manifested or rock solid, it’s more that we strive to build them into our corporate culture and that we’re allowing them to be somewhat in flux.

Without these strategies and employee handbooks, I can understand why the encouragement to be tactical leads to the immediate “yadda, yadda, yadda” thought.

The Agile manifesto

It may derive from an occupational hazard; We’re in the software development business and the agile manifesto tends to be our credo. We honestly belive in motivated and self-organized teams, we belive in meritocracy and we acknowledge that requirements are constantly changing, we belive in technical excellence and in the focus that comes from minimizing work in progress - and we belive in retrospectives and continuous reflections as the primary input for continuous learning. We belive that creating value - such as working software - should be the primary measure of progress.

To me - as a manager who tends to recite from the twelve principles of the Agile Manifesto more frequently than most - the whole vision-strategy-tactics needs a different implementation than the traditional rock solid, well communicated approach.

I simply don’t belive in rock solid.


The DORITH principle is a different approach. When someone walks up to me and asks for advice, priority or mentoring I tend to reply:

“Do the right thing!”

I feel obliged to not dictate the answer, but instead facilitate that we go and investigate; what is the right thing to do - in the context?

In any context, the right thing to do will obviously be relative to some kind of direction. An obviously good coaching question pops up:

“What are you hoping to achieve?”

Whatever the answer to the question is, it something worth dwelling with for a while, Is it the real thing? What is the rationale behind it? Rationale - that word is one of my all time favorites. It’s definition is “A set of reasons or a logical basis for a course of action or belief”. Back in my time at university when I studied communication I studied with a professor in Philosophy. He’s interpretation of the word was much more poetic: “A person’s rationale is all the ballast that enables that person to resonate, to make decisions”. It’s personal!

So by digging into the underlying, personal rationale, behind why someone is doing something, it suddenly becomes meaningful - to that person.

The answer to your own question lies within your self: You make the right decision, given the context, based on your rationale. - it reads like a poem:

What you don’t have
You don’t need it now
What you don’t know
You can feel somehow

U2, A Beautiful Day

Small Steps Manifesto

It’s obvious that a few lines from a U2 pop song can’t hold a magical answer to a complex problem; how to be a successful manger. But I belive that efficient management implies that people on the team are self-organized, motivated and empowered.

The small steps manifesto is still emerging, but it reads something like:

Any decision that is conscious and based on a rationale, and which is bringing you one small step closer to what you are hoping to achieve, is by definition a good decision.

It’s likely that there might be other decisions someone else could have made, that would have been better in the meaning that they would be even more efficient, but they would have the built-in problem, that they wouldn’t be your’s.

The DORITH principle allows you to learn - it allows you to practice that art of decision making. Find the answer inside yourself, based on your own sense of direction and your own rationale and do something.

It simply allows you to be tactical - relative to where you are headed.

Pivot without mercy or guilt

Making decisions based on your own rationale, however conscious they may be, is bound to have some limitations - for all of us. It’s build into the principle, that some of the decisions will doubtlessly be bad or questionable.

Suck it up!

A proverb that’s often cited in LEAN and agile is “pivot without mercy or guilt”. In it’s essence it captures the remedy for how to deal with bad decision: Simply make another decision. Don’t look back, don’t be sorry. Just make another decision, that’s better.

This of course implies, that we discover when we make bad decisions, and the tools for that are retrospectives and continuous reflections.