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Three Track Attack

In order to build a truly high-performance, resilient and adaptable organization, you need to consistently execute three separate tracks with your software teams:

  1. Deliver—Produce the next slice of shippable functionality
  2. Discover—Experiment with the next tech stack, alternative design options, etc. Learn in order to increase capabilities. Discover user needs and desires.
  3. Refine—Actively fine-tune, improve and evolve the development process within the teams and throughout all the related teams in the organization.

Most companies struggle just to partially complete #1, with no time or energy to focus on #2 or #3. However, a balanced approach to all three tracks makes completing #1 possible—and much easier.

These are the three legs of the stool, and if you have only one or two legs, you’ll fall down.

Pain Points

  • Constant surprises
  • Lack of design options or alternatives
  • No feedback on which alternatives might be better or worse
  • Lack of growth
  • No time to fix process or working environment
  • Too much time spent on process and not enough on delivery


A balanced approach delivers the work required but also invests in discovery and exploration to help answer questions with real data and constant attention to tuning the overall development process for best results in today’s environment.


  • There is regularly scheduled time in the schedule explicitly for Discovery (including learning), Refinement, as well as Delivery activities (10pts)
  • Delivery produces shippable functionality occasionally (10pts)
  • Delivery consistently produces slices of shippable functionality on a regular basis (20pts)
  • Discovery and learning produce valuable insights and future paths (20pts)
  • Refinement makes the work environment better and increasing team’s effectiveness (20pts)
  • Discovery and learning does not provide any improvements (-10pts)
  • Refinement isn’t fixing anything (-10pts)
  • There is no time for any Discovery or Refinement or Delivery. See also AgreeToTry. (-150pts)
  • Organization is not able to Deliver shippable software (-500pts)


✓ Critical ❑ Helpful ❑ Experimental

Adoption Experiment

Steps to first adopt this practice:


  1. Add time on the schedule (backlog, iteration plan, etc.) for Discovery and Refinement activities.
  2. Rotate through a subset of the team to try these activities over the course of several weeks.


  1. Select team members use the time allocated to investigate options, discuss tweaks to working arrangements, etc., as needed.
  2. Listen to and act on on the results. There is nothing as demoralizing as spending time to figure out a solution and then have it be ignored.

Evaluate Feedback

  1. Results of discovery and refinement may not be dramatic at first, but over time should pretty clearly add to the growth and value of the team.

What Does it Look like?

Proceed deliberately, not frantically.

Create time for innovation, exploration and reflection.

Warning Signs

  • Team/organization ignores opportunities for refinement
  • No alternatives or options are ever found

Growth Path

How to Fail Spectacularly

Anti-patterns from the Hall of Shame

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