Kent Beck, one of the authors of the Agile Manifesto, has written a few articles about what he calls the 3X model, which follows an idea from its inception all the way to success and profitability.
- Explore is the search for a return on investment. This first phase is highly unpredictable, so the best strategy is to reduce risk and increase learning by running many experiments with the new idea.
- Expand is the switch to make a proven idea scalable. This second phase is full of unanticipated bottlenecks, so the best strategy is to eliminate each constraint as quickly as you can.
- Extract is the optimization of solution delivery. In this third phase, economies of scale should play out, and profitability is achieved by driving down costs and making the delivery of value more efficient.
The point that Kent Beck makes in his articles is that many standard practices only make sense in specific phases. For example, purely functional roles and teams can work in the Extract phase (to achieve efficiency) but should be avoided in the Explore phase (which is more about effectiveness). And technical debt is mostly harmless in Explore (where the most significant risk is making the wrong product) but should be driven down relentlessly in Extract (where the biggest risk is expensive maintenance).
When you understand where an idea sits on this three-phase journey, and what the most pressing concerns per phase are, it is more likely that you pick the right management practices and that your idea survives until the end.
So, how does this model compare with the Ten stages of the Shiftup Business Lifecycle?
It’s the same thing! Only Kent Beck’s model is less granular.
The Explore phase corresponds with stages 1 (Initiation) to 4 (Validation). In these stages, the innovative idea is still unproven and needs to be validated by running many experiments.
The Expand phase correlates with stages 5 (Stabilization) and 6 (Acceleration). The innovative idea has been validated, but the business needs to reorganize while scaling up.
The Extract phase stands for stages 7 (Crystallization) and 8 (Expansion). Here, the idea is finally profitable, and the business must optimize continuously to keep it that way.
Note: The 3X model does not cover Stages 9 (Conservation) and 10 (Finish).
All models are wrong, but some are useful. Kent Beck’s 3X model is helpful because it simplifies discussions around best practices to three major phases with two critical transitions between them. The Shiftup model is useful because it allows for a more fine-grained approach to the selection of practices, but it costs a bit more time to understand and explain. Pick whichever model you prefer!
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Read more about the 3X model here: