The Six Powers of Continuous Exploration

Anca Onuta
5 min readMar 30, 2020

How we build precision when there is not?

People might say:

If I’m in charge, I want the control.

If I have the control, I need to know it all.

If I need to know it al….

I say:

Forget it! It doesn’t work like that in the new digital world.

Winning in the digital world means to explore the unknown, live with uncertainty, go outside your comfort zone. In simple words, you must try it, fail it, stand up quickly and go try it again, fail it early, learn from it, improve.

But how do you do this while your management, the investors, your bank, all of them asks for predictability? It is called continuous exploration.

What is continuous exploration?

Continuous Exploration (CE) is a concept coming from Scaled Agile Framework, and it is the processes of constant exploring the opportunities, bringing innovation and alignment on what will be the future functionalities of the product. The product management uses Continuous exploration to divine the vision of the product, the roadmap, and the next features to build. In short, while you are making your current product, you must explore the next stage or the next product.

When I say this to the teams I just started working with, I hear: “We can do only one thing at a time, if we stop and start and stop, and we continuously get distracted, then we never finish anything?”

I say the people and the company that is leading by innovation doing both: exploring the future, innovate and launch the functionalities on the market. Take tesla; for example, they release Model 3 on the market, but it by far not a final product. They continuously explore new features, innovate, make it a better car while building cars, and releasing software.

Why explore? I give you below the 6 six powers of Continuous Exploration:

#1. To get excited about the future! Every time I work with a new team, and I feel their resistance to change the way they do things and explore further. But I know where I need to take them with my agile coaching, and I remember the wonderful feeling of the breakthrough: the energy inside a team knowing where they are heading, why they do things, how things come together is priceless! There is no better trigger of performance than the excitement of the team of being part of a product.

#2. When exploring is harder to procrastinate or not to finish the user stories planned for the sprint. First of well, when someone is excited about the future, it will work towards that future. If you know you are going to go hiking in a beautiful place and you helped your friends to plan the trip, you are going to be happy to go and you’ll make sure the things turn right, is it? It is the same thing in professional life: the team will do their best to work the plan and not procrastinate. The team is aware of the impact of being late, so they will not voluntarily participate in delays.

#3. Build team commitment. A group of people working together in identifying and defining the future is a team. A team discovering together the challenges of the future will be a united team. A united team that selects the path on which the product should go is an engaged team. An engaged team is a committed team. A committed team will get you those outstanding products that no specification in the world can be as quick and perfect as a dedicated team.

#4. Expand the known path. Through continuous exploring, you know beforehand what you’ll build in a month will work as expected. Through continuous exploration, a product team will fail months before they‘ll have hard deadlines to deliver yesterday. But the most important is that assuming the known zone is enabling the team and the management to take strategic decisions, involve the right people for success, solve dependencies, prepare the organization for change, build trust. And in the end, the scrum team delivers more certainty with more constant velocity but innovating.

#5. You keep the pace. For those who run marathons, you know that you might train to sprint, but you running the marathon at a constant speed is the key to reach the finish line. Developing, stopping to explore, fail, start over break the rhythm. Sprinting (run fast, stop to recover, and then run fast again) is a technique used for training. To finish the marathon with a good time, you need a good constant pace.

#6. High morale while under pressure. Bigger the steak, the higher is the pressure. We do more while being under pressure, people say. Yes, we do, one time, twice, three times, ten times? But what about in the long term? Every day. For the rest of our lives. Can we build market leader products while working only under high pressure? I trade this pressure with the energy of getting excited about the future of a committed team. Exploration work can be very frustrating. The combination of the success of the user stories implementation and the features explored always gives reasons for the team to keep their morale high.

You need it. The products that changed the world were born from a vision, a lot of failures. The market leaders never stop Exploring.

What methods do you use for Continuous Exploration?