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Adaptive Delivery

If an organization is a human body, then adaptive delivery is the digestive system. It’s critically important to good health and is normally the first place you feel pain when you’re sick. So it’s no wonder that adaptive delivery is where leaders first realize they have a problem with their organization. They’re getting stomach aches, acid reflux, and feel general malaise with how quickly and effectively projects are finishing.

Adaptive delivery encompasses how work moves through your entire organization, starting with your customer and company goals and ending with something delivered to your customers. It includes the systematic identification, minimization, and elimination of dependencies (or handoffs) in your organization. Like a digestive system or a car manufacturing plant, the hallmark of adaptive delivery is unimpeded, high quality “flow”. Work moves visibly through your organization via people, process, and tools without major bottlenecks and quality issues, arriving in the hands of your customers at a time and place that meets their needs.

Why It Matters

In the hierarchy of The Way, adaptive delivery shows up after an organization decides on a customer problem to solve, creates a shared belief system, sets goals, and learns along the way. Adaptive delivery separates organizations who scale around a set of customer problems vs. those that fail to do so, falling prey to siloed teams who operate on a spectrum of begrudging cooperation to active competition with one another for resources.


The four previous concepts of The Way can create a profitable business. Successful adaptive delivery practices keep you profitable as you grow.


As you identify, minimize, and eliminate dependencies throughout your organization, you remove one of the key contributors to waste: the handoff of work from one team or function to another. The more dependencies you have in delivering valuable work to your customers, the more context you lose at each handoff, the more insulated people in your organization become from the true heart of the business (your customer), and the more distracted your teams become from the real problem to solve. Dependencies cannot be fully eliminated in any organization of sufficient size and will want to increase the bigger your organization becomes. Effective adaptive delivery systems anticipate this problem, re-form teams and teams of teams around the right customer outcomes, and create visibility to rapidly assess and fix areas of your organization that are suffering from waste.

You're Doing It Right If...

The time it takes to complete work improves at all levels of your organization until it reaches a sustainable pace where work finishes ahead of predictable market windows.

Handoffs, extended wait times, poor quality, and other waste throughout the organization are systematically discovered and eliminated.

Change is communicated transparently, effectively, and continuously to all directly and indirectly impacted teams throughout the organization. All changes are made with an eye to reducing waste in the organization and reinforcing the customer problem to be solved.


Teams track and do work differently enough that their definitions need to be “translated” when work is presented or discussed with other teams. A definition of done for work is too variable or does not exist at all.

Technology systems do not scale, are plagued with quality issues, and create irresponsible technical or process debt.

The organization routinely misses market windows or opportunities due to conflicts in prioritization, handoffs, or issues with orchestrating the work.

Key Practices


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