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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Agile Transformation: Begin With The End In Mind

Reading: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Agile Transformation: Begin With The End In Mind
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Agile Transformation: Begin With The End In Mind

In the first blog in this series, we explored Habit 1 – Be Proactive of Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We concluded that a company’s choice to pursue an Agile Transformation is a proactive response to their circumstances that powerfully affects their effectiveness and ultimately their success. Continuing on with the exploration of how the 7 Habits apply to Agile Transformation, let’s take a look at Habit 2 – Begin With The End In Mind.

HABIT 2:  Begin With the End in Mind 

Habit 2 is ultimately the culmination of continuous value-centered visualization. This becomes deeply visceral from the get-go as Covey has you visualize your own funeral; the end of your life being the most fundamental application of beginning with the end in mind. He has you imagine what your family and friends might say about you, your contributions, your achievements, and the difference you made in your lifetime. Covey explains that “By keeping that end clearly in mind, you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day does not violate the criteria you have defined as supremely important, and that each day of your life contributes in a meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole.”

As you might expect, there is indeed a principle behind the notion of beginning with the end in mind. The principle is that all things in this world are created twice, the first being the mental manifestation and the second being the physical creation. There is evidence of this all around us. For instance, creating blueprints for a home before the home is built, or developing a business plan before a startup is formed, or designing a costume before powering up the sewing machine. Understanding this principle of two creations and accepting responsibility for them both as an individual and as an organization, works to act within and enlarge the borders of the Circle of Influence we talked about last time. For the proactive organization, taking responsibility for that first creation (and not letting it be inflicted on the organization) is fundamental and represents the linkage between Habit 1 – Be Proactive, and Habit 2 – Begin With The End In Mind.

Covey further explores a highly applicable example (to Agile Transformation, that is) of the two creations principle to the concepts of leadership and management. Leadership is the first creation providing for vision and direction. Management is the second creation involving the effort and efficiency to get it done. More specifically, the pursuit of an Agile Transformation is clearly not the result of efficient management but rather effective leadership. That is, effective leadership is beginning with the end in mind. As Covey points out, it’s easy to get caught up in a management paradigm, focused on the tactical, day-to-day operations, and lose sight of what is truly effective leadership. We all know about busywork. As Covey puts it, “It is possible to be busy – very busy – without being effective.”

Becoming Your Own First Creator

The first creation is where imagination and conscience come into play, discussed in my previous blog post, in helping an individual, and an organization, visualize its potential within given principles. The use of imagination and conscience to visualize the first creation is what Covey refers to as “becoming your own first creator.” 

As an individual, one way to be your own first creator and begin with the end in mind might be to write a personal mission statement. Covey’s guidance in writing a personal mission statement is to start at one’s Center of Influence where four interdependent factors – security, guidance, wisdom, and power – culminate to form your basic paradigms. There’s a lot on this in this chapter, so suffice it to say that keeping these four factors in harmony makes for a balanced character and ultimately a principle-centered life.

The equivalent of the personal mission statement for an organization is a company’s mission statement. This mission statement often reflects their vision and values and is ultimately evident in their goals. Covey suggests that an effective mission statement must come from “the bowels of the organization” with meaningful participation from everyone.  As Covey says, “Without involvement, there is no commitment.” That said, you can not underestimate the importance of the mission statement towards the effective leadership of an organization.  

Just like a mission statement must be a product of the entire organization at all levels, the first creation of an Agile Transformation (the end state vision, if you will) must be as well. To be effective, the end state vision for an Agile Transformation cannot be one department or the decree of the executive ranks, or even just one person. Likewise, you cannot underestimate the importance of organizational participation and buy-in towards the first creation, the end state vision, of an Agile Transformation. 

One thing to note is that an Agile Transformation is not an end-state vision unto itself but rather a means to that end. It’s back to the first creation of leadership and the second creation of management. The end state vision is the first creation, or rather, effective leadership. The Agile Transformation is the second creation, or rather, efficient management.

Visualizing (or scripting) an Agile Transformation is an ongoing process that begins with the end in mind, the end state vision. It starts with a company having a clear understanding of their destination or where they want to be. An organization must know where they are going, so they know where they are now and can deliberately take steps in the right direction towards that end-state vision.

At LeadingAgile, this end state visioning work is embodied in what is called Define The End State (DTES). DTES is the first step in every Agile Transformation and is continuously referenced and refreshed throughout the journey.  In DTES, we look at where a company (and their market is) on the Predictability/Adaptability and Emergence/Convergence continuums, where they need to be, and the outcome and activities to get them there using the LeadingAgile Basecamp model.

We learned that an organization must begin with the end in mind to be highly effective. For an Agile Transformation to be successful (and that’s what we’re all here to do), a company must begin with the end in mind, their end-state vision.  


With Habit 1 we talked about the importance of being a proactive organization towards taking responsibility for the need to transform. This time around, we explored what it means to begin with the end in mind as an organization, as it relates to Habit 2, and how to go about it. Next time, we’ll take a look at Habit 3 – Put First Things First and start to direct our attention toward goals.

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