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Tom Nies

How Can Implementing the 3X Methodology Lead to Success in Your Business or Product Group?

When people are starting a business, expanding their organization or launching a new product idea, they typically start with a business plan.  Business plans help focus their company outlook and give clarity to their purpose. However, creating a business plan can be daunting, and some may not know where to start.  The same goes for direction. People have ideas of building solutions for the market, but some may not know how to narrow the scope to the smartest solution. These types of things are critical for success in business.

3XFor those seeking guidance on building a business plan and finding the smartest solution for a demand in the market, the 3X Methodology is a great place to start. Kent Beck discovered this methodology when he noticed that Facebook did things differently and distinguished three key phases of a winning idea.

Beck was a programmer, coach and mentor of programmers for about six years and is now independent on public speaking tours, authoring a new book and continuing to coach and mentor successful teams worldwide.  He is known for his contributions in software development:

  • Patterns for software
  • The rediscovery of test-first programming
  • The xUnit family of developer testing tools
  • Extreme Programming

Beck is also the author/co-author of Implementation PatternsExtreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change 2nd EditionContributing to EclipseTest-Driven Development: By ExamplePlanning Extreme ProgrammingSmalltalk Best Practice Patterns, and the JUnit Pocket Guide.

What Is This 3X Methodology?

The 3X Methodology, or “Explore, Expand, Extract,” is a thinking model to better understand and adapt to changing contexts as you take your ideas on a journey down a winning path to success. This is very applicable to a number of business settings because it helps bring direction, focus and alignment. High-level executives as well as product management, developers, people in operations and others can benefit from this methodology.

As Beck explains:

“Explore – The risky search for a viable return on a viable investment [via experimentation]. … If you’re lucky, one of these experiments turns out to be unexpectedly successful, which leads to:
Expand – Now things are going nuts. … Unanticipated bottlenecks appear. … Once growth becomes routine, it’s time to:
Extract – Now the shape of the problem and solution spaces are clear. One euro in equals three euros out. Playbooks emerge. … Economies of scale matter. …

– Kent Beck, The Product Development Triathlon

As an idea progresses, it can change depending on where it is on its journey from the Explore stage into the Expand stage and finally into the Extract stage.  This includes how it’s financed, tested, planned, implemented and evolved.  It even covers managing risk, which as we discussed above, is one of the priorities of a business leader.

Watch Kent Beck share his thoughts on “3X: Explore, Expand, Extract” for yourself:

If you’d like to see an example of how one Cincom Smalltalk customer used the 3X Methodology to build out a business plan and create a smarter solution, listen as Suzanne Fortman discusses it on this video: