How to Establish an Agile Plan

Working with humans is complex and with this are best plans often turn to dust. Rigid plans and programs are handcuffs. Rather than working off a playbook or protocol we must be agile. Shorter iterative plans allow us to make decisions based on the most recent data. They allow us to course correct in real time. Know where you are heading and establish checkpoints to make sure you are going in the right direction. But allow flexibility in how you get there. This is coaching. This is patient centered care.

How to Establish an Agile Plan:

It can be very useful to frame any process as a series of short sprints. Think of this as akin to software going from version 1.0 to 1.1 to 1.2. We can focus on making the next small change with the vision of 2.0 in our mind. These sprints need to lead to an imbedded test to allow us to know whether we have truly reached the next version and if we are still on track as originally planned. These short sprints allow us to quickly shift gears as needed. In patient care or coaching, this is a way to quickly calibrate based on response to a stimulus. This can be organized using a tool called a PDCA loop. PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, Act. We will next break these four components down.

File:PDCA-Multi-Loop.png - Wikimedia Commons


Based on my assessment, what is the first step towards the goal. What is the “rate limiting step” in the equation that will allow the rest of the process to continue with less resistance.

“Based on my evaluation, we are going to start with isometric loading to bring some additional blood flow to the tendon, desensitize the area, and gauge tolerance to conservative loads.”


Carry out the plan. Initiate your first step. Apply the first stimulus.

“Begin with 4x45s single leg heel raise iso holds 3x/day”


Assess progress towards the desired outcome. Collect the relevant data and identify positives and unanticipated issues.

“Patient reported that isometric holds were 2/10 painful for the first 2 days and then reduced to 0/10 on the 3rd and 4th days”


Adjust based on feedback from this first loop. The overall process can be revised and updated during this step. Are we still headed in the right direction? Is there a faster route? Do we need more information?

This of course, is followed up with our next planning phase and the loop continues until the desired outcome is met. Rigid plans do not work with human beings. Too many variables change day by day. There is too much information we do not know when creating these plans. We need to respect the emergence of new information that will ultimately allow us to be more accurate tomorrow than I am today. Start with a system that optimizes for this. PDCA.


Listen: Akimbo: A Podcast from Seth Godin- Alexander’s Theorem of Professional Exceptionalism

  • Seth Godin has a gift for challenging individuals to think differently. In this episode, he challenges us to pose the question “are we as good as we think we are?”. He cites examples of how we as therapists may have a skewed interpretation of our skill and ability. We challenge you to take this bitter pill of humility as it will help your ability to more accurately self evaluate and level up your professional skills. 

Educate: Optimization of Movement: A Dynamical Systems Approach to Movement Systems as Emergent Phenomena

  • This article is a counter-argument to the “monolithic” identification of a movement system. Rather, the authors argue that we should be looking through a dynamical systems lens to respect the complex interactions that drive movement behavior. Ultimately, the article calls into question our process for labeling movement and assigning a diagnosis. 
  • Guccione AA, Neville BT, George SZ. Optimization of movement: a dynamical systems approach to movement systems as emergent phenomena. Phys Ther. 2019;99(1):3-9.

Read: Coaching Rules: A How-to Manual for a Successful Career in Strength and Fitness- Brendon Rearick

  • Brendon beautifully and simply discusses the “big rocks” of coaching. These simple principles can help you rethink and refine your personal interaction skills, your session flow, coaching cues, and overall ability to serve your patients and clients. 

Engage: @Evan_Peikon

  • Looking into some physiological deep dives to improve understanding of energy systems evaluation and training? If so Evan is your guy. Awesome visuals are coupled with deep and nuanced write ups. 
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