Kent Beck Explains his 3X Model

  • 14 December 2016

We attended a public lecture at the Tshimologong precinct in Braamfontein, on 13 December 2016, where Kent Beck shared his new model with aspiring entrepreneurs.

Kent is a famous software engineer who developed the Extreme Programming (EP) development methodology, which advocates software quality and quick responsiveness to changing customer requirements. EP is also closely linked to agile software development. Mr. Beck was also one of the 17 original signatories of the Agile Manifesto, the founding document for agile software development. Currently, Kent works for Facebook, where he observed various processes in the company and decided to articulate them into his 3X model.

What is the 3X model?

The 3X model can explain the various stages of a startup, but can also be applied to development stages of new products and features. However as Kent said himself, he now sees this model everywhere he looks including his musical endeavors. The 3X stands for Explore, Expand and Extract. The three stages have various coding objectives, intentions and the people found themselves in these stages have different roles.


The explore stage consists of innovation and experimentation. The objective of this stage is to perform as many experiments as possible to figure out what experiments work and throw away the ones that don’t. Due to the constant need for new ideas, you will find creative types drawn to this stage. The point of this stage is to generate as many ideas and their implementations as possible for very low cost. As a result, the code is not necessarily clean and well designed, but this is still fine as we want to keep costs to the minimum. Most startups find themselves in this stage before they launched or just after they launched their product.


The expansion stage is the most exciting stage, as this is when you have finished experimentation and one of your ideas is growing really fast. The objective of this stage is to continue growing while avoiding all possible bottlenecks. Mr. Beck stressed that the bottlenecks are generally unforeseen, but they will happen especially if the growth you are experiencing is to the third degree. Remember, the code you wrote in the previous stage was quick and dirty, so this is where you will have to fix most of your code and pay your so-called technical debt. In this stage, you are looking to have talented engineers who are able to solve all the issues related to the growth. All the aspiring entrepreneurs wish to experience this stage at least once in their lives and Mr. Beck mentioned that he experienced this stage only 5 times during his 6 years in Facebook.


By the time you have reached the extraction stage, you already know which one of your experiments worked, your growth has slowed down and became incremental. This is where you are looking to monetise your idea. This is also a stage where you don’t take any risks, and make sure you don’t make any moves which will jeopardise your business. In fact, most established companies find themselves at this stage. The companies are worried about innovation and don’t always encourage it. This makes sense since innovation is closely coupled with taking on risk and trying something new. So the creative types needed for the exploration stage are now replaced by non-risk takers. During this stage, it also makes sense to improve your code and do things more efficiently. This is done so that you can extract all possible payoff.


We have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the 3X model and the discussion which following Mr. Beck’s talk. We also concluded that Advicement probably spent a bit too much time in the exploration stage and the sooner we develop a feedback mechanism with our clients, the better. In other words, we need to launch our product and find out what our clients like. This way if things go well, we can experience the other two stages as well.

A huge thank you goes to Kent Beck for sharing his thoughts on his model and Johannesburg Center of Software Engineering, headed by Professor Barry Dwolatzky, for bringing such inspiring and talented people to the South African Entrepreneurial Community.