Lean or Agility?

May 5, 2011

DSC_2710.jpg I gave a keynote address at LSSC11 this morning looking at the application of complexity theory to software design. I had originally planned a fairly basic 101 lecture on Cognitive Complexity (my name for the fusion of cognitive science and complex adaptive systems theory that I advocate). However I had a chance to tune into the event before arriving so at around 0400 in the morning I decided to take a different tack, building on the day one keynote and directly addressing several issues which had come up. As is common in such circumstances I ended up finishing the slides ten minutes before I was due on and the organisers were phoning my room to find out if I was still around! I got into an unhealthy obsession with using photographs and gaping void cartoons, but it worked if the tweet stream is anything to go by (#LSSC11).

The opening keynote speaker had recommend that we address brutal facts and identify five key ideas or concepts the understanding of which would change things. So I did that, looking to advocate a natural science approach then running through a series of concepts from complexity to resilience. This conference also felt a little like coming home. I really started in system design, building decision support systems and I really enjoyed the learning I gained form conversations here and on line in the build up.

I finished off somewhat cheekily by suggesting that writing values down is a mistake. Given that LSCC had just announced a set of values this might have been considered provocative, but the conversation afterwards was fascinating with people really open to thinking differently. I made the point that common parables, or metaphors were more sustainable. More on that tomorrow.

For those who asked for more there are a set of links below – I hope they are useful if not feel free to email me. Apologies by the way for my long absence from the blogosphere, its been a frantic few weeks and when I had free time I needed to sleep. Today’s keep note sparked a whole bunch of ideas so expect them to unfold over the next few days.

(The illustration here is a photograph I didn’t use, but I am very proud of it. I took it in Ice House Canyon yesterday afternoon, through the clear waters of a mountain stream. I used that as a clear set of metaphors in the talk, we see through reflections, not precisely to an uncertain future and human systems are streams, they cannot be confined by boxes)


Link: Our next training programmes are in Amsterdam and Chicago – these are generic not software development specific. A new set of US courses will be up there shortly. We also run in house training and awareness programmes in the new approaches that are direclty linked to software design. Again email  me if you want details

Link: Detailed discussion of SenseMaker® (the micro-narrative software which is not open source. That presentation includes Cynefin and S-curve material not used in the presentation. There are also case studies here and here.

Link: Videos that elaborate on the analysis side of SenseMaker® (these are real cases)

Link: Various videos of the Children’s Party story, an overview of Cynefin and two presentations on innovation.

Link: The US Navy version of the Children’s Party story told as a Socratic dialogue

Link: Cynefin four points method part of a series on the history of a model, available in full here

Link: Method sheet for above, link takes you to the page with the action sheets for complex, complicated etc.

Link: Social network stimulation (constrained self-orgaising teams)

All methods are open source and there is other material to explore on the site


Link: The Harvard Business Review article is here

Link: A more academic article with older language with Kurtz, one of the most referenced

Link: Multi-ontology sensemaking (a half way house between the above two

Link: Original Cynefin model paper in the context of Knowledge Management

Link: Academic article on abductive or narrative research

Link: Summary of Complex Adaptive systems from one of the leading authors in the field

You can also find third party articles here, and more by me here and other podcasts here.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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