The first seminar on scaling

July 25, 2014

After my series of posts on scaling it was time to but some of that work into a seminar/training course that I ran with Simon Bennett.  We'd spent some time talking and planning it on a walk near Congee beach with Simon and Saf earlier in the week and I got a chance to see their first baby, produced after less than two hours labour which is enough to make any husband envious let alone mothers.  Mind you Saf is one of the best organisers I have ever known.  We'd organised the whole thing with less than a weeks notice so it was good to get a strong attendance with one person flying in from Tasmania to make the event.

Although it was targeted at the Agile community we did not restrict it to software development per se.  That worked with the audience who were all there because they were interested enough to make time at short notice. That allowed us to work through some of the issues around requirements capture using SenseMaker® and we should be in a position to offer beta test sites on that soon.  Getting things right up front is key to scalability and using micro-narratives of day to day observations, small noticings and frustrations ,we can see patterns of possibility that can be explored earlier enough to make their entry into more formal processes more resilient.

Simon really has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Agile, Lean and all the various isms which are not isms but work the same way, that surround software development these days.  He made some valuable points about the misappropriation of Lean as a synonym for faster along with a whole body of stuff that I hope he will publish soon.  Working with that level of knowledge makes it easier for a generalist like to me to see how to apply my own learning.  In effect this was a sort of mini CALM event and it may be time to create CALM-Γ to take the ideas forward and maybe Australia is the place to do it.  This is not just me, not just me and Simon but there are a whole bunch of people look at ways to scale and apply complexity theory.  Chris Matts recently blogged on this around a martyrdom theme (Chris will be Chris).  Anything to do with scaling cannot not be the property of one person, it needs to be a collective effort incorporating different perspectives.

I've laid out the description of the day below and we plan to run a modified version again, watch for announcements if interested.  The basic principle is to focus on how your start not on how you would like to end up, but that does not mean starting just anywhere!

Any questions or ideas also welcome either as comments here or feel free to email me direct.

Better Project Definition with SenseMaker 

Agile Methods have given us the ability to respond to change; however change always comes at a cost[1], and it’s still difficult to:

  • Figure what to build in the first place
  • Figure out when we’ve sufficiently defined our requirements to feel confident to start
  • Meet traceability requirements whilst retaining Agility

Techniques such as Lean Start-up can certainly help, but they have their limitations.

Especially when you have a market (or stakeholders) that won’t tolerate endless rounds of MVP’s (or in fact can’t agree on what an MVP actually is)

Using SenseMaker®, we&rrsquo;ll present an alternate approach that combines quantitative with qualitative data in a unique way that will allow you to both better craft project definitions to begin with; as well as methods to keep them on track to realising real business outcomes and strategic alignment throughout the entire product development lifecycle.

Resilient Scaling Strategies with Cynefin

There is scale and then there is scale. And with scale comes complexity.

Agile Methods were designed to cope with complexity at the coal face; but they simply don’t take into account the wider organisational context.

To successfully scale Agility, that is to bring Agility to the wider organisation; requires not just rethinking the practices of Agile, but also our interpretations of some of the fundamental principles.[2]

However, so many current methods of “scaling” Agile do so, not by embracing Agile, but by discarding Agility. Whilst the end result is still highly useful, a great opportunity is lost in the process. The Teams may be Agile, but the organisation as a whole may not have become any more so.

The organisations value creating capability has become restricted by its structure;

There is another way. Through leveraging a deep understanding of how Agiliy works coupled with how large organisations actually do what they do, we can not only scale Agile, we can also amplify it.

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About the Cynefin Company

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.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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