Complexity Thinking for Scrum Teams


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This session presents the dilemmas of complexity, and introduces complexity theory models including complex adaptive systems (CAS) and Cynefin to better understand organizational contexts and respond with Innovation.

This session should appeal to Agile practitioners interested in exploring complexity and applying practical techniques for improving Agile project outcomes. The session will discuss the following:

1) Introduce complexity theory and offer Cynefin as a valuable and practical tool for Scrum teams to manage changing contexts and operate Scrum as a Complex Adaptive System.
2) Explain how this enhances sense-making during an Agile project e.g. during sprint planning and user story development.
3) Explain how a team can apply different approaches for Cynefin domains e.g. Probe-Sense-Respond vs. Sense-Analyse-Respond.
4) Discuss useful Cognitive-Edge techniques e.g. safe to fail experimentation, butterfly stamping with the backlog, ritual dissent with solution design.
6) Show how Cynefin practices enhance the role of the ScrumMaster to create more effective and responsive teams.
7) Wet the appetite to start experimenting with Cynefin and build on small successes.

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Complexity Thinking for Scrum Teams

  1. 1. Complexity Thinking forScrum Teams Anton Rossouw Project Director (AIPM-CPPD) Agile Management Coach
  2. 2.
  3. 3. Three wise men…“I think the next century (21st) will be the century of complexity”Stephen Hawking (1942-!)“I wouldnt give a nickel for the simplicity on this side ofcomplexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the otherside of complexity.” Albert Einstein (1879-1955)“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple,and wrong.” H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
  4. 4. Ukiyo-e woodblock print - “The Great Wave” by Hokusai from his subscription series, “Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji,” completed between 1826 and1833.
  5. 5. “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won thewar,”General McChrystal
  6. 6. Publication “The Arab Spring of Discontent”“If a revolution destroys a government, but the systematic patterns of thought thatproduced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeatthemselves… There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.”Robert Pirzig,Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.“95% of the problems in business are system driven and only 5% are peopledriven.”W. Edwards Deming
  7. 7. Source: Brian Castellani - Complexity Science Map :
  8. 8. Not Everything is Complex • Complicated System – Interrelated parts. – Linear behaviour, Predictable. – Equal to the sum of its parts. • Complex System – Connected elements. – Non-Linear responses, unpredictable behaviour. – Positive and Negative feedback, spontaneous emergence. – Cannot be described by analysing the components alone. Source: Cilliers, P. (1998) Complexity and postmodernism: Understanding complex systems, London and New York, Routledge
  9. 9. In Control Un-Control Out of Control Stability Evolution/Revolution CatastropheConstrictive Principled ConflictedRegimented Dynamic Chaotic Source: Sole, R., Goodwin, B., (2000) Signs of Life – How complexity pervades Biology, Basic Books, New York.
  10. 10. Non Linear Effects Memory and Culture Evolution or Collapse Energy FlowsLearning andCapability “Living” System Constraints Short Range and Simple Interaction Rules Possibility Space Source (22 June 2009) Advantage seeking time driven Social Agents
  11. 11. New definition of Scrum Action orientated sense-making group under pressure and constraints that responds constantly with and within its environment to create emergent value and learning experiences. Scrum artwork by Kenny Rubin
  12. 12. You absorb complexity, you don’t delude yourself into thinking you can eliminate itSnowden, D.J. Boone, M., (2007) A Leaders Framework for Decision Making. Harvard Business Review, November 2007, pp. 69-76.
  13. 13. Complex ComplicatedUnordered Ordered Disorder Chaotic Simple
  14. 14. Complex ComplicatedUnknown - Unknowns Known- Unknowns C≈E C===E C≠E C=E Unknowables Known - Knowns Chaotic Simple
  15. 15. Complex Complicated Weak central, Strong central,strong distributed strong distributed Weak central, Strong central,weak distributed weak distributed Chaotic Simple
  16. 16. Complex ComplicatedExaption AdaptionEmergent Specialist Practice Practice Novel BestPractice PracticeActaption Adoption Chaotic Simple
  17. 17. Complex Complicated Probe Sense Sense AnalyseRespond Respond Act Sense Sense CategoriseRespond Respond Chaotic Simple
  18. 18. Exploration JIT Transfer Swarming Complex Complicated StandardisationConvergence Improvement Divergence Collapse Chaotic Simple Imposition
  19. 19. Warm and Fuzzy Increasing Expert Tyranny of predictability, knowledge Distractions agent breaks the Experts interactions down, stabilizing increasing agent Complex interactions Complicated Knowledge diffused, system increasingly well understood Agent interactions breaking down Issues requiring expert intervention appear Constraints on system and agents appear Obvious solutions and opportunities Chaotic to crises appear High Simple uncertain risk of True catastrophe Mind- Catastrophe Numbing Bureaucracy
  20. 20. • By 2016, the Cynefin framework will be used by 10% of IT organisations as a sense-making methodology.• Best practice methodologies make us vulnerable to the effects of increasing complexity and ambiguity.• Capture past stories and conduct operational games.
  21. 21. New Vocabulary• Complexity, Uncertainty, Ambiguity, Constraints.• Intractable problems and Anticipatory Awareness.• Messy coherent systems.• Story telling and micro narrative exploration.• Co-evolutionary coalescence.• Articulated and unarticulated requirements.• Serendipitous discovery.• Exaptation and novel increments• Starvation, Pressure, Perspective Shift.
  22. 22. Methods• Butterfly Stamping – Familiarisation, highlight perspective differences• Future Backwards – Clarify past perceptions and lessons, planning perspectives• Anecdote Circles – Narrative collection and understanding• Safe-Fail Probes – Find the best solution, test coherence• Ritualised Dissent – Challenge orthodoxy and consensus with diversity
  23. 23. Safe to Fail Probes Future BackwardsButterfly Stamping Anecdote Circles Ritual Dissent Scrum artwork by Kenny Rubin
  24. 24. Where to now Scrum Master ?• Create capability of Complexity Thinking• Establish Cynefin model understanding• Facilitate contextual sense-making• Foster anticipatory awareness• Implement methods during Scrum• Exaptively co-evolve product and business
  25. 25. Resources atch?v=yXIePVkTY0A
  26. 26. 0439 802 017