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How to Lead Agile Organizations Through Complexity

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Leaders need more than a set of recipes, handpicked case studies, and so called ‘best practices’ to affect change and fundamentally shift their organizations. This session will introduce participants to the Cynefin framework and demonstrate how leaders at every level can use it to make sense of the world in order to take effective action. Cynefin is a situational leadership framework that guides work, decision making, and management actions across environments with various degrees of uncertainty and strategic foresight.

While many seasoned leaders readily embrace adaptive approaches, Cynefin explains why adaptive methods and resilient designs work particularity well in complex, uncertain environments. The session will also dive into complexity-informed methods and practices that will enhance a leader’s ability to navigate wicked problems and opportunities alike. The session will feature real-world examples, lessons learned, and mini-case studies on how to apply these ideas in the context of an Agile and Lean transformation.

Cynefin is a surprisingly simple framework that can be drawn from memory on a napkin, yet the rich discussions it unlocks for a leadership team are profound and serve as radical catalyst for change.

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How to Lead Agile Organizations Through Complexity

  1. 1. Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 1@danielwalsh How To Lead Agile Organizations Through Complexity Daniel Walsh ACT (Approved Cynefin Trainer) Scrum Gathering Austin 2019 a co-operative for Agile coaches
  2. 2. 2 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 What is a heuristic? @danielwalsh
  3. 3. What is a heuristic? Rule of thumb 3 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 le pif (the nose) 目の測定 (measuring with the eye) Educated guess SWAG Order of magnitude First cut Engineering judgement Guiding principles Faustregel (the fist) Ha пальцами (by the fingers) Quick and dirty Guesstimate @danielwalsh
  4. 4. 4 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 @danielwalsh
  5. 5. What is a Heuristic? A heuristic is anything that provides a plausible aid or direction in the solution of a problem* • reduces the search time for problem solving but does not guarantee a solution • can offer conflicting advice • acceptance depends on the immediate context instead of an absolute standard Example engineering heuristics: • Solve problems by successive approximations (trial and error) • Divide the problem into its constituent parts (divide and conquer) • Do what worked last time (yesterday’s weather) 5 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 *Reference: Koen, Billy Vaughn. Discussion of the Method. 2003. @danielwalsh
  6. 6. 6 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Everything in Agile is heuristic Iterations less than four weeks Individuals and interactions over processes and tools Definition of Done Daily Standup Responding to change over following a plan Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication Best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams Velocity tracking User stories State of the Art (SOTA) LeSS SAFe DAD Nexus Scrum at Scale Kanban Scrum XP @danielwalsh
  7. 7. Heuristics produce accurate decisions by exploiting the structures of information in the environments in which they are applied* 7 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 *Reference: Gigerenzer & Todd. Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart. 2000. @danielwalsh
  8. 8. Heuristics are dependent on immediate context instead of absolute truth* 8 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 *Reference: Koen, Billy Vaughn. Discussion of the Method. 2003. @danielwalsh
  9. 9. 9 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 @danielwalsh
  10. 10. Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May201910 The future of Agile is one where practitioners understand not only how, but also why Agile methods and practices work across different contexts. @danielwalsh
  11. 11. The nature of the system determines the way we can know things, how we make decisions, and how we act. -David Snowden 11 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Cynefin Framework kuh-nev-in The Cynefin framework is first about situational awareness, followed by contextually appropriate action. @danielwalsh
  12. 12. 12 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 ?Disorder? Chaotic Complex ObviousComplicated @danielwalsh Foresight & Predictability
  13. 13. The Cynefin Framework 13 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Obvious ComplicatedComplex Chaotic DisorderDisorder The Cynefin Framework by Cognitive Edge.. Constraints Cause and Effect Relationship Decision-making How to respond @danielwalsh
  14. 14. Cynefin Framework | Older Version* 14 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 *Reference: Complex Acts of Knowing by Dave Snowden Disorder Obvious ComplicatedComplex Chaotic Known Knowns Known Unknown Unknown Unknowns Unknowable @danielwalsh
  15. 15. The Obvious Domain Direct Cause-Effect Relationship 15 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 The Cynefin Framework by D Snowden - Cognitive Edge. Used with permission. Disorder best practice Obvious Rigid constraints No degrees of freedom sense-categorize-respond Standards Checklists Best-Known Methods @danielwalsh ComplicatedComplex Chaotic Disorder
  16. 16. The Complicated Domain Indirect Cause-Effect Relationship 16 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 The Cynefin Framework by D Snowden - Cognitive Edge. Used with permission. best practice Obvious Complicated good practice Rigid constraints No degrees of freedom Governing constraints Tightly coupled sense-analyze-respond sense-categorize-respond Playbooks Community of Experts Better-Known Methods @danielwalsh Complex Chaotic Disorder
  17. 17. The Complex Domain Highly Interconnected Cause-Effect Relationships 17 best practice Obvious Complicated good practice Complex exaptive & adaptive practice Rigid constraints No degrees of freedom Governing constraints Tightly coupled Enabling constraints Loose, semi-stable coupling probe-sense-respond sense-analyze-respond sense-categorize-respond Situational Awareness Networks Resilient Methods Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 The Cynefin Framework by D Snowden - Cognitive Edge. Used with permission. @danielwalsh Chaotic Disorder
  18. 18. The Chaotic Domain Unknowable Cause-Effect Relationship 18 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 The Cynefin Framework by D Snowden - Cognitive Edge. Used with permission. Disorder best practice Obvious Complicated good practice Complex exaptive & adaptive practice Chaotic novel practice Rigid constraints No degrees of freedom Governing constraints Tightly coupled Enabling constraints Loose, semi-stable coupling No constraints Not coupled act-sense-respond probe-sense-respond sense-analyze-respond sense-categorize-respond Radical Innovation Crisis Management Stabilizing Methods @danielwalsh Disorder
  19. 19. The Disordered Domain Indeterminate Cause-Effect Relationship 19 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 The Cynefin Framework by D Snowden - Cognitive Edge. Used with permission. Disorder best practice Obvious Complicated good practice Complex exaptive & adaptive practice Chaotic novel practice Rigid constraints No degrees of freedom Governing constraints Tightly coupled Enabling constraints Loose, semi-stable coupling No constraints Not coupled act-sense-respond probe-sense-respond sense-analyze-respond sense-categorize-respond Multiple diverse perspectives Partition Diagnostic Methods @danielwalsh
  20. 20. 20 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Nature is adroit in creating objects whose only excuse for being seems to be to thwart someone’s effort to put them into a category. -Billy Vaughn Koen *Reference: Koen, Billy Vaughn. Discussion of the Method. 2003. @danielwalshCC BY-SA 3.0 Platypus by TwoWings
  21. 21. 21 @danielwalsh Complex Disorder Complicated Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Degree of description
  22. 22. 22 @danielwalsh “…a jumbo jet is complicated but a mayonnaise is complex.” – Paul Cilliers Reference: https://www.theoryculturesociety.org/oliver-human-on-paul-cilliers/ CC BY-SA 2.0 by jules:stonesoup CC BY-SA 3.0 by Alex Beltyukov Disorder Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019
  23. 23. Mathematics of Dots* 23 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 *Source: The Mathematics of Dots by Max Boisot Events as Dots Effect Patterns Connecting Dots Cause Links @danielwalsh Hindsight Does Not Lead To Foresight # of Dots # of Links # of Possible Patterns 4 6 64 10 45 35,184,372,088,832 n L=n(n-1)/2 P=2L
  24. 24. Complex Adaptive Systems Are Irreversible and Not Repeatable 24 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 “Large Development Teams generate too much complexity for an empirical process to be useful.” - The Scrum Guide™ (2017) Hypothesis validation or invalidation? Controlled, repeatable experiments? What about the scientific method? These heuristics are not well suited for working with complex adaptive systems
  25. 25. 25 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 @danielwalsh Complex Disorder Complicated Multiple Parallel Safe-to-Try Bets Testable, Repeatable Scientific Experiments
  26. 26. Cynefin Metaphors | Games 26 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Obvious ComplicatedComplex Chaotic Disorder Coin Toss BlackjackTexas Hold’em Poker Food Fight Calvinball* Reference: http://calvinandhobbes.wikia.com/wiki/Calvinball @danielwalsh
  27. 27. Cynefin Metaphors | Movement 27 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Obvious ComplicatedComplex Chaotic Blind Police Roadblock Traffic LightRoundabout No constraints @danielwalsh
  28. 28. Cynefin | Software Development 28 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Obvious ComplicatedComplex Chaotic Disorder Unit Test Regression Testing User Testing Canary Deployments* Chaos Monkey ChAP** References: * http://principlesofchaos.org/ ** The Netflix Simian Army post on Medium, 2011 and Netflix post on Chaos Automation Platform https://medium.com/netflix-techblog/chap-chaos-automation-platform-53e6d528371f @danielwalsh
  29. 29. Cynefin | Prioritization 29 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Obvious ComplicatedComplex Chaotic Disorder Take the best1 Weighted-shortest Job First2 Multiple small bets 1/n First-fit Pattern Match3 1 Reference: Gigerenzer & Todd. Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart. 2000. 2 Reference: Reinertsen, Don. The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development. 2009. 3 Reference: Klein, Gary. Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions. 1998. @danielwalsh
  30. 30. Complexity & Leading Change Lessons Learned 30 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019
  31. 31. Cynefin | Change Management 31 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Obvious ComplicatedComplex Chaotic Disorder Standards, Hard Rules, & Policy Enforcement Define Ideal State & Close Gap Manage Evolutionary Potential of Present Invest in Advance of Need @danielwalsh Scientific Management “Popular” Systems ThinkingAnthro-Complexity* Chaos Engineering**References: *https://cognitive-edge.com/blog/whats-in-a-name/ **http://principlesofchaos.org/ and Netflix post on Chaos Automation Platform
  32. 32. Complex Change Needs Ecological Metaphors Not Manufacturing Ones Change Agent As Gardener 32 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019
  33. 33. Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May201933
  34. 34. Complex Change Heuristic | Containers, Differences, and Exchanges (CDE) Containers, Differences, and Exchanges* is a heuristic that describes three conditions that influence the speed, path, and direction of complex systems Containers: Things that hold, constrain, & shape the system • meeting, org silos, events, location, and anything else that constrains agents Differences: Distinctions that create tension and influence decision and action • Skills, experience, socio-economics, gender, race, ethnicity and any other “differences that make a difference” Exchanges: Connections that move information, energy, and other resources • Feedback, dialog, conversation, messages, body language, pictures, and any flow the generates change 34 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 *Reference: Human Systems Dynamics Institute https://www.hsdinstitute.org/assets/documents/5.1.1.3.cde-30apr16.pdf These three conditions are massively entangled with each other, a shift one changes the other two
  35. 35. Knowledge Check: A Gom Jabbar For Agile Practitioners Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Photo Attribution: Dune (1984 Film), fair use of a copyrighted work for purposes such as teaching and nonprofit educational purposes is not an infringement of copyright
  36. 36. Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May201936 The future of Agile is one where practitioners understand not only how, but also why Agile heuristics work across different contexts. (obvious, complicated, complex, chaotic, disorder) @danielwalsh
  37. 37. 37 Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 Isn’t that an interesting heuristic. -Billy Vaughn Koen *Reference: Koen, Billy Vaughn. Discussion of the Method. 2003. @danielwalsh
  38. 38. Copyright © 2019 nuCognitive LLC. All rights reserved. SOTA|Walsh;May2019 How To Lead Agile Organizations Through Complexity Thank You! 38@danielwalsh daniel.walsh@nuCognitive.com Let’s connect on https://www.meetup.com/Cynefin-and-Complexity http://bit.ly/walshslides Cynefin & Complexity Foundations Course (May 29-30 Houston) a co-operative for Agile coaches

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