In an Agile World
Brisbane Agile Meetup March 2018
Problem Solving vs Thinking
• Do I know the answer?
• How can I find it out?
• What is my thought process?
• How can I approach the situation I
have in front of me?
Complexity in the SDLC
Large numbers of interacting elements.
A non-linear relationship between the interactions where
minor changes can produce major consequences.
The system is dynamic where the sum of the whole is
greater than the individual elements.
In complex systems, solutions can’t be imposed rather they
arise (or emerge) from the circumstances.
“Sense-making is how we make sense
of the world so we can act in it.
If you can’t draw a framework on
the back of a table napkin from memory it
has little utility for sense-making”
Human interactions are a
function of our personal and
Cynefin explores the
relationship between humans,
their experience, and the
Cynefin Welsh Meaning
But don’t let me tell you…
It has been used:
Analysing policymaking within the George W. Bush administration
and the impact of religion in that process.
The nature of the response to bioterrorism
Aspects of measurement in the British National Health Service.
The retrospective study of emergency situations.
The management of food chain risks.
To study the interaction between civilians and military during disaster
Recognition of question patterns from citizens requests by (social)
Most recently it has been extended to cover software development
Complacency leads to failure
Disorder / Confusion
The disorder domain in the centre represents
situations where there is confusion because
there is no clarity about which of the other
By definition, it is hard to see
when this domain applies.
Simple: BAU / Automatable
Complicated: A simple project with some analysis required
– simple agile tools.
Complex: We have “known unknowns” and need analysis,
testing, constant feedback and retrospection.
Chaotic: “Unknown unknowns” have caused something to
happen – unable to do analysis just try and fix it – more
sophisticated agile tools required.
Frog thinking vs Watch thinking
C ≠ E
C -> Cause
E -> Effect
4th and subsequent times
probe – sense – respond
sense – categorise – respond
sense – analyse – respond
act – sense – respond
Cynefin + Blooms Taxonomy
Using Cynefin for User Story
Simple: Just build it. Or if it’s too big -> find all the stories
and do the most valuable ones first.
Complicated: Find all the stories and do the most valuable
and/or most risky ones first.
Complex: Don’t try to find all the stories. Find one or two
that will provide some value and teach you something
about the problem and solution, build those and use what
you learn to find the rest.
Chaotic: Put out the fire! Splitting stories probably isn’t
important right now.
Disordered: Figure out which domain you’re in before
splitting so you don’t take the wrong approach.
Using Cynefin in Retrospectives
Simple: Just implement these improvements, add them to
Complicated: Find experts in your environment or
internal/external consultants, ask them to help you
Complex: Brainstorm a set of small and time-bound
experiments, find a way to measure outcomes, implement
Chaotic: Distribute knowledge and wait some time until the
issue transitions into a complex domain
Disordered: Break these down until they start falling into
one of the domains
Using Cynefin in Planning
Simple: Estimates are going to be close to actuals
Complicated: Planning can be based on previous work
Complex: Small experiments and iterative work will lead to
better estimates and plans
Chaotic: Just do it and we’ll try and create some rules when
we see the patterns
Disordered: Don’t do it
Which domain are you in?
What approach are you using?
What can you do to move to the next domain?
Question your thinking & problem solving approach
Do incremental delivery to allow reflection/adaptation
Be Agile -> Use Cynefin
Videos worth watching…
Cynefin in Action -
BDD with Cynefin
Cynefin - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCXWZwIv1Xs
LinkedIn - /in/maddogmikeb
Twitter - @maddogmikeb
How to think in different states of “being”…
Problem solving + thinking skills.
Problem solving -> Do I know the answer? How can I find it out?
Thinking skills -> As an escalation path for thought process + work approaches
We live in a world where are there knowns…and a lot of…
When doing any work where there may be new things we want to find them out quickly
And we start to identify the things we know we don’t know
But there is still the unknown knowns.
How does the complexity of a project determine the approach to delivering the project?
Big ball of mud.
Complexity can be seen as having the following characteristics:
Refer to list….
How do you account for complexity throughout the SDLC?
Sense making is the process of understanding the nature, including complexity of a system.
How to make sense of something.
A great way of making sense and closing the gap between the known and the unknown is through the Cynefin framework.
It’s a tool that allows you to navigate through complexity.
The Framework was originally developed in 1999 in the context of knowledge management and organisational strategy by Dave Snowden.
Collective experience such as stories or music.
It describes a “perspective on the evolutionary nature of complex systems, including their inherent uncertainty”.
The framework allows us to understand the nature of problems & work, thus applying the most appropriate method of knowledge management & decision making.
Understand your current environment so that you can start to work through the chaos, complexity and ambiguity by taking steps to reduce and manage the ambiguity and eventually move towards automation of the simple activities.
5 Domains, not quadrants – the boundaries are fuzzy, flexible – including the one in the middle – Disorder.
Crossing a boundary signifies that there needs to be a shift in our frame of mind, that is different from what it was before.
The boundary between simple and chaotic is seen as a catastrophic one: complacency leads to failure.
Disorder is the place where there is no clarity at all.
I won’t refer to this again – but it’s helpful to know that there is a place where confusion can exist.
A watch maker, aka a watch expert, can disassemble a watch and put it back together,
But a vet cannot do that with a frog.
Obvious – The known stuff
C=E Cause and Effect relationships are repeatable, perceivable & predictable.
More work – The knowable stuff
C--->E Cause and effect are separated over time and space
Cannot Predict - The Unknowable
C E (in circle) Cause and effect are only coherent in retrospect
We act by knowing where the exits are and following the drills – we don’t bother estimating in this – just do it
House is on fire - The Incoherent
C ≠ E No cause and effect relationships
Complacency in simple can lead to “falling over” into chaotic catastrophically.
We often start in the chaotic domain. Especially when doing something for the first time. There does not seem to be a connection between the cause and effect.
By the 2nd time we understand more about the cause and effect relationship and can start to see that they may be within the same realm.
The 3rd time we do something it is becoming less complex, though may still be complicated, a pattern may be emerging.
And often by the 4th time we can see the pattern and even start to think about automating it.
When learning a new skill or practice – one that has guidelines, documentation, or rules, associated with it we usually start with the simple things.
Simple – Follow the rules – Shu - Best practice being that which has been documents/accepted/written about in books/captured in a formal “standard” e.g. 9001 - Everyone knows the right answer
Complicated – Bend the rules – Ha - Not quite the whole shebang, not optimised for maximum efficiency, but it does get the job done – just enough - What we need to spend time & energy finding out; an expert would know
Complex – Evolve/discover new rules – Ri - What we can pattern retrospectively
Chaotic – Create new rules – Before Shu - What we need to stabilize for patterns to emerge; there is no right answer
Cynefin gives us ways of approaching different environments…
Simple – see one, do one or see the situation know the answer – Blooms: Remember / Understand / Apply
Complicated –see the situation consider the options, then action an option – Blooms: Analysis
Complex – create an experiment, see the results, create a new experiment - Blooms: Evaluating
Chaotic – there are no rules that apply, we need new rules - Blooms: Creating
Sense Collect sufficient data to identify the characteristics of this aspect of a situation
Categorize Identify where these characteristics fit within known world
Analyse Rely on expert opinion and diverse stakeholder perspectives in order to identify cause-effect relationships & select appropriate response
Respond Carry out the practice that has been proven most appropriate to that category (e.g. best, good, emergent or novel practice)
Probe An experiment that makes patterns more visible and knowable by sensing.
Act A strong intervention designed to shock a chaotic aspect of the situation back into some form of order
There are different leadership skills / approaches that are required in the different domains too…
Simple – Can you do this
Complicated – This work together
Complex – How do you think it should work
Chaotic – Do it now
When you’re next faced with a problem, question your thinking and problem solving approach.
See if the problem can indeed be tackled with best or good practice or whether you need to do a little probing, sensing and responding.