Complexity and Feature injection at Agile Lean Europe 2011 Berlin

17 09 2011

While reading in news magazine Computer Sweden about all the big companies getting even bigger, and their sometimes so outdated strategies for development and business, I’m ready to agree with Brian Marick (@marick), saying that the only way being agile all the way is to start your own business. Several more people, among them Rachel Davis, said agile just won’t scale.

When companies are that big, you can make agile bubbles inside the company, networking with other agile bubbles in the company and have some changes happen. You’ll soon hit the system – HR, CEO bonuses, incitements, history, education and either you stay happy in your little agile bubble networking with your peers or you quit – and start your own business.

I still believe though you can make things happen with the mindset of the people around you in big business. I like being part of creating these agile bubbles all around, to see creative minds waken up from traditions, to dare to question ”the ways things always been around here”. That’s agile for me. Maybe you can’t turn an oil tanker around by doing Scrum, but you and your closest peers will learn a lot and have a lot more fun on the way and hopefully adding a bit more business value than usual.

Agile is a learning machine!  (Chris Matts quote I think, not good at remembering who said what)

Dave Snowden (@snowded) warned us agile bubble-creators that we’re in a danger zone of change and impact right now. It’s easy to get eaten by the old system when we hit the system right. So, he’s advice is you have to stop selling agile and start talking about it in other words! Now!

And that’s what Bjarne Bogsnes (Statoil) have been doing for a long time with the Beyond Budgeting movement, inspired and maybe strengthened by the spreading of agile thinking. I bring some of his words in my backpack. ”Event driven planning” in stead of ”Calendar driven planning” might speak to business people around there. And the metaphor: Having yearly budgets is like I had only 4 weeks a year where I could ask my bank for money. If it turns out the money is not enough the years consume and investments, I have to wait until next years ”open time” til I can get more money out from the bank, no matter what happens. And I have to spend a wasteful amount of time trying to foresee what will happen the coming year.

Dave Snowden also gave us another warning and important insight – it’s easy to get idealistic, to in the systems thinking way believe you can edit the process and then expect a certain outcome. That sounds like Lean thinking in my head. Make changes in the process and you should expect a certain outcome. Lean Software Development (and Lean in general) could probably add some complexity theories and improve to stay a relevant for the complex networks we act in, where there’s no one cause and no one effect.

Complex systems need constraints. Self organizing teams need constraints otherwise there is chaos. Compare with a self organizing birthday party for 10 year old kids. As soon as you draw an imagined border and say ”cross this and you’ll die!” team works getting better. Yes, we need management, nothing said about managers, but management. Constraints and Amplify/Dampen actions for the team.

Dave also gave a what we say in Swedish ”känga” (sort of a light kick) to all these Management theory x.0 books and courses. The same of old stuff. Anyway I think the ”Managment theory x.o” fills an important purpose. That kind of language talks to an audience normally not very attracted to ”Agile” ”Lean” ”Complexity theories” or whatever for them abstract and obscure strange name. Some hard core management words are needed to meet a wider audience, as long as we use them wisely. So for all of you that falls asleep when you hear about another Agile titled book, I recommend to buy Jurgen Appelos book ”Management 3.0 – Leading agile developers – Develop agile leaders”  and attend his course ”Management 3.0 – Agilt ledarskap i praktiken” in Sweden 24-25/10 at Citerus. Jurgen was one of the organizers of #ALE2011 and also got us bloggers a bit change management in practice at his talk. We’ll see if I change or not. At least I got the desire injected.

Here are More notes from Snowden’s talk.

Feature injection was a fun session with Chris Matts (@PapaChrisMatts), lovely British IT Risk Manager. dare to call himself a BA. (Am I the only one actually liking BA’s btw? They’re a competence all to often get wasted by putting them away in lonely rooms – not Chris I’m sure but a lot of his profession colleagues.)

”What’s the worst thing that can happen in a presentation?” he had a conversation earlier. What happened..  His session got feature injected by a minute of birthday party thrown by the lovely kid’s programme. Oana, one or two (?) of the kids mother was the happy celebrant.

Anyway Feature Injection, sort of a real application of pull system in systems development. Happy to see there is a theory for something I learned in a project not long ago – maybe a little too late – that YOU have to start with the recipient of your systems output, no matter who this is. This recipient, end customer or reader or whatever end user – has to first pull features developed from the systems. Ooach! This means that I really need to put end user’s first!? Again!? Oh all these end users all the time, please. It’s really challenging to implement this thinking, since the recipient often is a partner, who you don’t have really close development practices or relations with, or end users where the threshold for involving them early early in the process is very high – ”we’re only in pre-study”  ”we’re in such a hurry” ”the money doesn’t cover user recruitment..”

Anyway. Feature injection seems to be best explained by comics. And I love to hear about some real cases in Sweden. Will my case be the first, do I dare? I would for sure need some information/domain modeling expert, since the injection go all the way to the details of implementation.

clip from Whole comic

More about Story Mapping and ALE2011 in next post.

Thank you Caios for helping me out in a tough time
Thank you Tibault for great photos
Thanks to Olaf for spreading humbleness around
Thanks to Birgit for making me think.

Thanks to all people for being so friendly and bringing such a heartly atmosphere around you

What happened more in ALE2011 – Berlin – 7-9 sept




4 responses

17 09 2011
Olaf Lewitz

Thank you:-)
Awesome post. Looking forward to the next one!
Take care

18 09 2011
Ulrika Park

Thx for reading it all. 🙂

24 09 2011
Wikispeed and Agile @ universities – ALE2011 – Berlin « Ulrika Park

[…] post on ALE2011 Berlin – Feature injection and Complexity theories Like this:GillaBli först att gilla denna […]

27 09 2011
14 Roundup: ALE2011 | 14principles

[…] @ulrikapark‘s reflections: Complexity and Feature Injection at Agile Lean Europe 2011 Berlin […]


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