Next month I might join Karl Scotland, Simon Bennett, Steve Freeman, Jospeh Pelrine, Dave Snowden and others at the Complexity, Agile and Lean Mashup Alpha or “CALM” event. The event intends is to discover where Complexity Science can be applied to plug gaps that exist in Agile and Lean. I suspect the real reason for the event is to start developing material for a “Cynefin” course as applied to Agile and Lean. Anyway, I have purchased an option to attend the event but will wait to see how the Agenda (which is already written but not public) unfolds and evolves.
I first read the Cynefin white paper in 2003 and have been following it from afar ever since. It caused a big stir at XP Day when Dave Snowden delivered the keynote several years back. Cynefin contains some really cool ideas. The problem has allways been. “What do we use the Cynefin tools for”.
Yesterday Steve Freeman and I discussed the event and Cynefin. Steve said the ability to classify things as “Simple”, “Complicated”, “Complex” and “Chaotic” with the associated rules for how you handle them is useful. One of the warnings in the Cynefin model is that things often tip from “simple” into “chaos”.
Now consider the Real Option “model” –
“Never commit early unless you know why.” – This guides me to avoid making commitments. Whenever I start a new role I always spend time sussing out the environment. From my experience, any environment that involves other people is never “simple” or “complicated”, they are always “complex” and/or “chaotic”. Once I think I have a handle on what is going on I start testing the environment in small ways. Based on the results of the small tests, I then try bigger and bigger tests. At any point I am conscious as to whether a test is reversible (upsetting someone who is forgiving) or not (upsetting someone who is NOT forgiving) . If it is reversible, I am aware of how long it would take to reverse the test if something goes wrong. At no point do I make the decision that this environment is “complex” or “chaotic” as I am aware it can easily and speedily transition between the two. As such I see little value in the ability to classify contexts.
At CALM I a hoping to learn more about Cynefin. How does it handle transitions? Even more exciting is the prospect of getting hands on end to end experience of the “Sense making” tool.
I hope that CALM will help me understand how to turn my theoretical understanding of Cynefin into something practical I can use and promote.