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Dave Snowden on Liminality in Cynefin and Moving beyond Agile to Agility

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In this Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Dave Snowden at the Agile People conference in Stockholm, Sweden, about the addition of liminal spaces in the Cynefin framework, pre-scrum techniques and the future of agility.

Key Takeaways

  • The Cynefin Framework provides a perspective on the world
  • The latest version of the Cynefin framework include two liminal domains
  • The strength of approaches like Scrum is holding things in a liminal state long enough to become right, before they move to complicated
  • In the complex domain the keys are identifying coherent hypotheses and running parallel safe-to-fail experiments
  • There is a whole body of techniques for addressing IT problems and there is no one right answer – use the techniques best suited to the nature of the problem  

Show Notes

  • 00:24 Introductions
  • 01:00 The Cynefin Framework provides a perspective on the world
  • 01:40 Including the liminal zones into the Cynefin framework – the state of transition from one perspective to another
  • 01:58 The strength of Scrum is holding things in a liminal state long enough to become right before they move to complicated
  • 02:11 Scrum works in the liminal space of complex with boundaries
  • 02:17 The liminal space between complex and chaos is a closed space where innovation can happen
  • 02:55 In a complex space do not apply a recipe based on partial research, which Lean Startup tries to do
  • 03:07 The value and importance of coherence – something may not be entirely right but coherence enables us to say “we don’t know everything, but we know we’re going in the right direction”
  • 03:30 In the complex domain the keys are identifying coherent hypotheses and running parallel safe-to-fail experiments
  • 04:00 Examples of “pre-Scrum” techniques for working in the complex domain
  • 04:10 Establishing multiple trios – groups of three people with very different backgrounds to explore a problem for a short period of time
  • 04:42 Triple-Eight – having three teams offset across timezones build and adapt a prototype; constraint-based rapid mutation
  • 05:28 Continuous mapping of unarticulated needs and looking for clusters of needs, then putting prototyping teams to work on the cluster to see if it is worth addressing the need discovered
  • 05:58 A critical gap in agile research is architecture
  • 06:00 Scaffolding as an architectural approach, and the need for discard the scaffolding when the product is robust
  • 07:01 Describing the cross-discipline research done over the last year on a new approach to design thinking
  • 08:13 Explaining how these approaches can be applied to real-world challenges – cybersecurity as one example
  • 09:22 If you want radical change, you want the significant outliers, not the dominant group
  • 09:32 The problems with “gathering requirements” and systems analysis
  • 09:52 The backlog in Scrum and Kanban is potentially disastrous because it over-codifies the wrong level of granularity
  • 10:13 Examples of different approaches in different domains
  • 11:12 There is a whole body of techniques for addressing IT problems and there is no one right answer – use the techniques best suited to the nature of the problem
  • 11:23 Approaches to analysing the space to select the method to use
  • 11:49 it’s much easier to say “it’s like one of these” than to analyse the specific qualities of a problem
  • 12:05 The commodification of agile and design thinking means there is an opportunity for new ideas to emerge
  • 12:21 Moving from agile to agility – reinvent the concept, whatever comes next needs to be trans-disciplinary, experimental, based on scaffolding and journey-based not goal-based

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