Why Is LeSS Authentic? Why Should Leadership NOT Exempt Itself from Learning LeSS?

Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) is an agile framework that has a history of implementations, trials & errors, experiments and experience reports collected and documented throughout more than a decade.
LeSS is Scrum, performed by multiple teams (2-8) that work on the same widely defined product, for the same Product Owner.
LeSS stresses the importance of organizational descaling (a.k.a. removal of overhead/waste) that needs to happen before agility (Scrum) can be scaled.  The first LeSS book (of three published so far) was written in 2008 and it had incorporated the ideas of its two authors, C. Larman and B. Vodde, by mainly including their own experiences of initial LeSS adoptions.
Overall, LeSS journey has begun many years before Large Scale Scrum has been officially presented to the world and recognized, as a framework, and this is important to acknowledge.  But why?    

Because LeSS, unlike some other very popular and commercially successful frameworks, that are very easy to ‘unwrap and install’, was not invented re-actively, as a “quick fix/hot patch”, in response to growing market trends and business needs (commercial driver).

LeSS is authentic.  LeSS took its time to mature and cultivate, as a philosophy and a way of thinking, not as a revenue-generating utility.  LeSS did it at its own pace, without a rush, while incorporating learning of many coaches and companies that went through LeSS adoptions, over years.   LeSS has naturally “aged”, in a good sense of this word ?.

Important Point: Whereas, deep learning of system dynamics and organizational design is equally available to everyone who attends LeSS training, not everyone can equally impact-fully apply this learning, when they go back to work.  But why?

Lots of LeSS learning (through system modelling, using causal loop diagrams) touches upon organizational elements, such as HR norms and policies, reporting structures, career paths and promotions, location/site strategies, budgeting/finance processes, etc. – things that are considered to be “untouchable” for an average person (employee).

Of course, it does not mean that an average person is not able to start seeing things differently (they definitely do!) after studying LeSS but it is just that he/she may not have enough power/influence to make necessary organizational changes that are required by LeSS.  In fact, for many people, this newly gained knowledge which is no longer possible to “unlearn” ? (e.g. ability think systemically), comes with realization of one’s own powerlessness – and this could be pretty frustrating.

Things are different for people that occupy higher organizational positions.  A senior manager is able to combine the decision-making power that is given to him by his organization and the power of newly obtained knowledge, coming from LeSS training.  These two powers, if united, can have an amplified effect.

Notably, a senior manager who wants to apply LeSS learning to improve his organization must have something else that is very special, in addition to just having general curiosity of the subject and desire to experiment: it is called a ‘sense of urgency’.  The best examples of senior managers that have learned LeSS and then applied learning to reality, came from situations, where there was an urgent need to change and risks/costs of a failure were high.  Then, if the above was true, the formula of LeSS adoption success becomes:

(Organizational Power + Power of Knowledge)  x Sense of Urgency = Success of LeSS adoption

Important Point: It is strongly not advisable for senior managers to delegate LeSS learning to people that are below them organizationally, as the ladder are not empowered to make organizational changes. Granted, individuals at all organizational levels will be benefited from learning LeSS (it is a great eye opener).  But senior managers – people that are empowered to make significant organizational changes, must attend LeSS training in person and not delegate attendance to their subordinates.  Senior management should not exempt itself from learning.
In fact, and ideally, senior management should attend LeSS training, accompanied by their respective organizational verticals, so that everyone goes through the same learning journey together.  Having HR and finance people, alongside with C-level executives and staff members of lower organizational levels – is a HUGE BONUS.

2 thoughts on “Why Is LeSS Authentic? Why Should Leadership NOT Exempt Itself from Learning LeSS?”

  1. This sounds very well considered and important.

    My next question is: What happens in an organization where senior leadership scores low in the formula? I mean apart from lack of success of transformation. Does everything stay the same? Are there deleterious effects on the organization? Is a second attempt to transform made harder or easier? Are there possible “micro-gains” buy adoption of some good engineering practices, etc.

  2. Goran,
    Thanks for the note.
    A few things:
    In organizations where leadership ‘scores low in the formula’, the score of effectiveness of Agile transformation will be also low.
    Ill-defined, quasi-something agile ‘transformation’ will most likely create a bad reputation of ‘agile’ and make people less receptive to agile changes. ‘There is only one time you can make your best-first impression’ :).

    Is a second attempt to transform made harder or easier? – it could be easier if people that did not well the first time were able to learn and rinse and repeat again. there is, of course the risk of the above: “we dont want to repeat it ever again as it did not work for the first time”

    Are there possible “micro-gains” buy adoption of some good engineering practices, etc. – this is where probably many companies will end up: by improving their engineering practices.

    It is really down to what a company really wants to do. How far does it wish to push itself.

    Minimal, mediocre results could be so trivial that nobody will see true value of it.



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