04/20 – LESS TALKS: Dave Snowden: Rewilding Agile

David Snowden divides his time between two roles: founder Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge and the founder and Director of the Centre for Applied Complexity at the University of Wales. His work is international in nature and covers government and industry looking at complex issues relating to strategy, organisational decision making and decision making. He has pioneered a science based approach to organisations drawing on anthropology, neuroscience and complex adaptive systems theory. He is a popular and passionate keynote speaker on a range of subjects, and is well known for his pragmatic cynicism and iconoclastic style.

Materials to Download

Additional resources from Dave:
Very salient spots in the recording:
Snippets from Dave’s talk:
  • You must understand the difference between Correlation vs. Causation, in order to understand eco-systemic dynamics
  • Cookie-cutting approaches don’t work. Forced homogeneity does not work.
  • Fallacy about SAFe and Spotify
  • Consultancies, are a part of revenue-generating schema, when it comes to installing large frameworks
  • When millions are spent on SAFe installations, nobody will admit of failures. People that make decisions about installing SAFe are long gone before responsibility for actions needs to be taken. People that think that it could work, ignore it for the most part and just do things that matter most
  • Ask Spotify, why NOT to use Spotify “model”
  • Beware of snake oil versioning of management: 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, etc
  • Forecasting of COVID impact on big consultancies
  • You dont scale a complex system, by aggregation or imitation but by decomposition and recombination

Agile started off as an inspirational set of statements and values that inspired a generation of software design. But slowly and steadily that original inspiration has become a set of structured methods, certificates for turning up at a course and a series of method wars which have most recently degenerated to court action. How do we rediscover the original inspiration of the Agile Manifesto and in a very real sense return Agile to the wild. Is it time to move away from the large scale expensive frameworks into a multi-methods, multi-tools ecosystem and to create a new professional practice? In the current crisis agility is not enough …


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4 thoughts on “04/20 – LESS TALKS: Dave Snowden: Rewilding Agile”

  1. More Questions for Dave Snowden:

    1. There was plenty of discussion on what not to do (Don’t use SAFe or Spotify, don’t use large consultancies, etc). What approach should a large organization take for introducing and scaling agile practices? Particularly when agile trained talent is scarce.
    2. Does Dave think that the Agile Fluency Model (Larsen & Stone) has merit?
    3. Shakespeare famously wrote “Let’s kill all of the lawyers.” Wouldn’t the agile community be better off if we did the same with all of the agile trainers and their certifications (speaking metaphorically of course)?

  2. More Questions for Dave Snowden:
    1. What systemic change can you predict in the ways of working in the decade of 2020s (after agile delivery, product & customer focus, business agility in 3rd millenium so far) ?
    2. How humanity should handle the “technical debt” of our civilization? i.e. unsustainability of the global ecosystem (extinction of species, climate change, exploit of resources, growth of population) and of human condition (life – work disintegration, mental condition,etc).
    3. What is your view on the evolution model of the Spiral Dynamics, Clare Graves, Don Beck ? Is the business world / society model ever to become “Teal”?

  3. Coordinating activities of multiple humans.
    Pre-amble: You have given us several negative stories of how not to coordinate the activities of humans– don’t write down purpose, because that will be gamed; don’t be fooled by the write-ups of evangelists who have perfected the art of confirmation bias cherry-picking; don’t fall for the latest fad that is surging.
    Question: Yet, we still need to coordinate the activities of humans to get things done. It is happening with some degree of success all the time. We have accomplished amazing things as a species (I think). What approach, model, framework do you think is a sensible approach to coordinating activities of multiple humans?


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