LeSS Talks: Professor Snowden, Answering Tough Questions For: Individuals, Companies, Industry

This topic was based on the questions, crowdsourced from the audience, for Professor Snowden. The questions covered:

  1. Complexity management vs. complexity reduction. This jives so much with dependency management vs. dependency reduction. Companies tend to skillfully MANAGE complexity and dependencies, with more tools, processes and processors, as opposed to reducing them. Any thoughts on this?
  2. Centralized “Enterprise Agile Coaching”, as an organizational silo/power-tower/ivory tower of ‘agile command & control’. Oftentimes, traditional command & control org structures, like PMO, are renamed into ‘agile PMO’, while continuing to run the show. Should this function remain centralized (e.g. IT/CTO/CDO command tower) or decentralized (e.g. to lines of business, revenue centers, etc)?
  3. “Agility at Scale” seems to be on the minds of everyone. So many companies are trying to scale-UP what they currently have, without validating first that what they have in the first place is a good thing. Highly paid “scaling gurus” run the show. Instead of attempting to remove/reduce/de-scale complexity and dependencies, they amplify/magnify problems, by ‘skillful scaling’, with more control points, tooling solutions and lots of bureaucracy. Any tips on how to fix this?
  4. Seeing an organization as one big, complex (eco)system seems to be a problem. So called, ‘agile transformation’ starts in one huge silo (usually, a cost center – Technology) and focuses on things that are not inclusive enough. For example, how can a company promote the idea of harvesting cross-functional developers, without addressing their career path and compensation needs? How can a company talk about shifting towards product-centric development, if it still has a funding model that supports projects, products and portfolios? How can a company expect autonomy, mastery and a sense of purpose from workers, if it still relies on so many layers of management?
  5. Scaling-UP, “sophisticated” tooling, complexity/dependency management, armies of ‘enterprise agile coaches’ – somehow, this is being a result of outsourcing learning and decision-making to large consultancies. This becomes an amazing transactional business model for the ladder, at expense (sometimes, disastrous results that tarnish reputation) of client companies. How can this be fixed?

Professor Snowden’s Bio:
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, organizational decision making and decision making. He has pioneered a science based approach to organizations 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.

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