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Agile in Context: How to Improve Agile Development Using the Cynefin Framework

308 SW 2nd Ave Fifth Floor
Portland, OR 97204, US (map)
Public WiFi



Have you ever wondered why some Agile concepts work well in one context and not so well in other contexts? With so many tools, techniques, models, methods, practices, and principles available, how do you decide which ones are appropriate for a given situation?

Agile methods, practices, and principles are successful primarily because they are effective heuristics. Heuristics are anything that provide a plausible aid or direction in the solution of a problem. All heuristics work by exploiting the structure of an environment, so heuristics work well in some environments and less well (or not at all) in others. We need to understand why and where Agile methods and practices work - and where they don’t - in order to adopt, tailor, use, and improve them.

Cynefin is a sensemaking framework that helps people understand their context or situation in order to take appropriate action. The Cynefin framework can be used to select Agile heuristics appropriate for the environment (e.g. use Scrum here, and Kanban there) rather than defaulting to a single, recipe-based approach for all situations. Agile heuristics are especially important and useful for complex and complicated environments, where practitioners must work continuously to understand their context, and then respond quickly and flexibly to meet rapidly-changing needs.

Agile in Context helps practitioners understand not only how, but also why Agile methods and practices work across different contexts. Understanding Agile in context increases the chances for successful adoptions and highlights areas where new methods need to be developed or repurposed from other disciplines. Treating Agile as a set of heuristics will also reduce recipe-based, dogmatic approaches that are fairly pervasive in the community at large today.

Learning Outcomes: By the end of the session, participants should be able to: -- describe what heuristics are and why they work -- describe the Cynefin Framework -- use the Cynefin framework to identify and select heuristics to improve Agile development -- find additional information for continued learning

Optional Pre-Work: A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making https://hbr.org/2007/11/a-leaders-framework-for-decision-making

About the Speaker:

Dan Walsh is a Founder and Principal of nuCognitive (www.nuCognitive.com). He has over a decade of expertise in accelerating product development, driving culture change, and transforming organizations. As a recognized leader in Lean Startup, org transformations, and complex adaptive systems, Walsh helps clients to resolve complex, intractable problems resistant to traditional methods. He is an advocate for the integration of learning with work, the cultivation of cultures where people thrive, and the application of heuristics to deliver holistic solutions to customer problems.

Dan Walsh has a BS and an MS in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M. He also has an MS in Systems Engineering and an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.