Cynefin exercise about Agile software development - 1 Intro


I recently took part in a community exercise to examine the practices in Agile software development using the Cynefin framework as a categorization instrument.

This post is the first of a series co-authored with Michael Podvinec where we will write about the exercise and some of the insights gained:
1 - Intro
2 - Sense-Making
3 - Categorization
4 - Our exercise
5 - Key learnings

Michael is a molecular biologist by training, and is convinced that agile methods have a place in all domains where we're commonly dealing with complexity and uncertainty, such as biomedical research. 
He really promises he will soon publish more regularly on topics like these on his blog. Until then, he suggests you to follow @mpodvinec on twitter.



The experiment was sparked by conversations during the CALM Alpha workshop in Mortimer, UK, in February 2012. The project continued online as a discussion among a group of people experienced in Social Complexity, Agile and Lean software development. Therefore, thanks are due to everyone who participated in person or online and contributed their insights.
 

In the next few posts, we'll describe enough of the background to be able to outline the goal of the exercise, and then we'll continue to describe the exercise itself, its outcomes and the insights we have gained from it.


Some interesting references:
- 4 minutes presentation of the Cynefin framework
- The origins of Cynefin
- Cognitive-edge




About the framework
The main elements of the Cynefin framework have been developed between ca. 1999 and 2007 by Dave Snowden with contributions from Cynthia Kurtz, Max Boisot and Alicia Juarrero. Read the comment below by Dave Snowden with all the details. Work on the framework was initiated at IBM, mainly in their Institute of Knowledge Management. Today, Cynefin is developed, taught and promoted by an independent company, Cognitive Edge Inc.


When trying to solve a seemingly complex problem, the framework can be used to tease apart the level of complexity of the different parts of the problem, and so decide on the most promising approach to use on each part. It is also used to understand fragmented realities and multiple points of view, facilitate conflict resolution and strategic decision making.
 

There has been previous interest in applying models from social complexity and complexity science to the practice of software development: A paper by Joseph Pelrine applies the Cynefin framework, as well as other models from social complexity, in an attempt to explain why and how Agile works from a social complexity perspective: On Understanding Software Agility—A Social Complexity Point Of View.
Beyond the analytical, he has also applied Cynefin constructively in coaching self-organizing teams and addressing the complexity of software projects.

Print | posted @ Saturday, November 3, 2012 6:09 PM

Comments on this entry:

Gravatar # re: Cynefin exercuse about Agile software development - 1 Intro
by Dave Snowden at 11/3/2012 7:28 PM

Jut a brief note, if you are acknowledging that Cynthia made a contribution to the development of Cynefin (which is true) you should also acknowledge Max Boisot who was a constant contributor of suggestions and ideas until his recent death. Cynthia contributed the tetrahedrons, Max suggested the catastrophic fold between Simple and Complex and the need to more clearly separate ontology from epistemology. Alicia Juarrero was the one who gave me the idea for the constraint based definition. I could go on but those three are at least equal in significance.
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