Cynefin, Agile & Lean Mashups

IMG_05742012 certainly started with a bang for me (lets hope it doesn’t end with a bang!). After a relaxing Christmas and New Year, I was up at 6am on January 2nd to head for Almens in the Swiss Alps, and an intense few days with Simon Bennett, Steve Freeman, Joseph Pelrine and Dave Snowden. We gathered at Joseph’s house to discuss a common interest, namely how do we apply complexity science, and in particular the Cynefin framework, to Agile and Lean development.

Early on, Simon suggested the name CALM, and it stuck almost immediately. I like it for a couple of reasons. Mashups invokes the idea of “a creative combination or mixing of content from different sources”. That’s exactly what we want to do, and its the creative aspect that particularly appeals to me. A Cynefin, Agile and Lean Mashup will inevitably be created contextually. CALM also subtly counterbalances the XP extreme notion. While that’s not an intentional focus, I find it a mildly amusing reference.

My interest in Cynefin began back in around 2004 when Dave first spoke at XPDays London, and while back then I wasn’t smart enough to realise the full implications, fortunately others like Steve and Joseph were. I met Dave again at ScanAgile in 2009 and last year at the LeanSSC and ALE conferences. Simon also gave a great talk linking Scrum and Complexity more concretely at Agile2011, and I that’s when I finally figured out how Cynefin could match my interest in exploring the underlying theories behind Agile and Lean, and more specifically Kanban Thinking.

My personal goal for being involved in the meeting was to move Cynefin, and complexity science, from being something which is used as a justification, to something which provides meaningful explanation, and ultimately to new application. To keep the industry advancing, and to be able to apply Agile and Lean principles in increasingly challenging organisations, we need theory informed practices, as well as learning from our current success by evolving practice informed theory. In other words we need to take a scientific approach, which ties in nicely with my recent presentations on the Science of Kanban, which should make it to a blog post soon.

The primary outcome of the CALM meeting was the creation of CALMalpha. This is a two day residential conference to be held on the 16th and 17th of February 2012 at Wokefield Park in the United Kingdom. The alpha represents the notion that this is an initial safe-to-fail experiment where we hope to explore the subject in more detail, as we seek to find coherence, coalescence and convergence around what we do in the future.

More detail, including prices and booking information, can be found on the eventbrite page. I hope to see you there!

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11 comments on “Cynefin, Agile & Lean Mashups

  1. Karl

    Your coherence, coalescence and convergence statements sounds like bread and butter business analysis…. with a hint of traceability for seasoning. The Agile BA community has eskewed tracability as it is covered by automated tests.

    You also mention the holy grail of governance which has also been solved by the Agile BA community.

    It might be worth speaking to some Agile BAs* before the Reading Love-in. Otherwise you might re-invent the circular transport device that allows movement without raising and lowering the centre of gravity of the load.

    Hugs and stuff


    * An Agile BA != Someone who uses stories for analysis.

  2. Karl

    My concern is that you seem to have a solution that is looking for a problem. I have a solution that works for me for the 3C’s that you mention.

    I was really interested in the idea when Steve mentioned it. Steve sent me the eventbrite and I looked at the blurb from your meeting in Switzerland. The 3C’s turned me off completely. I have no appetite being in a room with people who want to push Cynefin as the solution to solved problems. ( BTW, You need to lose Cynefin from the CALM name. Dave suggests using Collaboration if you chose. I find it difficult to consider a community seriously if its aim is to promote a propriatary framework )

    The emphasis seems wrong to me. “Lets assume that the 3 C’s are a problem. Lets use CALM to fix them.” This is from the perspective of what problem do we think CALM can solve. If you genuinely wanted to solve the problem, you would look around for those who have already solved that problem and study them…. which leaves you with the problem “What do we do with CALM?”

    Good luck. It looks like it will be a fun event. I’d be interested if it was more of about understanding how complexity, agile and lean work together.


  3. I’m not sure I would get hung up on the 3cs, that was an ah hoc working around the complex domain. I’d expect the meeting to come up with a lot better stuff. The overall interest from my perspective is around complexity, Cynefin is one way into that but it has no restriction on where we go, any more than does SCRUM or the AGILE manifesto or anything else which existed before

  4. Hi Chris,

    The C always stood for complexity for me; but this is a minor point.

    CALM isn’t a thing as such, but rather it’s an approach – and actually I think you summed up well with:

    “If you genuinely wanted to solve the problem, you would look around for those who have already solved that problem and study them”

    That’s the entire point. To stop assuming that every problem is either a nail or even in fact new and unique.

    It’s really about “useful stuff to accomplish things” – rather than dogma and doctrine, but CALM is easier to say 🙂

    With an underlying theme of “it’s not enough simply to have seen it work somewhere in practice; but rather to try and figure out why it worked to avoid the creation of further doctrine and dogma”

    Kind Regards,

  5. Ok guys, you have convinced me. I’m signed up and ready to suffer the wrath of the orange jumper.

    I promise to wear the sepia hat. Its the De Bono hat that is the inverse of the colour hat you are wearing…. The most annoying by construction.

    • Great that your coming and bringing all your evil headgear. I trust you’ll let us know if you think this is still trying to be a solution to a problem. I’d like to understand that view some more. You can see some of the people going here:

  6. Pingback: Real Options and the Cynefin Framework. « The IT Risk Manager

    • Hi Chris

      No discussions that I’m aware of – feel free to start one 🙂

      The goal is on the eventbrite page:
      The goal of the faculty is to grow a community of thinkers, practitioners, and researchers who further the application of Complexity Science in Software Development as well as in the larger organisation. We want to use the experience of the real-world application of principles based on validated theory to help both theory and practice co-evolve.

      The agenda is being finalised. In trying to “eat our own dogfood” we have taken longer than we’d hoped. The intent is to have a lightly constrained format that can evolve as appropriate on the day(s).


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