AgileByExample 2020

Wolfgang Steffens

Wolfgang is a passionate, inspiring and authentic coach with a 10+ years experience in large-scale Lean and Agile Product Development. He is a Certified LeSS Trainer, Certified LeSS Coach, and helds also workshops on Scrum, Kanban, and Systems Thinking. He was leading the Program Management Development function on Business Unit level for four years and was a Development Manager in Program Management on company level for four years. Before that he was a Program Manager for five years with the successful commercial launch of products. In between, he traveled the world for three years on a motorcycle.

Agility. Adaptiveness. Organization. Agile leadership. Change management.

Some years ago, I applied in a central support function of a medium-size company in Germany for the position of an Agile Coach. The department head interviewed me and put me to the test by asking how I would start an Agile transformation. I replied that at first, I would start with redesigning the organization and create cross-functional teams. His eyes became wide open, and I could read the sheer unbelief of my statement. Well, it went down the drain from there onwards, and I am happy since the next assignment was more about real change.

My next coaching assignment was a project in a big insurance company in Germany. I faced the fact that the organization was already designed by management to reflect their understanding of a well working agile organization when I joined. The management made a true effort to create cross-functional teams (design, coding, testing) but ended up with system-component teams. Each team also had one Product Owner. This led to a very chaotic situations and not much outcome was generated. And then we did a kaikaku - a major redesign of the organizational structure.

Workshop— Seeing System Dynamics: System Modelling with Causal Loop Diagrams

Very often people in organizations still use linear thinking models i.e. they see only linear cause-effect relations. Reality is made up of circles but we see straight lines…

In today's complex world, systems thinking with circular models prove to be more useful in many situations to understand the interrelationships rather than linear cause-effect chains and make better decisions. It is a key cornerstone for a Learning Organization to understand those system dynamics.

Systems thinking is also a key to owning not renting ideas about organizational design, because it has tools to help people talk about, reason about, and visualize organizational systems, and as a consequence arrives at their own insights about a system and its dynamics.

Concretely, doing systems thinking means to sketch, think about, and talk about system dynamics with a causal loop diagram (or system model). System models are used to help see the dynamics of what’s going on in large-scale development. It is useful to understand them for that reason alone. And more useful to you, we recommend you do these together with colleagues at a whiteboard.

Thus, we have an opportunity to come together and learn to model to have a conversation about a system, so in this meetup, we will do a hands-on workshop to think about the system by modeling with causal loop diagrams. Interesting and useful!