Complexity versus Lean versus Agile versus Me

While the experts are battling over each others’ ideas, I remind myself that all models are useful (though some fail faster than others).

Dave Snowden is a complexity researcher who has repeatedly attacked systems thinking in his keynotes, saying that it assumes there is an ideal future that it tries to realize, which he considers the wrong approach.

John Seddon styles himself a systems thinker, and I’ve heard he said Snowden misrepresents systems thinking. But then, in his own keynotes, John Seddon has attacked Lean, saying “I hate Lean. It destroys organizations!”

It is no surprise that the Lean community claims Seddon totally misrepresents Lean. But I’ve noticed some of those same people have been busy attacking Agile, saying that Agile sub-optimizes at the team level, and Lean doesn’t.

Of course, some Agile experts say that this is a misrepresentation of Agile, and that Agile scales quite well to the entire organization. But at the same time Agilists have been attacking traditional project management.

Glen Alleman, project manager and prolific blogger, has repeatedly called bullshit on Agile experts. He claims that the attacks from the Agile community are often just misrepresentations of proper project management.

Complexity Thinking in the Middle

And now we’ve come full circle.

Both David Snowden and Glen Alleman have claimed that I am misrepresenting their favorite ideas. Though, interestingly enough, both have said this from completely opposite positions. (It’s as if Wall Street and Occupy both agree that I’m wrong, for exactly the opposite reasons.)

And so I find myself in the middle.

I consider myself a complexity thinker. I find all perspectives interesting.

All models are useful, though some fail faster than others.

It takes multiple perspectives to figure out which idea fails where and when.

And, while a new battle in the war between Scrum and Kanban has just started, I prefer a view from above and in the middle. I learn most by watching the battle of ideas unfold beneath me. Though it means I have to take a bit of heat from all sides. But never that much.

It’s actually nice and warm up here.

The view is great too!

p.s. Being human I also might have misrepresented a thing or two in this blog post. I suggest you deal with it.

(Jurgen Appelo is author of Management 3.0, a best-selling management book for Agile developers. It has a picture of a monster in it.)

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