On understanding software agility – a social complexity point of view | Adrian Colyer

Adrian Colyer; On understanding software agility – a social complexity point of view; In His Blog; 2017-10-19 (announced as “six days ago”)

tl;dr → Diagnosis &amp&; Nostrum

The true meaning of Christmas Agile has been lost.
Only through diligent introspection can its Salubrious Result tb obtained.

The Salubrious Result
  • To be truly scalable.
  • To be truly sustainable
  • <quote>Only then will Agile be truly scalable and sustainable.</quote>

Original Sources


  • Wicked Problem
  • Important Problem
  • Complex Problem
  • Cynefin Framework
    • ‘butterfly stamping’ exercise
  • Linear causality
    Let go of linear causality,
    There is no linear causality. [sounds very Buddhist]
  • The sense-making is only warranted as a retrospective technique.
  • Whereas predictive patterns do not predict success,
    smaller predictions, smaller actions, in an iterative mode are indicated.
  • Something about Einstein’s definition of insanity being falseified.
    To wit: [insanity is defined as] the repetition of inputs against a “system,” with the expectation of differential outcomes.


  • Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA),
    of Boyd, not cited.
  • Double Loop Learning
    of Argyris, not cited.
  • Explore-Exploit,
    learning theory.
  • Probe-Sense-Respond,
  • Apply-Inspect-Adapt
  • Iterative [Design], Spiral [Design]


Complex System


  1. Interaction – a complex system has a large number of diverse components (agents) involved in rich interaction
  2. Autonomy – agents are largely autonomous but subject to certain laws, rules or norms; there is no central control but agent behaviour is not random
  3. Emergence – global behaviour of a complex system “emerges” from the interaction of agents and is therefore unpredictable
  4. Far from equilibrium – complex systems are “far from equilibrium” since frequent disruptive events do not allow the system to return to equilibrium
  5. Nonlinearity – nonlinearity occasionally causes an insignificant input to be amplified into an extreme event
  6. Self-organisation – complex systems are capable of self-organisation in response to disruptive events
  7. Co-evolution – complex systems irreversibly coevolve with their environments

per Adrian Colyer, summarizing George Rzevski.


  • Kent Beck, boffo.
    • brand method: eXtreme Programming,
    • first-in-Europe credit: certified ScrumMaster Practitioner and Trainer.
      <verified-claims>certified by whom?</verified-claims>
  • Joseph Pelrine, ex-assistant, Kent Beck
  • George Rzevski, theorist.
  • Horst W. J. Rittel, theorist.
  • Melvin M. Webber, theorist.


  • Rittel & Webber, Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning, Working Papers from the Urban & Regional Development [Noun?], University of California-Berkeley (yes, they hyphenated it back then), In Policy Sciences, Volume 4, 1973, pages 155-169. Originally performed at the Panel on Policy Sciences, at the meeting of the American Association for the Adveancement of Science, in Boston, circa 1969-12 [i.e. four years later, it was memorialized in print by Elsevier].
    Also, see Wicked Problem in Jimi Wales’ Wiki.


In His Blog


Software Agility Table


Simple Complicated Complex Chaotic Unordered
Knowing when
a task is done
about coding
No release
actual time
Fixing the build Countering a
belief in magic
Feature-itis Finding who
to talk to
Task estimation Project volume
too big
Lack of trust

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