To this day, in this increasingly globalized, interconnected and digitalized society, the complexity of the organizational environments is growing, and the management of this complexity is a key factor for the companies’ success. I want to reflect in this article on the necessity to adapt the most known methods of management of the different situations and casuistry of the organizations to successfully cope with this complexity.
The worry to adequately manage the complexity has caused the creation of frameworks such as the Cynefin framework, created by Dave Snowden and one of the current models of the complexity management.
In short, we can say that Cynefin is a framework that enables the decision-making, identifying different levels of complexity. Those levels would be the following:
- Simple systems: There is a clear and known cause-effect relationship.
- Complicated systems: There is a cause-effect relationship that is not clear, and we need to learn from experience.
- Complex systems: The results are unpredictable, we can only learn from them in retrospective.
- Chaotic systems: We cannot establish a cause-effect relationship.
The way of dealing with each one of those levels is not immediate, although generally we can consider that the Best Practices, as they are, can only be useful in simple, known environments. As we increase the complexity levels, we must adapt those Best Practices, experiment, apply creativity… What is necessary to cope with the complexity. The adaptation, personalization, tuning and continuous improvement of these methods is not, therefore, optional.
I would like to illustrate this making reference to some known management methods. I am currently collaborating with different companies in projects of implant PRINCE2 in their organizations. PRINCE2 is the most used method in the project management world. Nonetheless, I always insist that it is not about implementing PRINCE2 but rather defining your own project management method, based in PRINCE2 and focusing on the continuous improvement, on learning from experience. It is, above all, about adapting PRINCE2 to the organization, and not the other way round.
In fact, the own definition of the methods “forbids” using it as it is in the manual. PRINCE2 explains that it must be adapted according to the environment, size, complexity, importance, risk of the project and the capability of the team. It goes as far as to say that in order to consider a project as a PRINCE2 project, it should achieve the principles – among them, the adaptation to the project’s environment and to learn from experience. The rest – roles, processes, themes, documents – should adapt. There is a scornful name for those companies that focus only on producing PRINCE2 documents and to follow the processes formally: PINO (Prince2 In Name Only).
The same could be applied to those companies that are absorbed in an agile transformation and try to implant Scrum, probably the most known and used agile method worldwide. Scrum as a method is not designed to be adapted, nonetheless adaptation is indispensable: team’s size, relationship with the business, partial commitment, virtual or in-person teams, governance necessities, scaling, coexistence with non-agile teams, etc.
In a Twitter conversation, Ron Jeffries, one of the Agile Manifesto authors, talks about Scrum and the possibility to change some Scrum elements: “Does it work for you? Then use it, but do not call it Scrum…”. Call it X. What difference does it make?