Forgotten traditions are valuable in Agile Adoption

Our Agile Perth meetup had renowned guru Martin Kearns in town last week and we were able to witness him give a talk to our group.  Martin wrote a section in Chapter 13 of Lyssa Adkins book Coaching Agile Teams.  I got out a lot out of what he wrote there so I was keen to see him talk as well.  These are my recollections which could include my own opinions and interpretations.  As always refer to my policy on such things can be found in these posts: Ask HowI merely state and Take Notice.  Comments are of course welcome.

Martin’s talk entitled ‘The Lens‘ begins by describing attempts to create adoption as more like shaming people into change.  We do this through out many facets of our lives starting from when we are kids at school suffering from reprimands for ‘incorrect‘ behaviours or actions through to adult life whereby we are driven to fear risk (or so called).

Martin offers up another way to produce meaningful change through the act of ‘Story Telling.’  Old cultures passed knowledge down through the generations via story telling.  We heard about the Irish legend of Setanta and the hurling story.  That story was passed down by a professional story teller called a Seanchai.  The culture recognised the importance of passing down knowledge and created a role for it.  Australian Aboriginal culture using dreamtime to pass down ‘lore’

So organisations should be creating a space for story telling.  These stories if successful spread like wildfire and become the folklore.   They become part of the innate corporate knowledge and people can identify with these.

Storytelling is the basis for what Martin calls the ‘The Lens’  We cannot solve problems through what are ‘dominate logic’ or mores, a cognitive bias that prevent us from seeing the unexpected.  These constrain and prevent us from seeing other solutions, new products and new ways of working. Dominate Logic could be likened to the the disorder segment of the Cynefin framework whereby most of the time we fall into that area and use our bias to select, often usually, the incorrect problem solving method.





‘The Lens’ uses the tools of sense-making and through this process all ideas of hierarchy need to cast aside as an idea come from anyone.  There is a release of pressure that fosters creativity and shuts down dominant logic.  A space is created for this to occur and the recommendation is that all organisations should provide this space (as seen from Australia Post).  From this space stories can have their genesis and ‘Inspire Action’ Hierarchy prevents flow of information, even blocks it.  A better way is to have a network of information flows that is more representative of true connections within the organisation.


When stories resonate through the organisation that’s when real problems can be solved.  There are tools to create and maintain resonance like a Celebration Area/Room and area where the wins are on display.  The visibility of the area helps creates resonance, hiding it will have the opposite effect.  For example, when the area was empty the story reverberated around the organisation when the CEO (I think) paid a visit.  Seeing the emptiness inspired action driven by the CEO.  In this area anyone is allowed.  For example, a Customer Care person spotted an issue that no one else could.

Sense Together, using the same language – the language of the business ==> Real Needs can emerge from Shared Meaning  ==> Together we discover a Route to true Change

In the room, emotions are allowed.  The room safety is sacrosanct.  We want all ideas in whatever way they are expressed to be surfaced.

In the room, the Enterprise Kanban Wall only contains Questions and only the sponsor is permitted to move a card, not a PM not the PMO.


Solving complex problems cannot occur through a filter of neatness.  You want everything visible including the bad stuff.  Let is all out – allow the duplication, allow the ludicrous, allow everything.  Find the patterns, make the corrections and remove the duplicates later and use peripheral vision to make the connections.


Have a look at the presentation slides as well.  This is just a recollection of my thoughts during the presentation.  There is definitely something in it, and I’d like to incorporate facets of it in my work.  Martin also told us about paying a caricaturist to capture events to be placed in the room.  The cost of this is far outweighed by the benefits that were ‘drawn’ from the pictures.

To really make a difference it takes these sort of thinking outside the box moments to occur.


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