Agile Leadership Strategies: Winning the War on Complexity

The modern organization is at war with complexity. The code for a typical webpage is the size of a typical video game from the 1990s. "Standards are great, there's so many to choose from." Projects have multiple stakeholders and ever-changing, conflicting Priority One features. Despite gains from Agile methods, the multi-person development arena is typified by volatility, uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity — what the U.S. military calls "the fog of war."

Derek W. Wade’s background in Cognitive Science has shown him that humans have innate skills at managing this complexity. But too often, he sees leaders waste precious human capital because they don’t understand how these skills work. Over the last 6 years, Derek has explored Team Science — which evolved from studying aviation, clinical, and military teams — for practical insights into how people work best together.

If you want to help your teams cut through the “fog” and have fun doing it, Derek will use mini-games and stories to introduce you to these insights and how to apply them. Leave armed with knowledge of mental models, cognitive load, situational awareness, and boundary objects so your teams can use complexity to their advantage, solve the right problems, support each other, and finally use those whiteboards, stickies, and online tools properly.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

The Learning Outcomes are baked into the closing text of the Abstract, so if necessary it can stand alone. I’ve explicitly included the Outcomes in this submission to assist the program team in their decision. Should you accept this proposal, feel free to include the Learning Outcomes in the full description if it would help attendees (and if you have room ;)

I run this as an interactive lecture. For each topic, I:
1. Introduce via a simple interactive exercise or a story;
2. Talk about/show visuals explaining the topic in more depth;
3. Conclude with specific advice to the participants for their workplace

For a 60m talk the timing works out as:
10m - Group letter-sorting exercise, 2 variants. The problem domain and Team Science: “we are at war with complexity.”
10m - Mental models and cognitive limits.
10m - Refactoring communication
10m - 2 types of critical information (task/team).
10m - Leadership stances: exercise to experience emergence, the role of the leader.
10m - Close, questions.

Learning Outcome

Attendees will be better prepared to lead teams in emergent, complex domains (such as software development) by learning:

  1. Our ability to solve problems depends on our ability to mentally 'model' the world around us;
  2. Cognitive limits of this ability, and examples of work practices which respect (and ignore) those limits;
  3. Explicit management of meta-information about the organization/team. Product goals, objectives, and tasks are only half of the work in knowledge-work!
  4. Refactoring of team communication: multi-person use of models vs. mere transmission of information;
  5. The power of emergence: leadership stances which foster effective use of mental models at the multi-person and multi-team level.

Target Audience

Managers, New leaders, team leads, anyone who recognizes 'leadership' as a verb vs. a noun

Prerequisite

Curiosity about leadership practices beyond process standardization, compliance, and incentive. Some leadership/management experience is helpful but not required. No other specialized knowledge is required to benefit.

schedule Submitted 3 months ago

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