Podcast: Zombie Agile with Prof. Dave Snowden


Join host Andy Cleff as he chats with Professor Dave Snowden. Topics include the development of narrative as a research method, the role of complexity in sensemaking, physics, philosophy, the coffee/alcohol cycle, cognitive biases and if agile/Agile has gone astray.

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The Power of a Good Story: https://www.frontrowagile.com/blog/posts/48-the-power-of-a-good-story
Agile at Scale: https://hbr.org/2018/05/agile-at-scale
Agile By Example 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVx_jIBqu
Wolves in Yellowstone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q

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This is definitely one of the best episodes, I’ve listened 2x at normal speed and once at 0.8 so I could make sure I didn’t miss anything. Below are some of the quotes I pulled:

  • Complexity is the science of inherent uncertainty. Think about a children’s party…it’s complex.

  • We’re very poor at making decisions individually but we’re quite good at making decisions in clans and families and tribes

  • The way you scale a complex system is not by aggregating something that already exists…

  • In complex adaptive systems you scale by decomposition and recombination, you don’t scale by aggregation or repitition…and that changes the game.

  • Under periods of stress mutation ranks increase because mutation increases resilience and adaptability; so that’s what we did, we just increased mutation.

  • People don’t realize prototypes are meant to be disposed of, not to be turned into production systems.

  • IT people…they keep designing for how they think systems should be rather designing from the reality of how people are

  • SAFe was just a cynical marketing ploy to get an accreditation revenue…it’s validated by good people making it work despite the method not because of it.

  • I think the key thing is to break things down and see what the right components are and then reassemble

  • If everybody thinks the same and everyone is aligned, despite what a lot of agile consultants will tell you that’s a total disaster for resiliency. What you need is coherence but difference, not conformance.

  • We’re trying to create systems which learn, and “happy” systems dont learn, they’re complacent.

  • The higher you get promoted, the worse it gets.


This was also the first podcast that I listened to twice. It is extremely rich in information. It made me think hard about our transformation where we explicitly have “increase in employee happiness” as one of its main goals.


^ I had to think about that for awhile before it made sense…

Players in happy systems are not forced to mutate, adapt, be innovative.

And I’m thinking in terms of “increase of employee health and wellbeing” which leads to resilience.

Happiness is not the goal. Might be an occasional outcome, though.

@Joris_Slob Are you coming to Agile2018 in San Diego?

I’m leading a workshop on the topic… Health and Wellbeing metrics, visualization tools…

Would love to chat more


@andycleff I am not going to Agile2018 in San Diego. I have a pretty bad fear of flying. San Diego is too big of a step for me at this moment. If you are ever heading to Europe, I would love to chat.


Europe in 2019.

Not sure where… have to research and apply…

Open to suggestions for events, conferences, @Joris_Slob … all new to me.

Want to do an Agile Transformation - Medium

I have to admit that I have been giving up a bit on conferences. The few I have been to seemed to be focused more towards some of the bigger consultancy firms trying to sell their assessment tools than real knowledge sharing or trying things out together. I have been visiting smaller meetups and have gotten more value out of those.

Maybe some other Europeans can chip in and point out a good large event?