Retrospectives with system modelling

In the Certified LeSS Practitioner classes by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde, system modelling is introduced.

I refer to system modelling in the sense of causal loop diagrams and stock & flow diagrams. I am a fan of both Dan Woodlock and Gene Bellinger. See sample videos below.



Context is everything, and I like to agree on the context before starting.

Rather than go full steam ahead Dan Woodlock style with supporting spreadsheets (which I value a lot), in LeSS we like to use system models as a tool for dialogue with the objective of attaining a common understanding of “the system”. One could argue we never truly understand the system and I go along with that. But we can still periodically improve our understanding of it.

I like to model the impact on the number of implicit product backlogs, e.g. the use of “filters” on Jira so instead of a single backlog we really have many. I like Julie Wyman’s post “how to create a system model” and I don’t think I can do a better job.

Gene Bellinger introduced me to and With colleagues, I came up with pretty wild system models on those tools, adding more understanding every time I walked someone through the collective understanding so far. It helped me to convince a top procurement person to consider alternative contract types as per One should not ask people to review a system model by email. There is a social dynamic.

A much better way than using electronic tools is using markers and a whiteboard. To protect the innocent, in this photograph I removed the variables and stocks. In this example, people from 5 different countries who never met 10 days previously, modelled (under my coaching) a problem, a problem that was decades old. We discovered a potential solution in one hour. We weren’t even using Scrum, it was more like a kaizen event, supported by Toyota Kata, story mapping, and system modelling.

I would argue that sometimes, at retrospectives maybe the best thing we can do is to try to better understand “the system”, and for that system modelling seems like a very good approach to me. I appreciate that the way we do this in LeSS is not as scientific from a system dynamics point of view, but it’s still very useful. And there is nothing stopping you from going further. If you do that I highly recommend you look into the full Youtube series by Dan Woodlock.

John Coleman

As a team player, I change, I deliver, I coach, I mentor, I train, I lead. I am current. I have a sophisticated approach for business change in relation to Lean-Agile and/or Digital. I co-design & assist agility change including Scrum, Kanban, and The Lean Startup in organizations, small and huge, where the culture at first glance was incompatible with Lean-Agile. As I lead a change team, I play my part to stretch boundaries, generate “pull”, & make real change. I lead by example / from backstage, with fit for purpose Lean-Agile methods, synchronisation approaches & business change techniques. I speak publicly to experts because I am passionate about it. I am a passionate, motivated & energetic leader, with a track record of developing teams that "get things done", in digital and non-digital worlds. I have a hands-on leadership style that maximizes progress and market flexibility without losing sustainable team energy, and that ability to identify “needle movers” and make traction quickly. My experience spans telecoms, oil & gas / energy, utilities, supply chain, retail, manufacturing, pharma / chem / biotech, & mobile. EXPERIENCE IN DELIVERY & CHANGE: 20 + years of programme/portfolio leadership & turnaround experience - incl. > $15m initiatives / products/ portfolios 13 years of Lean-Agile experience – Lean since 2004, CSP since 2006, PSM III, PSPO I, Certified LeSS Practitioner o Lead Coach, Agile governance lead, Delivery Leader roles o Agility at scale incl. LeSS, Nexus, SAFe o Lean Software Development, The Lean Startup, XP, TDD o DevOps, Continuous Delivery, Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban o Agile Testing, User story mapping , Jobs To Be Done o 5 years of enterprise Lean-Agile change management 10+ years of Digital experience – web, e-commerce, mobile, intranet, business intelligence

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