Readings Preparing for LeSS Adoption

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Who's Asking?

Welcome to learning more about your system and you creating something appropriate for your context!

For background, I'm Craig Larman, the co-creator (along with my friend and colleague Bas Vodde) of LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum), the author of the several books on scaling lean & agile development, and have focused for many years on helping organizations succeed with scaling with LeSS (see Broadly, I'm trying to reduce suffering in development ;) — for customers, your economics, and developers. There's no good reason that development can't be successful, useful, and fun.

Why Read and Learn This?

Before I start to work with a management team that is interested in introducing LeSS, and before we meet together for a 2-4 day "informed consent" workshop or course, these are the pre-readings I urge all participants to study before we start.

Why? Real lean thinking and agile (which involves systems thinking) adoption are the exact opposite of the "copying without knowledge" and "install this solution and you will be successful" silver-bullet sales pitches associated with fads and consulting-company "grand solutions." Rather, real lean thinking and agile systems thinking involve real thinking ;)

That is, that people (especially including the senior managers) take the time to deeply grasp (1) the nature of their system, (2) the root causes of its issues, (3) the complexities of its system dynamics, (4) the deeper concepts of LeSS, with a focus on why not what, and only then (5) create a situationally-appropriate organizational design experiment based on these ideas and principles — instead of the typical "adopt our solution and you will be agile" sales pitch.

This approach, LeSS, is not offering a prescribed checklist of so-called "best practices." Is that a problem? Such checklists sound seductively simple and appealing and easy, but they inhibit (1) contextual solutions, (2) thinking and understanding deeply, (3) a learning organization, (4) owning rather than renting your ideas and insights, and (5) a continuous improvement culture. Such "best practice solutions and checklists" promote conformance over learning.

Adoption Process

I recommend you do not simply decide to adopt LeSS. Rather, I recommend that you take the time to carefully learn, apply sober reflection, and then make an informed consent decision to try a non-trivial experiment — or not. Therefore, I recommend that the starting process is this:

1. Carefully study these pre-readings.

2. Discuss them amongst yourselves.

3. Participate in a 2.5 to 3-day "Informed Consent" workshop with me, where I will help you learn more in depth, explore your system with you, and answer all your questions about the implications and next steps.

4. After I leave, you together take a careful and considered decision to consent to the next step, or decide to decline continuing.

5. If your group decides with careful informed consent to go forward with an experiment, then I will help you in the next major phases: (1) LeSS Preparation, and (2) LeSS Sprint1.

The Preparation Readings to Learn From

1. HBR: Six Myths of Product Development

2. The following chapters from our book Scaling Lean & Agile Development: Thinking and Organizational Tools with LeSS:

Systems Thinking (or the equivalent Systems Thinking chapter at
Lean Thinking (or the equivalent Lean Thinking chapter at
Queuing Theory (or the equivalent Queuing Theory chapter at
False Dichotomies
Be Agile
Feature Teams (or the equivalent Feature Teams chapter at
Teams (or the equivalent Teams chapter at

3. The following chapters from the book The Fifth Discipline:

Give Me a Lever Long Enough
Does Your Organization Have a Learning Disability?
Prisoners of the System, or Prisoners of our own Thinking?
The Laws of the Fifth Discipline
Personal Mastery
Mental Models

4. The following chapters from our third LeSS book Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS:

Chapter 2: LeSS, or the equivalent chapter online
Chapter 3: Adoption
Chapter 7: Product