Readings Preparing for LeSS for Executives

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Scaling lean and agile dev - cover.jpg

There's better-than-even odds that if you're reading this, you think you want to learn an approach to scale agile development.

Surprisingly, LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) is not about scaling. It's about descaling and simplification of the limiting organizational structures so that many teams can work together on one product as simply as possible to towards the system optimizing goals of (1) highest value from global perspective and (2) agility to change cheaply based on learning.

But there's a change problem that you the reader are part of... If I had to boil down about 40 years of this work to one key idea, it is:

You must own, not rent, your change and organizational design.

And to own it, senior managers that have the authority to change the organizational design (eliminating groups, roles, sites, policies, etc.) have to do learning and change. LeSS is not about superficial techniques that don't impact the structure.

What learning? To start, the following pre-readings.

Who's Asking?

I'm Craig Larman, the creator (along with my friend and colleague Bas Vodde) of LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum), the author of three books on scaling lean thinking & agile development, and have focused for decades helping organizations succeed with scaling (or more precisely, descaling) with LeSS.

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 the LeSS for Executives 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) adoptions are the exact opposite of the "copying without knowledge" and "install this solution and you will be successful" 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 common "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, and copying over insight.

The Preparation Readings to Learn From

1. HBR: Six Myths of Product Development

2. The following chapters from our first LeSS 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
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. This book comes from researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management, was named one of the seminal management books of the last 75 years by the Harvard Business Review, and has been one of the best-selling (multi-million) and most influential management books of all time, for very good reasons. It's available in both p-book and e-book formats.

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