Applying Systems Thinking for Organizations through Play
Agile teams and organizations need to embrace a “See the Whole” mentality as they adopt and adapt Agile practices. Systems thinking is a great guide in how to evaluate this whole from an external perspective. In this tutorial, we will conduct a series of games to help participants understand fundamentals of systems thinking with regard to delayed feedback loops, external pressures, and more, and see how these change our perspective on effective Agile practices. Our goal is to help participants bring guidance back that can improve their cultures.
We will use a very interactive approach to helping people understand systems thinking and its value in Agile. Through our own research and experiences, we’ve discovered that the best way to really get systems thinking is through simulations, games, and stories.
In this tutorial, we will start with a very quick game from “The Systems Thinking Playbook” to help kick off the interactivity very quickly. We will debrief this as a means to introduce the notion of how systems thinking and complexity of systems is even evident in a simple game.
Our goal is to then conduct two more games, each a bit more complex than the one before. Each game is intended to be played in small groups. Groups will all play the same game in the same timebox so that we can then hold one big debrief and introduce more material about systems thinking to the entire group. The games are intended to be fun and yet bring out one of the three systems thinking archtypes we plan to emphasize:
• Tragedy of the Commons
• Accidental Adversaries
• Fixes that Fail
Our goal at the end of each game is to have broadened the participants’ overall understanding of systems thinking; emphasized the particular archetype in systems thinking; and how agile teams and agile organizations can be more mindful of their own instances of these archetypes. We then want this to lead to brainstorming about how this learning could impact their Agile and organizational practices going forward.
We will end with a “Call to Action” asking each participant to state their intention of what they will bring back to their organization from the session. This can be playing one of the games with their team, or just having a team brainstorm around a particular archetype and how it might be impacting them.
- What systems thinking is
- Three major archetypes in systems thinking that affect Agile teams
- What benefits systems thinking can bring to Agile organizations
- How systems thinking can guide us with our Agile team practices
- How simulations can help organizations understand systems