Embracing Complexity

Embracing Complexity

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online or in-person, private bookings only

"Dealing with complexity is an inefficient and unnecessary waste of time, attention and mental energy. There is never any justification for things being complex when they could be simple." — Edward de Bono

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Much has been written on managing complexity—or navigating it, handling it, dealing with it, mitigating it, reducing it, essentially attempting to 'come through' it, or to make it go away. But it will never go away, it is here always, for all time. So, although Edward de Bono's claim applies perfectly to all man-made systems, especially 'solutions', complexity itself needs no justification. The world is rich with moving parts, unforeseen variables, unexpected consequences from every action we take. Complexity is here whether it is justified or not.

And really, thank goodness for that! What a dull world this would be if everything was simplistic and predictable. So, perhaps instead of attempting to manage complexity we only acknowledge and embrace it—instead of trying to control and subdue it, we work alongside it. To do this it helps to begin by appreciating the complexity that surrounds us, looking upon it with awe and wonder, then diving right into the tangled mess, learning to play, and learning to manage ourselves within the complexity rather than manage the complexity itself.

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." — Leo Tolstoy

Unlearning Corporate Management

Because we have spent so many decades trying to tame the complexity of human interaction and new product development—tried and repeatedly failed—we have generated layer upon layer of pointless activities and useless processes, together with ways of thinking and ways of behaving that are so deeply ingrained they feel as if that's just the way things are. It isn't, of course, but the longer we immerse ourselves in futility the more difficult it becomes to come up for air. But breathe we must, so letting go of our old ideas and patterns iof behaviour is essential before we can embrace the very thing we have been trying to control. Embracing complexity has very little to do with accumulating new ideas, but a great deal to do with shedding our old ones.

"If the world is complex, then acting congruently with that complexity can be simpler than trying to control a machine that does not exist." — Jean G Boulton

Workshop Structure

Using a blend of presentation and group dialog, this workshop, will encourage participants to gently explore a few simple ideas for embracing complexity, collaborating with it, if you like, rather than managing it. And we'll look at how we can apply the twelve principles from the manifesto for agile software development to aid us in this new approach.

Workshop Outcomes

This workshop does not attempt to provide another model, framework or diagram. If such an outcome occurs it will be through the work of the participants, and not imposed. A more important and useful outcome will be a different way of thinking about systems. Stepping back from all the jargon and imposed solutions will allow the participants to more gracefully explore the space, from their own shared experience and perspective, departing, I hope, a little lighter, a little more hopeful than when they entered.

Who is it for?

This workshop is designed for anyone concerned with structural change, whether in a team, a department or across an entire organisation. We identify certain types of role with such work, e.g. coaches, change agents, and perhaps managers and executives. But meaningful, deep-rooted change sometimes must come from the grass roots of an organisation, and therefore any worker, in any role will benefit from this work—providing they seek a better working life.

About the Facilitator

Discovering XP in 1998 set Tobias Mayer on a journey of discovery into all things Agile. He has been practicing Scrum since 2003, and in 2005 was among the first twenty-five people, worldwide, certified to teach Scrum by Ken Schwaber, its co-founder.

Skilled as a developer, tester and engineering manager, Tobias also has a background in publishing, theatre arts, and community service work. He skilfully blends this unusual mix of experiences when facilitating these workshops, creating a lively and engaging experience.

Tobias is the author of the highly acclaimed, and somewhat controversial book, The People's Scrum, and has written extensively on leadership, citizenship and corporate transformation. Read more about Tobias here.

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Workshop Availability

This is offered as an online or in-person/on-site workshop, spanning one full day. It is currently available through private booking only. Click the blue button to express interest, and we can start a conversation to see if this workshop will be useful to your organisation.


Standard pricing (discounts available to selected non-profit organisations)
  • UK: £5,000 + VAT
  • Rest of Europe: £7,500
  • Everywhere Else: £10,000
  • Workshop limited to 16 people

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    Image: The Complexity of Humans, By Alice Wu, Duke University, 16/08/2020
    Page created: 01/01/2019 00:00:00
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