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Jurgen Appelo calls himself a creative networker. But sometimes he's a writer, speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, illustrator, manager, blogger, reader, dreamer, leader, freethinker, or… Dutch guy. Since 2008 Jurgen writes a popular blog at www.noop.nl, covering the creative economy, agile management, and personal development. He is the author of the book Management 3.0, which describes the role of the manager in agile organizations. And he wrote the little book How to Change the World, which describes a supermodel for change management. Jurgen is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. He is also a speaker who is regularly invited to talk at business seminars and conferences around the world. After studying Software Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and earning his Master’s degree in 1994, Jurgen Appelo has busied himself starting up and leading a variety of Dutch businesses, always in the position of team leader, manager, or executive. Jurgen has experience in leading a horde of 100 software developers, development managers, project managers, business consultants, service managers, and kangaroos, some of which he hired accidentally. Nowadays he works full-time managing the Happy Melly ecosystem, developing innovative courseware, books, and other types of original content. But sometimes Jurgen puts it all aside to spend time on his ever-growing collection of science fiction and fantasy literature, which he stacks in a self-designed book case. It is 4 meters high. Jurgen lives in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) -- and in Brussels (Belgium) -- with his partner Raoul. He has two kids, and an imaginary hamster called George. Jurgen has posted 145 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

It Takes Complexity to Handle Complexity

04.05.2011
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 A software project is a network of people, interacting together for their own purposes. We can see part of that network as the system of team members producing value, and another part of it is the environment of stakeholders consuming that value.

W. Ross Ashby, one of the fathers of General Systems Theory, came up with one of the basic principles for systems, called Ashby’s Law, or the Law of Requisite Variety:

“If a system is to be stable the number of states of its control mechanism must be greater than or equal to the number of states in the system being controlled.”

In other words, in order to survive a system must have an internal model that reflects the variety it encounters in the world outside.

Nobel-prize winner Murray Gell-Mann, founder of the famous complexity institute in Santa Fe, wrote it like this in The Quark and the Jaguar:

“The genotype of each organism, or else the cluster of genotypes that characterizes each species, can be regarded as a schema that includes a description of many of the other species and how they are likely to react to different forms of behavior. An ecological community consists, then, of a great many species all evolving models of other species’ habits and how to cope with them.”

Not being a founder of any scientific field or institute, I have my own simplistic version of the same idea:

“It takes complexity to handle complexity.”

Software teams have three options when dealing with a troublesome environment:

  1. Reduce the complexity in the environment;
  2. Increase the complexity inside the system;
  3. Ignore complexity (survival is not mandatory).

The first is rarely possible. The third is rarely smart.

That leaves software teams with the second option: try to match the ever-changing complexity of the environment with social complexity (people & interactions) and continuous improvement (embracing change).

This is, I believe, the core of Agile and Lean thinking...

References
Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Thomas Eichberger replied on Thu, 2011/04/07 - 12:47pm

There are big jumps between the three quotes... but I like this article - good stuff to think about.

Shumona Kapil replied on Sun, 2012/02/19 - 9:23am

I dont understand how can you beat (or deal) with complexity by increasing complexity else where. May be you need to elaborate. When you say match system complexity with social complexity - do you mean make the social structure of the system complex? how do you propose to do that? Having people with diff cultures (that happens anyway in todays global environment)? Complicate the social system with contradicting rules? giving people confusing goals?

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