Abstract Metaphorum Conference 2016

Mentale Vorbereitungen in vollem Gange

In Vorfreude zum bald anstehenden Besuch der Metaphorum Conference in Leeds hier vorab mein Abstract im Rahmen des Call for Papers:



Digital Transformation, Knowledge Work & SCRUM:

A practical application of the Viable System Model


Mark Lambertz, Mediadesign University for Applied Science –
Design and Information Science, Düsseldorf, Germany


Keywords: Agility, New Work, Purpose



This research will show that many agile project methods could provide a perfect solution in order to constitute an organization as a viable system. The VSM as a reference model not only explains why these agile methods could be quite useful, but it offers due to its recursive nature an integrated view on the whole organization and extends the agile methods, since they usually focus on the team level. During my session I want to use the VSM like a playing field and show how one of the most popular agile methods called SCRUM implicitly follows the principles and axioms of the model. It is a time based approach, which correlates the roles and rituals of SCRUM with the different components of the VSM. Literally it will visualize the path of a SCRUM Team through the VSM and demonstrate the potential of SCRUM as a practical application of the VSM.


Figure 1: SCRUM process


The demand for agility is high, because the working world is changing rapidly. New technologies and the grade of interdependencies are growing exponentially. New business models arise and fall within a shorter amount of time than ever before. This alone represents an enormous challenge for every organization. Additionally, technological changes are accompanied by cultural shifts within our planetary society. The interconnectedness of customers, markets and their suppliers reached a level which can not be organized by traditional management approaches.

This paradigm shift from centralistic structures to new cooperative methods affects directly the knowledge worker and raises questions regarding a post-heroic leadership – I like to name it “next governance”. Obviously an order and command culture will not be able to “dissolve the problem”, as Stafford Beer regularly emphasized.

The call for self organized teams is getting louder, because pioneer industries like Software Development have shown that this kind of organization can be very effective. Agile methods like SCRUM  claim that they are able to provide the Requisite Variety in order to sustain in highly dynamic environments, where uncertainty is a natural part of the daily business. Many technology driven companies did not switch to new this framework and practices because everybody wanted to change, but the pain in order to maintain the Requisite Variety with the old methods was simply too high. Successful SCRUM teams are characterized not only by following the guidelines of the framework, but also by their truly participative Ethos. This insight is not only valid for a single SCRUM Team (usually 7 +/- 2 people), but also for organizations which implemented SCRUM on an enterprise level by distributing and absorbing variety on the horizontal and vertical axes of the VSM.


Figure 2: Exemplary graphic showing some roles within the VSM



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