Lean Enterprise Software and Systems 2011 – My summary

This is my one sentence summary of the Conference Lean Enterprise Software and Systems 2011 (LESS2011).

Start with why, let the adaptive system self organize and have the teams find the answers by them self.

LESS 2011 was the second International Conference on Lean Enterprise Software and Systems (LESS). LESS is a non-profit collaboration between the Lean Software and Systems Consortium and Mälardalen University. This year LESS 2011 was held at Clarion Sign Hotel in Stockholm between 30th October to 2nd November

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This year there was four main tracks: Transforming Organizations, Lean and Agile Product Development, Complexity and Systems Thinking and Beyond Budgeting.

My goal was to focus on Complexity and Systems Thinking and Beyond Budgeting.

I was also very much looking forward to hear Steve Denning speak about Radical Management as I, after so many hurdles, was able to bring him to the conference and give everyone a copy of his latest book The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management

Pre Conference Day

This part of the conference had been very poorly announced so we where only four people who turned up but we had some interesting discussions about transforming organizations to a Lean mindset. Thank you Alan Shalloway, Karl Scotland and Frode Odegard

The rest of the day was spent on folding name tags and packing conference bags with Jean Tabaka and Karl Scotland

Day 1

I started the day by facilitating the LESS 2011 Stockholm Lean Coffee event.


A short introduction by the conference organizers.

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Keynote: Bjarte Bogsnes: Beyond Budgeting – a new management model for new business realities

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This keynote by Bjarte Bogsnes was a well presented keynote with lots of interesting stuff about what Beyond Budgeting is really about. Here is some of my notes.

Bjarte used an interesting metaphor where he compared a cross road with traffic light to a round about.

The traffic light system is often based on historical data and regulated by pre set intervals.

A round about on the other hand is self regulated system based on some simple rules and are regulated based on the current situation.

Beyond Budgeting is event driven model in contrast to traditional calendar based budgeting model. How would you react if your bank would only interact with you during month of the year? What if you had to make all your banking decisions during the month of October? This is more or less what the yearly budget cycle is for a company.

Some examples on how Stateoil principles

  • Performance is about performing better than the ones you compare yourself with
  • Do the right thing – use sound business judgment for all decisions.
  • Resources are made available or allocated on a case by case basis
  • Forward looking and action oriented
  • Performance evaluation is a holistic assessment of behaviors and results
  • Alignment from strategy to people with flexibility and freedom

You don’t lose weight by weighing your self

Ola Ellnestam: Real Options Applied


Olle Ellnestam held an interesting session about Real Options.

Real Options is about "deferring decisions to the last responsible moment". By deferring decisions and avoiding early commitments, you can gain flexibility in the choices you have later.

Olle exemplified this with a business trip where he hedged his traveling options due to the ash cloud. He had a plan ticket, a train ticket and his car available to make the trip. The different options expired at different times and had different costs. He could make the traveling decision just-in-time based on all available information instead of committing early.

When we look back, things appear to have a clear path – this can’t be applied to the future  

I liked the presentation even if he was a little short on time at the end.

Carl Savage: Overcoming Education Inertia


Carl Savage had a great presentation. He talked about how you need to focus on the real customer and the needs of the customer. In his case it was the medical students. Is the medical training done in such a way that the students really learn what they need to know.

Great session. 

Ari-Pekka Skarp: Coaching in Complex Environments


Sorry Ari-Pekka, I did not understand what you wanted to tell us with this session.

Update: After reading Ari-Pekka’s blog post about this talk I got the message he wanted to communicate. This is truly an interesting topic. You can read the blog post here

Jurgen Appelo: Complexity Thinking or Systems Thinking ++ ?


Jurgen is an entertaining speaker with great visuals but I feel he need to be more clear and to the point what he want to communicate with his presentation.  This time it was a non stop barrage of quotes from different Complexity and Systems thinkers but where was Jurgens own thinking or opinions.

If he would not be so fuzzy, as on the picture above, this could have been a much better session.

Marcus Hammarberg: Theory of Constraints and Specification by example


My fellow Lean/Agile Coach at Avega Group Marcus Hammarberg held a great presentation on Specification By Example and how this could be a way of exploit the knowledge bottleneck in software development.

Keynote: James Sutton: The Living, Breathing Organization: Lean, Science and Complexity

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This was a great keynote by James Sutton. He talked about Systems Thinking, the scientific method, Lean Thinking and Complexity Theory. He used life as a metaphor how all this was connected.

Here are some tweets about the keynote.

The Command & Control version of Lean is called Krap Kaizen

Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/jurgenappelo/statuses/131034245115297792

If Lean is something being done to you… instead of something you are doing to the system… you may have Krap Kaizen on your hands #less2011

Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/cyetain/statuses/131044566882205696

At the end of the presentation James said that some of the tools of Lean manufacturing was suitable in product/software development space. In the Q&A section he was asked what tools and he specifically mentioned Standard work. I think this was especially interesting as my lightning talk on the subject was shortly after his keynote.

What he referred to as Standard work was the detailed work instructions used in manufacturing and the common misconception that these are for controlling what to do when they are really the foundation to continues improvement. If you don’t know how work is done now how can you know that a process change is an improvement or not?

Håkan Forss: Standard work in software development

This was my lightning talk session. You can find the slides in my previous post 

Pim Witlox: Managing Agile Development

Showed us in less than six minuets what his research work on Managing Agile Development was about.

Day 2

I started the second day by facilitating the LESS 2011 Stockholm Lean Coffee event.

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Keynote: Peter Middleton: Lean Software Management: BBC Worldwide Case Study



I really liked this keynote. Peter was very to the point and presented parts of the BBC World Case study. Nothing really new to me in forms of methods, tools or techniques but a good case study.

Peter Bunce: The Leader’s Dilemma



This session was not adding anything new that Bjarte Bogsnes had not talked about in the keynote. To bad as I thought the title and the abstract really felt interesting and I had high expectations.

Henrik Mårtensson: A hoop through the OODA loop – Basic principles of business strategy and organization

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Best session in the conference for me. Henrik’s witty presentation style and well thought out slides was great. Most of the agile methods and tools heavily rest of fast feedback. The OODA loop is just about that – fast feedback loops so you can make decisions based on your current conditions fast.

Henrik talked about how the US Marin Corps decision making structure and “self-organizing” teams is so effective.

He also talked about how Hoshin Kanri organizational structure. Very interesting stuff. 

Claudio Perrone: A3 & Kaizen: Here’s how


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Claudio had the best slides of the conference! Great content and a great presentation. Claudio talked about how to really do Kaizen and using A3 as an important part of the process improvements.

Paul Gooderham: What Really Motivates Employees?

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This presentation was to academic for me, I think. The topic is really interesting but I didn’t feel like the question in the talk was answered.

Keynote Steve Denning: Making The Entire Organization Agile

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Before the summer I contacted Steve Denning about speaking at LESS 2011 about Radical Management. Now after so many hurdles on the way I was delighted to hear him speak about the thinks he have written in his book The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management

The presentation was great and had a high pace with lots of content. The main point of his talk was that is now time to change to a new management paradigm if companies want to survive. The old marketplace has changed and now the customer is the boss!

The next generation companies will have to focus on:

  • New Goal: Delight the customer – this is the over arching concept
  • New manager role: From controller to enabler
  • Coordination of work: From bureaucracy to dynamic linking
  • New values: Radical transparency
  • Communication: From command to conversations

LESS is More

Thank you Steve for coming and I hope everyone enjoy his book The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management curtsey of Avega Group.

Day 3

Day 3 was Tutorials & Workshops day. I was asked by the conference organizers to arrange a game day where we would play two games: the MIT Beer Game and the getKanban Board Game.

You can read more about the LESS 2011 Game Day in my previous post


I really had a great time at this conference. The content was mostly good but what I really appreciated was the open and engaged community. I had such a great time talking to so many great people. Thank you all for coming and hope to see you soon again!


LESS is More!

4 thoughts on “Lean Enterprise Software and Systems 2011 – My summary

  1. Vasco Duarte 2011-11-05 / 21:56

    I thought that Ari-Pekka’s session was the one packed with the most knowledge. The concepts he tried to introduce relate to the historical views of causality in philosophy. He described 3 causality approaches that we can observe in the world today and what are their origins:
    1. Efficient causality assumes that any phenomenon can be divided into clear “if-then” links of causality.
    2. Rationalist Causality assumes that people can autonomously develop their own goals and the actions to achieve them – i.e. the people develop their own purposes for action
    3. Transformative Causality: the movement is towards unknown future state where there is potential for both the continuity and transformation of the identity. The radical idea here was that the system “as a whole” was moving towards some final state – the more mature form of itself.

    He describes these ideas in this article: http://skarpconsulting.fi/LESS2011.html

    Ari-Pekka is one of the few people in the Agile community that is bringing Complexity Sciences to our field and he is doing it quite differently than Jurgen Appelo. Both are important views of complexity, and both offer concrete things to be used when working with teams.

    Check the article out. I think you will find it very interesting.

    • Håkan Forss 2011-11-07 / 15:27

      I have read the blog post and the session now make so much more sense. A very intersting topic. Thanks for the link.

      • Vasco Duarte 2011-11-08 / 14:33

        Yes it is! And even if it is not an easy topic, my own thinking has evolved so much because of this different way to look at reality that I just can’t stop learning more about it.

        Causality (within Complex systems) is the least understood concept in our management community today. Hence my interest😀

  2. Håkan Forss 2011-11-05 / 23:37

    I have just started my journey on the Complexity Thinking path and I may just need to learn more before I see the light. I will have to check his work out.

    So far Snowdens work seems to make most sense to me, out of the little I have explored. I’m happy to have started on this path and it will be interesting to see where it leads.

    I really appreciated your participation in the MIT Beer Game and the Birds of a Feather in the short break.

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