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« The Zen of Thanksgiving | Main | Leadership’s #1 Challenge: An article for comment! »

November 25, 2010


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Sui Fai John Mak

Hi Steve,
Well said. I share your thoughts that "It’s not hierarchy and it’s not anarchy." How would that be done, as I have experienced it myself, the best strategies relate back to the JIT and agility that are most relevant in a customer focussed business world. I also found that adaptation and alignment with customers will help in creating great relationship with customers, that often goes beyond the hierachy and anarchy. Without customers's support, what is the purpose of a hierachy? Thanks for your great insights.

Bhavin Parekh

I would be interested to know your views on the work of Elliott Jaques who developed the concept of Requisite Organization.

Also look at who has something very interesting concepts.

Steve Denning

Hi Bhavin

Thanks for your post. I've always found Elliot Jacques a tough read, but your email prompts me to think that I should check it out one more time. Maybe the light will dawn for me!

Holacracy, as far as I understand it, has something in common with dynamic linkage. However it seems to be missing some of the other four basic shifts in management that I refer to, and so may have questionable sustainability. It also lacks the fifteen year track record of implementation in a large number of organizations around the world that dynamic linkage enjoys. It may however offer some useful insights. I'll check it out further.



Steve - Thanks a lot for your thoughts. Reminds me of Peter Block and the concept of Stewardship,

Rich Reader

Is there an Agile approach to Business Requirements Development or Functional Specifications Articulation that doesn't strangle the creative development process underneath an endlessly growing mountain of scope creep?

Steve Denning

Hi Rich Reader,

You ask: is there an Agile approach to Business Requirements Development that doesn't strangle the creative development process underneath an endlessly growing mountain of scope creep?

I try to spell out such an approach in chapter 6-7 of my new book, which I have labeled here "dynamic linking".

Of course, it does depend on execution. The nightmare that you imply can--and does--arise if the manager (or what Scrum calls "the product owner") doesn't do his or her job.

It helps if you have the other four shifts firmly in place -- focus on client delight, truly autonomous teams, genuine values and communication through conversation. In many (all?) of the cases where things went wrong, those other shifts weren't firmly in place.


Dave Duggal

"It’s not hierarchy and it’s not anarchy. It gets the best of all worlds."

Completely agree. The poles have failed, neither is appropriate for all things. Agility requires the ability to be as flexible as possible and as structured as necessary, on a case by case basis. Dynamic Linking promotes these emergent qualities of self-organization.

One challenge is that the enterprise infrastructure is not up to the task. Most automation software, including modern Business Process software, is still rooted in theories that emerged from the industrial revolution.

Dynamic Linking can be complimented by what we call 'Dynamic Cohesion' - the ability to match business rules and governance policies to work on-demand. In this way, the business and enterprise can define rules of play without dictating the play itself.


My interest in Systems Thinking led me to discover the Triarchy Press. One of the books I found there is The Three Ways of Getting Things Done Hierarchy, Heterarchy and Responsible Autonomy in Organizations by Gerard Fairtlough.

A second book of interest is Agile Coaching,

Steve Denning

Dear ParadigmLeaps,

Thanks for these references. I'll check out Fairtlough's book--sounds very interesting.

"Agile" is one of the chief sources of the approach that I am calling "dynamic linking".


Steve Denning


Thanks for these points. Where can I find out more about "dynamic cohesion"?


Mike Wittenstein

I'd love to have a chat with you (when you have time ;-) about some of the existing tools I know about that fit squarely between anarchy and hierarchy which are getting good results. Several of these tools blend strategy/operations in a unified design (avoiding misinterpretation and shortening the time from thinking about something to doing something about it). Your take on them would be quite valuable. I'll gladly introduce you to their creators. Perhaps some of your followers would find them useful.

Jon Husband

Re: Jaques' work ...

Much of Jaques' Requisite Organization presumed a certain stability (I believe) in the evolution of things to supprt the time=span of decision-making at the various levels of the organization. I do not think this logic foresaw the dynamics of hyperlinked information flows, and the results of those dynamcs, very well.

I think that in these new conditions the time-span of decision-making is (or needs to be) very much cognizant of the shorter cycle times of activities, which you cite as part of your argument.


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My take is that the problem is not so much that Agile and Scrum don't t scale. We now have many examples of large-scale implementations of Agile.


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