My understanding of LeSS!

One part of the education to become a Certified LeSS Trainer is to visualize LeSS in one picture. I saw that as one of my bigger challenges, as my artistic skills are not that great. I quickly came to realize that I also have no touch for colors and thus I got inspired by a black and white sketch of a frame. It reminded me remotely of my lithography experiments with linoleum at school. Anyway, having used a sketch app, I proudly present my graphical illustration of my understanding of LeSS.

The graphic contains several main sections. The frame represents the 10 LeSS principles. The ultimate goal, “adaptiveness”, is far away at the horizon. The labyrinth represents the organization with all its branches leading potentially to dead ends. Guides and experiments help the people in the labyrinth to find their way. The preparation work before entering the labyrinth i.e. the LeSS rules.

LeSS principles

The LeSS principles are mapped not in any particular order of importance. Starting from the top there is Customer Centric. I was thinking of putting the customer in the crosshair, yet that seemed too brutal, so here is a friendlier version of it. Next is Whole Product Focus and transparency (Bas thought at first that it was a spider). “More with LeSS” comes next, showing that the small ball weighs more than the large one. Continuous Improvement, LeSS is Scrum, Empirical Process Control and Queuing Theory represented by the funnel. Systems Thinking (represented by my favorite “beer-snack-cash” systems model) and last but not least Lean Thinking with the known metaphor of lowering the water to see the obstacles hiding below the surface.

Since I am a practitioner of martial arts, I use the Shu-Ha-Ri model to guide my explanation in my graphics. For those who are unfamiliar with Shu-Ha-Ri, here is a short explanation:

  • Shu: Apprentice = Follow the rules and practice until you reach a good level
  • Ha: Journeyman = Start using the rules and use a sensei (teacher) to explore improvement options
  • Ri: Master = Create new rules and become a sensei for new apprentices


Shu – level: LeSS rules and the framework

I visualize some of the few LeSS rules (i.e. the framework) such as teams which are cross-functional, co-located, long-lived and dedicated. They work together and have frequent communication with the customer (in e.g. a Multi-Team Product backlog Refinement event). Then there is the one Product Owner interfacing teams and the customers. There will be a few Scrum Masters supporting this endeavor. One Definition of Done (DoD) for the entire product which can be expanded and the same cadence across all teams. 

Each organization is different and thus instead of formulating more rules, we switch in LeSS to guides and experiments. Now some of the guides like the “LeSS adoption principles” will help the practitioner to find an adequate entrance into the labyrinth, to get a decent start. Please note the smiley in the guide! Those guides are friendly and shall not be seen as threats.

Ha – level: LeSS guides and experiments

The over 100 LeSS guides and 600+ experiments will help the people in the organization to find their way towards the perfection goal in LeSS which is to reach maximum adaptiveness (a.k.a. Agility, flexibility). Those guides and experiments will help to identify potential dead ends – also known as local optimizations. As any organization is a system, the practitioner needs to understand the importance of local versus global optimization (i.e. LeSS principle: Systems Thinking).

Ri – level: more experiments

One of the characteristics of any complex system is that we simply cannot predict what will happen – it is like driving in foggy weather. Thus so-called best and good practices from a different organization might lead to disaster in your organization! Instead we need to experiment (probe-sense-respond according to the Cynefin framework) and by a lot. Only then the organization can learn what works for them and what not. Only then they understand how to get closer to the overall goal of adaptiveness in order to be able to deliver constantly highest customer value.


My understanding of LeSS
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