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Antifragility Panel/Webinar: Practice Beyond the Rhetoric! (pre-event)

January 18, 2015

Nassim Nicholas Taleb‘s (@nntaleb) concept of Antifragility is revolutionary! Appreciating it involves initially recognizing it and then translating it into practice!

As Sir Francis Bacon explained:

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

Taleb’s Antifragility book (and concept) is indeed to be “chewed and digested . . . wholly, and with diligence and attention”!

Please see the following for background . . .
Antifragile, Flexibility, Robust, Resilience, Agility, and Fragile
The Emergence of the Antifragile Organization
The Triad: Fragile, Robust, and Antifragile
Antifragility: From Details to Nuances [LinkedIn]
Demystifying Antifragility: Beyond Agility Workshop

From Concept to Practice

On March 18th, 2015, a panel of practitioners — including the-wonderfully-talented Russ Miles (@russmiles,, the “Geek on a Harley”, of Simplicity Itself and I (@SAlhir) — will explore Antifragility, share experiences, and offer perspective on how to apply Antifragility through the following questions:

  • How have you interpreted Taleb’s concept of Antifragility?
  • How have you translated your interpretation into practice?
  • What are the results and impacts of your efforts?

Employee Engagement and Market Innovation & Disruption

In his book “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder”, Taleb introduced the concept of antifragility.

  • First, Taleb distinguishes between the fragile, robust, and antifragile: “the fragile wants tranquility, the antifragile grows from disorder, and the robust doesn’t care too much.”
  • Next, Taleb advances that “by grasping the mechanisms of antifragility we can build a systematic and broad guide to non-predictive decision making under uncertainty in business, politics, medicine, and life in general.”

Taleb also emphasizes that theory is fragile, phenomenology is robust, and heuristics & evidence-based phenomenology is antifragile!

As the world continues to become increasingly interconnected and interdependent, Black Swans — large-scale unpredictable and irregular events of massive consequence — are necessarily becoming more prominent!

As a result of the proliferation of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, non-predictive decision making is quintessential — and individuals, teams & groups, and organizations & enterprises are embracing the quest for greater antifragility to realize greater employee engagement and market innovation & disruption!

Agility and Antifragility

As Taleb suggests “Agile Schmagile” . . . if you’ve embraced any degree of agility, don’t miss this opportunity to go beyond agility and explore antifragility in practice.

While agility involves responding to change, antifragility involves gaining from disorder; and while agility emphasizes embracing change through inspecting and adapting, antifragility emphasizes embracing chaos through adapting and evolving!

The Significant, Theory from Practice, and the Secrets only Practice can Reveal

Albert Einstein emphasized the distinction between theory and practice . . .

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

W. Edwards Deming emphasized the importance of theory . . .

Experience by itself teaches nothing… Without theory, experience has no meaning. Without theory, one has no questions to ask. Hence, without theory, there is no learning.

And Nassim Nicholas Taleb emphasizes:

For a theory is a very dangerous thing to have. And of course one can rigorously do science without it. What scientists call phenomenology is the observation of an empirical regularity without a visible theory for it. In the Triad, I put theories in the fragile category, phenomenology in the robust one. Theories are superfragile; they come and go, then come and go, then come and go again; phenomenologies stay, and I can’t believe people don’t realize that phenomenology is “robust” and usable, and theories, while overhyped, are unreliable for decision making — outside physics.

The key is that the significant can only be revealed through practice.

No, we don’t put theories into practice. We create theories out of practice.

It is just that things that are implemented tend to want to be born from practice, not theory.

There are secrets to our world that only practice can reveal, and no opinion or analysis will ever capture in full. This secret property is, of course, revealed through time, and, thankfully, only through time.

Join the panel/webinar as we explore the practice of Antifragility beyond the rhetoric!


December 13, 2014

Alex Yakyma‘s and Dean Leffingwell‘s PACIFIC EXPRESS is described as a “short story” of an “initial SAFe adoption” that focuses on the “courageous people that drive change” and offers a format to “see and feel the people and culture aspects of SAFe”.

Essentially, it hints or suggests that a Quickstart — including “preparation” to “work with teams to re-align them to a common process model,” plan a “first Program Increment” or “release planning session,” and an opportunity to “dig deeper into the advanced topics of how to operate at scale” — is a “transformation process” (emphasis added):

“My understanding is that the whole notion of the Train revolves around delivering visible, tangible value; and I think that’s exactly what we need,” said Stephanie [client in the story] getting us back on track. “Tell us what we need to do. What does the transformation process look like?”

“We call it a Quickstart,” I [Ryan, consultant, trainer and enterprise coach] said. “The primary action happens over the course of one week and is normally preceded by careful preparation and then some follow up. During that week, I will work with teams to re–‐align them to a common process model, that’s the first two days. Then, for the next two days, we will plan our first Program Increment: PI for short. Roughly speaking, you can think of it as a release planning session. And finally, the last day can be used for Product Owners and Scrum Masters to dig deeper into the advanced topics of how to operate at scale. The Quickstart is just a kick‐off for you guys, but should provide enough momentum to drive the transformation.”

The story starts with the “preparation”, which was quite minimized, both regarding actual duration and activities:

Tomorrow is a really big day — we start our two-day release planning session and much will depend on how that goes. The preparation took two weeks — a very busy two weeks — not an uncommon thing when a program initiates this process for the first time. And not everything went as smoothly as expected… as if it ever does at scale. [. . . agree on the cadence, frequent integration, organizational structure, program priorities, the remainder of the areas, etc.]

While the story focuses on Lean, Lean-Agile Leaders, and Leadership in Lean Software Development, it disappoints in suggesting or implying that a mere presentation of “What Do I Do as Lean-Agile Leader” (in the story) is enough to shift a culture from “managing to enabling teams”:

The principal force behind these dozens of bullet points is the switch from managing to enabling teams. And since enabling teams is what we are after, we naturally arrive at a gazillion aspects of the Leader role. As you shift your thinking and start looking for the bottlenecks that prevent the Train from fast delivery of value to the business, you arrive at more and more things like that. Take a look at these again…” I browsed through the presentation once again, pausing a few seconds on each slide. “Do you think teams can do any of these on their own?”

However, the story ultimately redeems itself somewhat by emphasizing that transformation is a journey and that a “quickstart” is not the whole journey (emphasis added):

Our initial sessions, including the PI planning, were not the transformation itself. There is a reason why it is called Quickstart. In fact, it is only the beginning of a learning journey that knows no end.

And the story further disappoints in not offering anything beyond itself regarding this “learning journey” and not exploring the distinction between Dynamics and Mechanics, for a more formidable and proven approach to transformation, see Scaling Agility with Conscious Agility & SAFe, DAD, LeSS, Agility Path, or ScrumPLoP as well as Constructively (rather than Destructively) Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

Change: From Programs to Platforms [LinkedIn]

November 28, 2014

In Build a change platform, not a change program” (McKinsey & Company, Insights & Publications, October 2014), Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini suggest that “continuous improvement requires the creation of change platforms, rather than change programs.” (read more)

Mastery and Transformation

November 27, 2014

No, we don’t put theories into practice. We create theories out of practice.
(Nassim Nichol Taleb, @nntaleb)

I have always been (and will always be) a student of human nature — in awe of the human condition and human dynamics (through which human nature emerges in how we communicate, relate and behave)!

While I have been a longtime fan of Robert Greene‘s (@RobertGreene) work (Power, Seduction and War) — including, The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, The 50th Law (see The 50th Law “Fear Nothing” & Agility Distilled for more), and especially Mastery — I have found The Art of War (particularly, The Denma Translation) to be quintessentially more foundational to embracing human nature and offering a more “humane” perspective — furthermore, I’ve often referred to “The Art of War” as “The Art of Human Nature”!

As one explores and reflect on Robert Greene’s life journey through his work, his books seem to be converging more and more towards the integrated perspective offered by The Art of War versus the disintegrated aspects of power, seduction, and war!

Generally, Robert Greene’s Mastery is particularly potent! While the Laws of Power focuses more on individual power, the Art of Seduction focuses more on social seduction relative to power, and the Strategies of War focuses more on social strategies relative to power, Robert Greene’s Mastery focuses on ultimate power — Mastery.


There exists a form of power and intelligence that represents the high point of human potential. It is the source of the greatest achievements and discoveries in history. Let us call this sensation mastery — the feeling that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves. And at the root of this power is a simple process that leads to mastery — one that is accessible to all of us. In this process leading to this ultimate form of power, we can identify three distinct phases or levels. The first is the Apprenticeship; the second is the Creative-Active; the third, Mastery.

Greene’s elegant introduction of mastery as “the source of the greatest achievements and discoveries in history” and as the form of power that “represents the high point of human potential” that may be realized through a “simple process [Apprenticeship, Creative-Active, and Mastery phases] that leads to mastery” is absolutely brilliant!


In the first phase, we stand on the outside of our field, learning as much as we can of the basic elements and rules. We have only a partial picture of the field and so our powers are limited.

Chapter I of Mastery, Discovering Your Calling: The Life’s Task, offers strategies for finding your life’s task (“what you are meant to accomplish in the time that you have to live”).


In the second phase, through much practice and immersion, we see into the inside of the machinery, how things connect with one another, and thus gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject. With this comes a new power — the ability to experiment and creatively play with the elements involved.

Chapter II of Mastery, Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship, focuses on the three steps or modes of apprenticeship: Deep Observation, Skills Acquisition, and Experimentation.

Chapter III of Mastery, Absorb the Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic, offers strategies for deepening the mentoring relationship.

Chapter IV of Mastery, See People as They Are: Social Intelligence, focuses on specific knowledge (reading people) and general knowledge (the seven deadly realities).

Chapter V of Mastery, Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active, focuses on the creative process: Creative Task, Creative Strategies, and Creative Breakthrough (Tension and Insight).


In the third phase, our degree of knowledge, experience, and focus is so deep that we can now see the whole picture with complete clarity. We have access to the heart of life — to human nature and natural phenomena. That is why the artwork of Masters touches us to the core; the artist has captured something of the essence of reality. That is why the brilliant scientist can uncover a new law of physics, and the inventor or entrepreneur can hit upon something no one else has imagined.

Chapter VI of Mastery, Fuse the Intuitive With the Rational: Mastery, focuses on the roots of masterly intuition and the return to reality.


In many ways, the movement from one level of intelligence to another can be considered as a kind of ritual of transformation. As you progress, old ideas and perspectives die off; as new powers are unleashed, you are initiated into higher levels of seeing the world. Consider Mastery as an invaluable tool in guiding you though this transformative process. The structure of Mastery is simple. There are six chapters, moving sequentially through the process. Chapter 1 is the starting point — discovering your calling, your Life’s Task. Chapter 2, 3, and 4 discuss different elements of the Apprenticeship Phase (learning skills, working with mentors, acquiring social intelligence). Change 5 is devoted to the Creative-Active Phase, and chapter 6 to the ultimate goal — Mastery.

Greene’s elegant description of “the movement from one level of intelligence to another” as a “ritual of transformation” or “transformative process” where old ideas/perspective die and new powers are born is again absolutely brilliant!

Brad Barton (@Brad_Barton), Mark Ferraro (@mark4ro), and I (@SAlhir) have expressed this ritual or process via Conscious Agility (Conscious Capitalism + Business Agility = Antifragility), which includes a Define phase, Create phase, and Refine phase involving an ecosystem of stakeholders whose identity, including their awareness and ownership, evolves through an initiative (cycle) of “fundamental change” (or renewal). See Conscious Agility: A Brief Introduction for more detail.

Define Phase

Greene’s Apprenticeship phase generally relates to Conscious Agility’s Define phase.

The essence of the Define phase is to foster awareness among stakeholders and establish clarity around the initiative. Conscious Agility’s Discover a “minimal” Ecosystem Definition conversation cluster involves design team members discovering their own calling (Chapter I).

Create Phase

Greene’s Creative-Active phase generally relates to Conscious Agility’s Create phase, including Greene’s Apprenticeship phase and Mastery phase.

The essence of the Create phase is to achieve greater awareness, intuition, orientation, and improvisation (among stakeholders) by evolving the ecosystem.

Conscious Agility’s Enact Experiences conversation cluster involves stakeholders engaging in discovering their calling (Chapter I), the ideal apprenticeship (Chapter II), and the mentor dynamic (Chapter III).

Conscious Agility’s Integrate Stakeholders conversation cluster involves stakeholders engaging in social intelligence (Chapter IV), the creative process (Chapter V), and mastery (Chapter VI).

Refine Phase

Greene’s Mastery phase generally relates to Conscious Agility’s Refine phase.

The essence of the Refine phase is to ensure stakeholders have sufficiently evolved the ecosystem to nurture continued success.

Conscious Agility’s Embrace Experiences conversation cluster and Nurture Stakeholders conversation cluster involve stakeholders and design team members engaging in mastery (Chapter VI).

Mastery and Transformation

Finally, you must not see this process of moving through levels of intelligence as merely linear, heading towards some kind of ultimate destination known as mastery. Your whole life is a kind of apprenticeship to which you apply your learning skills. Everything that happens to you is a form of instruction if you pay attention. The creativity that you gain in learning a skill so deeply must be constantly refreshed, as you keep forcing your mind back to a state of openness. Even knowledge of your vocation must be revisited throughout the course of your life as changes in circumstance force you to adapt its direction. In moving toward mastery, you are bringing your mind closer to reality and to life itself. Anything that is alive is in a continual state of change and movement. The moment that you rest, thinking that you have attained the level you desire, a part of your mind enters a phase of decay. You lose your hard-earned creativity and others being to sense it. This is a power and intelligence that must be continually renewed or it will die.

Greene’s elegant emphasis that we “must not see this process of moving through levels of intelligence as merely linear, heading towards some kind of ultimate destination known as mastery” and anything that is alive is in a continual state of change and movement” is again absolutely brilliant!

Robert Greene‘s (@RobertGreene) accentuation of mastery as a “power and intelligence that must be continually renewed or it will die” is completely aligned with Brad Barton (@Brad_Barton), Mark Ferraro (@mark4ro), and I (@SAlhir) describing Conscious Agility‘s Define, Create, and Refine phases as an initiative (cycle) of “fundamental change” or renewal.

In so many aspects of practiceMastery and Conscious Agility are readily aligned! Also see Conscious Agility: A Brief Introduction for more detail. And also see Constructively (rather than Destructively) Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) if you are doing anything with the SAFe (and perhaps struggling to achieve success)!

Journey Over Destination

November 21, 2014

Tom Sylvester (LinkedIn, @tsylvest, Blog) expressed how he was “deeply saddened” by an article within the agile community:

My sadness was not in the authors or the article itself, but in the fact that it has come to this. Instead of simply identifying, collecting and having the patterns available to use as needed, we as the agile community have felt the need to try and mix and match patterns in various ways, label them as frameworks, sell certifications for them and argue about which framework is the best. This has been ongoing and is being perpetrated as the focus is now on “scaling” agile instead of anchoring to the mindset if “being” agile. What this has caused is noise, confusion and many many less than stellar results then practitioners who try to lay these frameworks on top of organizations without first identifying what is needed.

Read Tom’s complete “I Must ASK (Agile Scaling Knowledge) — Has It Really Come to This?” blog post for more!

And while Tom acknowledges the importance of patterns and frameworks, he emphasizes the importance of “implementing” or “pulling in” those patterns that confront the dysfunctions (and offer efficiency and effectiveness) within an organization based on it’s needs — thus, birthing a framework (starting with a fresh “blank” canvas) based on the needs of the organization (Brad Barton, Mark Ferraro, and Si Alhir) — that is, Constructively (rather than Destructively) Adopting and Sustaining

All too often, we neglect the journey (adopting, sustaining, and scaling) and obsessively/compulsively focus on the destination. . .

Life is a journey, not a destination.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The Goal in Life . . . Soul in the Game . . . To Create Yourself a Soul

November 21, 2014

Tom Sylvester (LinkedIn, @tsylvest, Blog) recently tweeted, referencing Nassim Nicholas Taleb‘s “Soul in the Game” (“Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder”):


To @SAlhir, someone with more soul than I have ever experienced –  Do you have ‘soul in the game’?

To which I replied:


.@tsylvest Deepest gratitude, my friend. Life is so very short, and without soul, it is that much more less meaningful.

Very grateful to Tom for his sentiments!

In reading Tom’s tweet, I was quickly reminded of Alejandro Jodorowsky . . .

“What is the goal in life? It’s to create yourself a soul.”

. . . and Viktor Frankl . . .

“What is to give light must endure burning.”

So many people simply forget their goal in life (in creating a soul) and no longer give light (and must endure burning).

I have been very fortunate to have may encounters with death (death-rebirth experiences) over the years so as to realize — To create yourself a soul, one must have soul in the game (and from this we experience such freedom) — and I am deeply grateful to those (like Tom) how have honored our shared experience in that creation (of a soul and our individual souls)!

To Dan, We are All Soul Mates, What will Your Verse Be?

November 8, 2014

Throughout life’s journey, we meet many people.

However, some people, compel us to

Or perhaps to resurrect what seemingly has died! Sometime we fail and sometimes we don’t! — And in this dynamics, we sometimes resurrect a part of ourselves that too has died; and sometimes, we become so alive, that we become seemingly mad!

Consider Hermann Hesse‘s expression:

Yet, what a real living human being is made of seems to be less understood today than at any time before . . . — each one of whom represents a unique and valuable experiment on the part of nature.

Each man’s life represents the road toward himself, and attempt at such a road, the intimation of a path. No man has ever been entirely and completely himself. Yet each one strives to become that — one in an awkward, the other in a more intelligent way, each as best he can.

. . . I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?

Dan Horton (LinkedIn, About.Me@Dan_Horton, Blog) is one such compelling soul that I have recently encountered — we are all soul mates and experience natural affinity; circumstances cause this affinity to emerge and us to become aware!

It’s All About the People

Dan (LinkedIn, About.Me@Dan_Horton, Blog) shared a blog post that completely overwhelmed me:

It’s all about the people

| Hey, I Love You Man, and…! — Si Alhir

In Si’s blog post – Dynamics of Mechanics – he discusses where to focus between the two processes: Dynamics (language, behaviors, and relationships) and Mechanics (process, tools, and culture.) Corporations and people often get focused on fixing the mechanics and not the dynamics of a situation. For example, if you cannot get organized, do you buy a new tool that will fix it or do you analyze yourself and see if it’s just a bad habit? We need to focus on the people and not the tools.

Focusing on the people

Si and I have been working together for a couple of months now and I’ve seen his processes first hand. Our corporation began to focus on the process and not the people for our new technical implementation of agile. The was unsuccessful and all the teams were failing on the new process. Si’s first step when he joined us – to remove all the tools. This had an immediate effect that was seen in the increased productivity of the team. He focused on the people next. In three months my team, including myself, went from wanting to kill each other to now laughing and having fun on our project. I would not have believed it would be possible based on where the team was when we started.

“I Love you man”

Sometimes it’s all in a word. You see this when you say “I love you” to your significant other, but to my team members? Si however, has a different technique. When tensions were high in our meetings, Si would say “Hey, I love you Man, and ..” something to help that person relax and focus. This and other techniques helped my team to do exactly that – relax and focus on the work.

The statement makes me laugh each time I hear it and from me it makes everyone else laugh. It is the last thing you would every expect to hear from me. However, this week I started using it and in turn my entire team started saying it to one another to stop tensions. If anyone starts to get agitated the team shares in the responsibility to stop them and get refocused. Si nor I asked the team to start using it. We both started doing it ourself and the team followed.

The change is amazing.

Use it yourself

So how can you benefit from what I’ve learned here? Maybe just find a statement that will help you stop the frustrations with other people. I know I will use this statement to help calm tensions in conversations and I will also have a word for myself internally to stop myself when I am getting angry.

From the mechanics side of the equation I need to review what is frustrating me today. Are they really people or process issues and am I focusing on them in the wrong way? for example:

  • Feel someone is not spending enough time with you? Don’t complain or focus on just making more time (mechanics) focus on making the time you do have the highest quality you can (dynamics). If you have an hour together and only fight because your frustrated – well did it fix the problem? No
  • Frustrated that you are not focused? Are you trying to fix it with new processes or focusing internally? I have caught myself often focusing on getting a new tool or process to fix my focus, but the real problem is I’m procrastinating.

Take a good look and you may be surprised with what you find.

Thank you

I would also like to thank Si Alhir for his efforts with my team. He is an excellent coach and in a very short time has been able to transform a large part of our organization. I would personally recommend Si and team if you need a transformation coach for your company.

When I say Love, I mean a sense of:

That is, Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love!

Always in awe of how the small, subtle, seemingly insignificant things are not! And when we miss them, the depth and breadth of damage a “miss” does can be overwhelming — our decision making and behavior is indeed 70% emotional and 30% rational (@Gallop).

Fanning the Blaze . . . So You may Contribute a Verse

While relaxing the “gender” reference in Steve Maraboli‘s quote, we are all soul mates (or have a “deep or natural affinity”), and its an honor to “fan the blaze” (even if only for the short time we have together) . . .

. . . in the hopes that you, my dear friend, may contribute a verse (referencing O Me! O Life! by Walt Whitman) . . .

. . . so thus we must ask, dearest friend:

What will your verse be?


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