A couple of changes for February

Quick one…. For reasons beyond my control, the February Train-the-Trainer / Facilitator (TTT/F) has moved a day or two. It is still four sessions over two consecutive weeks, but no longer the same two days each week. Now it’s Wednesday, Thursday, Monday, and Tuesday afternoons (UK time), 15th-21st of February.

Programme information and booking pages:

Sessions begin at 13:00GMT, 14:00CST, 8am ET, will be a maximum of four hours each, and include multiple breaks.

Before that I’m in Berlin on the 7th and 8th for a two-day in-person workshop focussed on leaders and leadership in transforming organisations:

This was first mooted as an in-person TTT/F so be aware of that change too.

Questions about those or anything else? The next free webinar/AMA is on February 2nd:

As for what’s happening in March, see the events calendar below. Hope to see you soon!


Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
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Agendashift  Academy: Leading with Outcomes | Facilitator and Trainer Programmes

We help leaders and engaged team members at every level to gain fluency in the language of outcomes – developing and pursuing strategies together, innovating, learning, and adapting as the organisation renews and transforms itself from the inside.

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It’s 10 years since the post that changed my career

Happy New Year! For me it’s a big anniversary: this time in 2013 I had spent the New Year’s break taking the principles and practices of the Kanban Method, and from them abstracting a system of nine values. Then on January 3rd, I published Introducing Kanban through its values. Kanban’s values model was born.

Nine values are quite a lot to hold in one’s head at once, so I soon learned to present them in groups:

  • An initial six, or two groups of three: transparency, balance, and collaboration, then customer focus, flow, and leadership
  • Then understanding, agreement, and respect, which for reasons of brevity are often subsumed under leadership

In most of the decade since, it has been my most-read post each year. And it led to my first book, Kanban from the Inside (2014), which remains a Lean-Agile classic. Great! Now what?

I had no interest in making Kanban any more technical than it already was; if anything, the values model would always draw me in the opposite direction. Neither was I drawn to the emerging Kanban Maturity Model (or any other such model). What I did instead was to allow a common problem to bother me: why do so many people arrive at the training class not knowing why they are there? Tempting as it might have been to see that as a failure of administration or marketing, I saw it instead as a symptom that there were important organisational conversations that simply weren’t happening.

I realised quickly that this problem was far from unique to Kanban. To those that resent having had Scrum or (later) SAFe thrust upon them, the Agile manifesto’s “People and interactions over processes and tools” must ring rather hollow.

That took me away from Kanban into the realms of organisation, leadership, and strategy, to the development of Agendashift, and then sort of full circle, not back to Kanban and Lean-Agile specifically, but to business agility. Ten years on, as practice gets refined through use, as its message gets refined through the telling, and as we dig ever-deeper roots into the available theory, three main topic areas co-evolve together:

  1. As described now in two editions of the Agendashift book (2nd ed 2021), Agendashift the engagement model (thank you Daniel Mezick for describing Agendashift as such) and dialogic/generative organisation development approach (thank you Gervase Bushe & Bob Marshak), a way for practitioners to approach organisations without prejudging what solutions they will employ(/impose/inflict) and instead to help them have those missing conversations – engaging in participatory strategy, as it turns out
  2. The wholehearted organisation, a deliberately minimalistic values-based model of organisation and leadership, a spinoff from my third book, Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile (2019, audiobook 2020) that unexpectedly gained a life of its own
  3. The leadership development curriculum Leading with Outcomes, which compared to Agendashift minimises detail relevant mainly to practitioners, and instead distils some easily-learned patterns, strategies, and organisational models relevant to leaders at all levels, leaders in transforming organisations most especially

Explicitly in both Agendashift and Leading with Outcomes and implicitly in wholehearted, we have doubled down on the eighth value of that initial nine-value model, namely agreement. What if we put agreement on outcomes before solutions? One way or another, I’ve been asking that question for most of the past ten years, and I have no doubt that it will keep me going for a good while yet.

I no longer identify as a Kanban guy. That separation was necessary to what followed, but all these years later I remain proud of the work I did there, of that first book, and of the blog post that started it all. Not that I’m planning on retiring anytime soon, but I have long seen it as marking the beginning of the rest of my career.

[Comment on this post on LinkedIn]

Related:


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Agendashift  Academy: Leading with Outcomes | Facilitator and Trainer Programmes

We help leaders and engaged team members at every level to gain fluency in the language of outcomes – developing and pursuing strategies together, innovating, learning, and adapting as the organisation renews and transforms itself from the inside.

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QOTD: Rosen on Elsasser on reductionism

Elsasser pointed out that in the phase space of any organism, considered as a purely physical system, is in general of very high dimension. He argued further that the states in this phase space which are compatible with life will generally tend to be sparsely distributed in such as phase space; specifically, they will form a set of zero volume. Hence “almost all” states, and “almost all” trajectories in this space, will be incompatible with life. Furthermore, any attempt to form averages over the entire phase space will inevitably discard the biologically relevant states. Consequently, Elsasser argued, insofar as physics must deal entirely with such averages at the macroscopic level, biology is in principle irreducible to physics. It further follows that the laws governing the behaviour of biological systems are not inferrable from physical laws although they are compatible with them.

Robert Rosen, Anticipatory Systems, second edition (2012), published posthumously, p. 236

To which I would add: as physics is to biology, so too biology (and also neurology and psychology) to social systems.

Related:

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Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
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Agendashift  Academy: Leading with Outcomes | Facilitator and Trainer Programmes

We help leaders and engaged team members at every level to gain fluency in the language of outcomes – developing and pursuing strategies together, innovating, learning, and adapting as the organisation renews and transforms itself from the inside.

Upcoming

More…

Agendashift's models, sources, and inspirations
Agendashift’s models, sources, and inspirations

Agendashift 2022 roundup

In this year-end edition: How far we’ve come; Top 10 new posts of 2022 and most recently; Still going strong, our most-read classic posts; Updates to events, self-paced training, and media

How far we’ve come

It hardly seems possible, but Leading with Outcomes: Foundation only came into being this year. It launched in February, and a significantly updated second version came out as recently as November. The big surprise for me was how much I enjoyed creating and even re-doing it, and teaching it interactively has been a blast too. Far from being dull, there can be something deeply satisfying about going back to basics.

April saw Big changes for the Agendashift Academy, moving from per-module pricing to an all-you-can-eat subscription model. Affordable to the subscriber and easier for me to administer, it’s a win-win! In July we announced Authorised Facilitator and Trainer Programmes for Leading with Outcomes and so far we have held two Train-the-Trainer/Facilitator (TTT/F) events. We’ve had multiple facilitators up and running since September (essentially this replaces the old partner programme) and the first few trainers are coming onstream now, more about them in the new year. For details of the next TTT/F in February, check Events below.

I have a vulnerable family member, and nearly everything I’ve done work-wise since early 2020 has been done from home. Hugely grateful therefore to have both a supportive wife and a great room (“the studio”) to work from. Glad also though to be planning my first trip abroad since Covid, and it’s to a favourite destination, Berlin. If you want useful feedback, go to Berlin! The last time I went (2019) resulted in Good Obstacle, Bad Obstacle and that’s now a fixture; who knows what will happen this time (February 7-8)?

Also looking ahead to next year, this week I delivered (at the second attempt) the manuscript for Patterns of Generative Conversations, to be published soonish as part of the BMI Series in Dialogic Organization Development. I’ll have more to say about it when it is released, but suffice it to say that having something Agendashift-related published here represents a significant milestone.

So an exciting 2022 and much to look forward to. Wishing you the same for 2023!

Top 10 new posts of 2022 and most recently

  1. What I really think about Kanban (April)
  2. A new (alternate) Outside-in Strategy Review template (July)
  3. 15-minute FOTO, version 12 (May)
  4. Celebration-5W version 7 (January)
  5. Out of beta, Leading with Outcomes: Foundation goes fully live today (April)
  6. On values, meaningfulness, and change – parallels with Bateson and Mead (May)
  7. Agendashift’s three meta strategies (February, with an update in March)
  8. If you want to understand scaling… (July, part 2 also)
  9. Six commitments: Putting the ‘Deliberate’ into the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation (August, part 2 also)
  10. Video: Leading and Transforming with Outcomes (March)

Recent popular posts:

  1. From “What did you do yesterday?” to something better (November)
  2. Sell the pain, not the solution, the theory, or the blame (December)
  3. What does ChatGPT know about Agendashift? (December)
  4. Your organisation in 5 networks (November)
  5. Leaders as keepers of context (September)

Still going strong, our most-read classic posts

Not including one perennial pre-Agendashift post that I’ll celebrate next month on its tenth anniversary:

  1. My favourite Clean Language question (January 2019)
  2. Better user stories start with authentic situations of need (October 2016)
  3. ‘Right to Left’ works for Scrum too (July 2018)
  4. From Reverse STATIK to a ‘Pathway’ for continuous transformation (October 2019)
  5. I’m really enjoying Challenge Mapping (June 2020)
  6. You can’t deliver a task (August 2018)

Updates to events, self-paced training, and media

  • Events: Added Berlin, 7-8 February
  • Self-paced training: delayed in favour of the re-recorded Foundation, the Adaptive Organisation module is back in production, to be released early next year
  • Media: interviewed by Jeff Keyes of Atlassian, December 11th

Events

Self-paced training

All included in your Agendshift for Individuals subscription, the four modules of Leading with Outcomes:

  1. Leading with Outcomes: Foundation (available also interactively, see Events above)
  2. Inside-out Strategy: Fit for maximum impact
  3. Outside-in Strategy: Positioned for success
  4. Adaptive Organisation: Business agility at every scale (in production, coming soon)

Media


Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
Links: Home | Subscribe | Events | Media | Contact | Mike

Agendashift  Academy: Leading with Outcomes | Facilitator and Trainer Programmes

We help leaders and engaged team members at every level to gain fluency in the language of outcomes – developing and pursuing strategies together, innovating, learning, and adapting as the organisation renews and transforms itself from the inside.

Sell the pain, not the solution, the theory, or the blame

A strategy that ignores the obstacles is liable to fall at the first hurdle. That’s if it even gets that far – who will take seriously a strategy that ignores the issues? Turn those obstacles into outcomes Agendashift-style, and organise them so that you can establish a sense of direction, identify places to focus your efforts, and measure progress and success, well you’re in much better shape.

Most things Agendashift-related come with leadership lessons too, hence Leading with Outcomes. Here, in a psychologically safe environment, it must be ok to talk about obstacles. As a leader, you have a responsibility to encourage that to happen. But we can take that basic lesson further: how we talk about obstacles matters too.

Ever since a workshop in Berlin in 2019*, we’ve paid closer attention to how obstacles are framed. What started out as an effort to debug one breakout group’s frustrating experience turned into a new exercise, Good Obstacle, Bad Obstacle (yes there’s a nod to Rumelt in the name there).

Ostensibly, the exercise’s job is to frame obstacles such that the conversations to turn them into outcomes will be productive and satisfying, even enjoyable. What we repeatedly find though is that it helps us get to deeper issues and at the same time puts a spotlight on the organisation’s discourse. A bugfix becomes a key feature!

The exercise’s goal is to produce obstacles that are real, relevant, and representative – describing things that colleagues would quickly recognise, that affect their everyday work, and worded as they might word them. As per the title of this post, the trick (if “trick” is the right word – it can take real effort) is to sell the pain, not the solution, the theory, or the blame.

Some examples of “bad” obstacles:

  • Lack of a knowledge management system
  • Lack of people, money, or time
  • Lack of WIP limits
  • Lack of the Agile mindset
  • Lack of leadership
  • Lack of quality

The problem isn’t the “lack of” language (or “scarcity language”, as I sometimes call it), though that’s a strong smell. The problem is what those obstacles are selling: solutions, theories, or blame (or a combination), all of which get in the way of agreement. They’re easily dismissed (they may exclude better solutions or theories, for example), they call for things that everyone knows are unlikely to be forthcoming, or people feel judged by them.

Instead of those “lack ofs”, tell the more interesting side of the story. Sell the pain. Identify the real issue. That way lies the path to agreement on outcomes, a more coherent and robust strategy, and a more purposeful innovation process. And if you want your organisation’s discourse to improve, try paying attention to how obstacles are articulated. The conversation to turn a bad obstacle into a good one (in your next retro, perhaps) might be more important than you might think.

*See Events below – I’ll be back in Berlin in February, my first trip outside the UK since Covid!

Image: anonymous, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18101954

Thoughts? Discuss this post on LinkedIn


Updates

  • Events: Added Berlin, 7-8 February
  • Media: interviewed by Jeff Keyes of Atlassian, December 11th

Events

Self-paced training

The four modules of Leading with Outcomes:

  1. Leading with Outcomes: Foundation
  2. Inside-out Strategy: Fit for maximum impact
  3. Outside-in Strategy: Positioned for success
  4. Adaptive Organisation: Business agility at every scale (from early 2023)

Media


Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
Links: Home | Subscribe | Events | Contact | Mike

Agendashift  Academy: Leading with Outcomes | Facilitator and Trainer Programmes

We help leaders and engaged team members at every level to gain fluency in the language of outcomes – developing and pursuing strategies together, innovating, learning, and adapting as the organisation renews and transforms itself from the inside.

What does ChatGPT know about Agendashift?

My friend Kjell Tore Guttormsen persuaded ChaptGPT – OpenAI’s AI chatbot – to produce a post about Agendashift. With some caveats, what it came out with was pretty impressive!

Agendashift is a framework and set of tools for helping organizations to adopt and adapt practices from the Lean, Agile, and business agility communities. It is focused on helping organizations to assess and improve their culture, processes, and outcomes, and provides a holistic approach to organizational change that considers the needs and perspectives of all stakeholders. Agendashift is designed to be flexible and customizable, and can be used in a wide range of contexts and industries.

Agendashift can be particularly useful for leaders who are looking to implement organizational change and drive cultural transformation within their organizations. The framework provides a number of tools and approaches that can help leaders to engage with their teams, assess the current state of the organization, and develop a shared vision for the future. It also provides guidance on how to create and implement change initiatives that are aligned with this vision, and how to measure and track progress to ensure that the desired outcomes are being achieved.

That’s pretty good! Because it hasn’t led with Agendashift as an approach to strategy development (that comes later) I could argue that its opening sentence defines Agendashift too narrowly, but it well describes how it is most often used and I’m not going to complain. But for one problem which I’ll come to after the next paragraph, the rest is spot on.

One of the key features of Agendashift is its emphasis on outcome orientation, which is the practice of focusing on the desired outcomes of an organization or initiative, rather than on the specific activities or tasks that are needed to achieve those outcomes. This approach is based on the idea that organizations are most successful when they are clear about what they are trying to achieve, and when they are able to align their actions with their goals.

It has correctly identified outcome-orientation as one of Agendashift’s key features. The other is participation, which unfortunately doesn’t get the same attention. Without it, its attention to alignment seems to suggest something top-down, which Agendashift certainly isn’t. On balance, there may be a charitable reading that’s compatible with Agendashift, but the easier reading really isn’t. Clearly, I won’t be outsourcing my writing just yet, but let’s see how it continues…

In the context of Agendashift, Leading with Outcomes refers to the idea that leaders should take a proactive, forward-looking approach to driving organizational change, rather than reacting to events or simply following established processes. This means focusing on the outcomes that are important to the organization, engaging with stakeholders to understand their needs and priorities, and creating plans and initiatives that are designed to achieve those outcomes. Leading with Outcomes also involves being transparent and accountable, and regularly measuring and tracking progress to ensure that the desired outcomes are being achieved.

I’m pleasantly surprised that it has identified Leading with Outcomes as a thing. The rest of that sentence is just made up, but the rest of the paragraph isn’t bad at all.

Agendashift is well suited for strategy development and continuous transformation because of its focus on outcomes and its holistic approach to organizational change. The framework provides a number of tools and techniques that can be used to help organizations identify and prioritize their goals, and to develop strategies that are designed to achieve those goals. These tools can be used to engage with stakeholders, understand their needs and priorities, and develop plans and initiatives that are aligned with the organization’s vision and values.

Yes!

Additionally, Agendashift is designed to support continuous transformation, which means that it is not just a one-time change initiative, but rather an ongoing process of adaptation and improvement. This is important because organizations are operating in increasingly complex and dynamic environments, and they need to be able to adapt and respond to changing conditions in order to remain competitive and successful. Agendashift provides a framework and set of tools that can help organizations to continuously assess and improve their processes and outcomes, and to adapt to new challenges and opportunities as they arise.

Keep going!

Agendashift should be part of every Agile Leadership training because it provides a comprehensive and flexible framework for implementing organizational change and driving cultural transformation. The framework is grounded in the principles and practices of the Lean, Agile, and business agility communities, and it provides a holistic approach to organizational change that considers the needs and perspectives of all stakeholders.

In addition, Agendashift’s emphasis on outcome orientation and continuous transformation makes it well suited for helping leaders to develop and implement strategies that are aligned with the organization’s goals and values. It also provides a range of tools and techniques that can be used to engage with teams, assess the organization’s current state, and develop plans and initiatives that are designed to achieve the desired outcomes.

Overall, the inclusion of Agendashift in Agile Leadership training can help leaders to understand and apply the principles and practices of business agility, and to drive effective and sustainable change within their organizations.

Yes, yes, and yes! And not just Agile Leadership training (interesting capitalisation there)!

Inside-out Strategy and Outside-in Strategy are two key features of Agendashift that are designed to help organizations develop and implement effective and sustainable change initiatives.

Inside-out Strategy is based on the idea that organizations should begin the change process by looking inward, and by understanding their own capabilities, resources, and constraints. This involves assessing the organization’s current state, understanding its strengths and weaknesses, and identifying areas where improvement is needed. Once this analysis is complete, the organization can then develop a strategy that is aligned with its goals and capabilities, and that is designed to achieve the desired outcomes.

In contrast, Outside-in Strategy is based on the idea that organizations should begin the change process by looking outward, and by understanding the needs and priorities of their stakeholders. This involves engaging with stakeholders to understand their perspectives, and developing strategies that are aligned with their needs and priorities. This approach is particularly useful for organizations that are operating in complex or dynamic environments, where the needs and priorities of stakeholders are constantly changing.

Together, Inside-out and Outside-in Strategies provide a comprehensive and flexible approach to strategy development that can help organizations to adapt to changing conditions and to achieve their desired outcomes.

Those are quite generic descriptions of inside-out and outside-in approaches to strategy, but they’ll do. And top marks for “Together”.

When leaders adopt a Leading with Outcomes leadership style and use Agendashift to guide their approach to organizational change, the impact on the business can be significant. This approach can help leaders to engage with their teams, understand the needs and priorities of stakeholders, and develop strategies that are aligned with the organization’s goals and values. It can also help to create a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability, where teams are empowered to identify and solve problems, and where they are able to respond to changing conditions and opportunities in real time.

Overall, the impact of Agendashift and Leading with Outcomes leadership on the business can be to improve outcomes, increase engagement and collaboration, and drive innovation and growth. This can help organizations to remain competitive and successful in an increasingly complex and dynamic marketplace.

There are a number of advantages for emerging leaders to adopt Agendashift early in their careers. First and foremost, Agendashift provides a comprehensive and flexible framework for implementing organizational change and driving cultural transformation. This can help emerging leaders to understand and apply the principles and practices of business agility, and to develop the skills and knowledge that are needed to drive effective and sustainable change within their organizations.

Additionally, the focus on outcome orientation and continuous transformation in Agendashift can help emerging leaders to develop a forward-looking and proactive approach to leadership. This means focusing on the outcomes that are important to the organization, engaging with stakeholders to understand their needs and priorities, and creating plans and initiatives that are designed to achieve those outcomes. This approach can help emerging leaders to drive innovation and growth, and to create a culture of adaptability and continuous improvement.

Overall, the adoption of Agendashift early in their careers can provide emerging leaders with the tools and skills that are needed to drive organizational change and achieve success in today’s complex and dynamic business environment.

I notice shift over the course of those paragraphs from “leaders” to “emerging leaders”. If the latter refers to leaders who are willing to give Leading with Outcomes a try, then I’m totally fine with that. And with the caveat about participation, the rest is surprisingly good.

Overall, I’ve gone from deeply skeptical to really quite impressed. I’ve seen plenty of bot-generated rubbish, but ChatGPT has done pretty well here. Because it’s quite capable of giving a misleading impression I wouldn’t recommend using its outputs uncritically, but it is certainly powerful.


Upcoming

Self-paced training

The four modules of Leading with Outcomes:

  1. Leading with Outcomes: Foundation
  2. Inside-out Strategy: Fit for maximum impact
  3. Outside-in Strategy: Positioned for success
  4. Adaptive Organisation: Business agility at every scale (from early 2023)

Media


Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
Links: Home | Subscribe | Events | Contact | Mike

Agendashift  Academy: Leading with Outcomes | Facilitator and Trainer Programmes

We help leaders and engaged team members at every level to gain fluency in the language of outcomes – developing and pursuing strategies together, innovating, learning, and adapting as the organisation renews and transforms itself from the inside.

Agendashift roundup, November 2022

In this edition: My SEACON talk; Next week; Coming to Berlin; 15-minute FOTO in Danish; Allan Kelly’s Writing OKRs masterclass; Upcoming; Top posts

My SEACON talk

It was my first in-person conference talk since Covid and I was the first speaker up at SEACON Global 2022 Part 2 (there was a Part 1 earlier this year which I attended as a guest – thank you Barry Chandler!).

The recording is only 16 minutes long and if you watch to the end there’s a reward for being good 🙂

Channel link: SEACOM Global

Next week

Busy week next week! The first two sessions of Leading with Outcomes: Train-the-Trainer/Facilitator (TTT/F) take place on Monday and Tuesday evening UK time, the last two the same evenings the following week.

And on Thursday at 15:00 GMT, the first of our new monthly webinar series, The questions that drive us. We kick off with What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions? Expect a short presentation followed by an AMA (ask Mike anything) session. In January and February we’ll do How do we keep bringing outcomes to the foreground? and Where – and where else – could we be doing strategy? before cycling back to the first question. For that March session we’re joined from Australia by guests Stephen Dowling and friends.

Series link: The questions that drive us

Coming to Berlin

On the 7th and 8th of February I’ll be in Berlin for my first in-person Leading with Outcomes: Train-the-Trainer/Facilitator (TTT/F). My hosts Leanovate will put up a booking page in the new year; before then if you would like to register your interest just let me know.

15-minute FOTO in Danish

Johannes Klose Andersen has translated the cue card for our Clean Language-inspired coaching game 15-minute FOTO into Danish. Subscribe via that link and you’ll find a DK folder in the 15-minute FOTO Dropbox.

Allan Kelly’s Writing OKRs masterclass

You may remember that I wrote the foreword to Allan Kelly’s 2021 book Succeeding with OKRs in Agile: How to create & deliver objectives & key results for teams. On December 12th he’s doing a 2-hour masterclass Writing OKRs; coupon code Agendashift20 will get you 20% off. Enjoy!

Upcoming

Notes:

  1. As mentioned above, there will be an in-person Leading with Outcomes: Train-the-Trainer/Facilitator in Berlin on February 7th and 8th, booking page to follow.
  2. The interactive version of Leading with Outcomes: Foundation now comprises three sessions of two and a half hours each (up from two hours, same pricing). The next one takes place in March.

Top posts

New:

  1. From “What did you do yesterday?” to something better
  2. Your organisation in 5 networks

Classics:

  1. Better user stories start with authentic situations of need (October 2016)
  2. My favourite Clean Language question (January 2019)
  3. ‘Right to Left’ works for Scrum too (July 2018)

Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
Links: Home | Subscribe | Events | Contact | Mike

Agendashift  Academy: Leading with Outcomes | Facilitator and Trainer Programmes

We help leaders and engaged team members at every level to gain fluency in the language of outcomes – developing and pursuing strategies together, innovating, learning, and adapting as the organisation renews and transforms itself from the inside.

From “What did you do yesterday?” to something better

Go for it! If the main purpose of your standup is to make sure that everyone is keeping themselves properly busy, then the questions “What did you do yesterday?” and “What will you do today?” are without doubt the basis of a great meeting format.

But be careful what you wish for. If your goals involve 1) the team meeting needs, and 2) learning from the process, those questions can hurt a lot more than they help. Honestly, I’m not a fan at all.

You could try these instead. Understand the pattern, and with practice, it runs itself:

  1. What are we learning from what we recently completed? And is it staying completed? Whose needs did we meet, and how do we know we met them?
  2. What can we get over the line?
  3. What is and isn’t making the expected progress? Are we clear about whose needs we’re meeting, what needs, how we’ll know, and what’s our approach?
  4. Do we have the capacity to look at what’s next, or is that enough until we next meet?

You probably won’t get to that overnight, so some things to try:

  • Instead of reviewing activities (what you did, what you’re doing, etc), try to focus the things that you as a team are trying to produce, in the context of the goals you’re pursuing
  • All else being equal (in bigger meetings, this pattern can work within other interesting ways to structure the work), try reviewing your work most-complete work first, not forgetting to start with celebrating and enquiring into work recently completed
  • Make a point of noticing how the conversations change as you work backwards, and develop your repertoire accordingly – by this stage you’ll likely be noticing not only a performance difference but a language change and changes to people’s expectations and behaviour, and you can build on that until they become habits
  • In all of the above, try keep in your mind and everyone else’s what you’re working backwards from: “someone’s need met” and “all the available learning fully accounted for” (my definitions of done and really done)

I’ve used this “right to left” technique in a range of settings, often supercharging something that really wasn’t working before – standup meetings, risk & issue review meetings, service delivery review meetings to name just three. Right to left is named after Kanban’s board review pattern (you start on the right-hand side of the board with work at or nearest completion) but it’s not hard to apply in other settings.

And it’s more than just a productivity hack. In my third book Right to Left (2019, audiobook 2020), I take that philosophy of working backwards from impact and learning and use it as a lens on the whole Lean-Agile landscape (and more). Further to it not being just a Kanban thing, the book shows how right to left fits very well with the best of Scrum. Contrast that with an all too prevalent left to right kind of Scrum that does the reputations of Scrum and Agile no favours at all, and that scales up in the worst possible way. Fortunately it’s fixable.

This post started out as a LinkedIn post, then a second:

  1. Go for it! (linkedin.com)
  2. Building on that last one… (linkedin.com)

And now a third:

    Like, comment, share!

    You can also take any questions you may have to one of the upcoming webinars – the first three (December 8th, January 12th, February 2nd) all finish with an AMA (Ask Mike Anything) session. Series link: The questions that drive us (eventbrite.co.uk).

    Related:


    Upcoming:


    Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
    Agendashift  Academy: Leading with Outcomes | Facilitator and Trainer Programmes

    Links: Subscribe | Events | Contact | Mike

    We help leaders and engaged team members at every level to gain fluency in the language of outcomes – developing and pursuing strategies together, innovating, learning, and adapting as the organisation renews and transforms itself from the inside.

    Your organisation in 5 networks

    Updated 2022-11-17: Renamed network #2, minor edits elsewhere

    Expanding slightly on yesterday’s LinkedIn post (linkedin.com), your organisation in 5 networks:

    Network #1: Your reporting network. This is just your formal structure – typically a hierarchy, perhaps with the occasional bit of dual reporting thrown in – seen here as lines of communication. Because sideways communication has to be implemented indirectly via upward and downward communication, it can be highly inefficient.

    Network #2: Your delivery operations network. I am referring not to material flows or to the knowledge work equivalent, but to the interactions between people that make those flows what they are, performing as they do. In siloed organisations, the delivery operations network cuts across the reporting network, sometimes uncomfortably.

    Network #3: Your strategy network. Typically richer than the reporting network, this connects everyone involved in anybody else’s strategic decision-making – any decision-making at any level of organisation that impacts on things like identity, purpose, objectives, learning, and adaptation. A more abstract and less messy version of this network connects not people but domains of responsibility at varying levels of granularity (see circular organisation).

    Network #4: Your trust-building network. This is the network of all connections that are enhanced by meaningful efforts to build or maintain mutual trust. In a high-trust organisation, this can be expected to overlap significantly with the preceding three networks.

    Network #5: The social network: All the above and more – the totality of your organisation’s network of interaction and influence, covering all the conversations that contribute to making your organisation what it is and what it is becoming.

    And two hypotheses (with caveats):

    Hypothesis 1. The more that networks 2, 3, and 4 are healthy, the more that networks 1 and 5 look after themselves.

    Hypothesis 2. The richer you can make them, the more likely is the serendipitous conversation, increasing rate of innovation.

    As rightly observed in some of the questions and comments on the first version of this post, these hypotheses are slightly in tension. Rich is good, richer would be better for many if not most organisations, and​ leaders within them would do well to pay attention to those networks. You can however have too much of a good thing, not to mention that some innovation happens in the darker corners, so to speak. In my use of the word “healthy” in hypothesis 1 I did intend a sense of balance, and I should have worked that sense into hypothesis 2 also. Instead though, this paragraph’s caveats 🙂

    Some questions for you:

    1. In your organisation, which network or networks dominate?
    2. At what cost?
    3. Given where you sit in each of these networks and the reach that they afford you, what might you do?

    Your answers, questions, or feedback can go on the original post (linkedin.com).

    You can also take them to one of the upcoming webinars – the first three (December 8th, January 12th, February 2nd) finish with an AMA (Ask Mike Anything) session. Including that webinar series, The questions that drive us (eventbrite.co.uk), all our upcoming events:


    Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
    Agendashift  Academy: Leading with Outcomes | Facilitator and Trainer Programmes

    Links: Subscribe | Events | Contact | Mike

    We help leaders and engaged team members at every level to gain fluency in the language of outcomes – developing and pursuing strategies together, innovating, learning, and adapting as the organisation renews and transforms itself from the inside.

    PS The slide below is adapted from the talk I gave last week at SEACON (the Studies in Enterprise Agility Conference). Video to follow.

    Free webinar series: The questions that drive us

    Starting December 8th, a rolling series of free webinars, each taking on one of the three questions that drive Leading with Outcomes:

    1. Thursday 08 December, online, 15:00GMT, 16:00CET, 10am ET:
      What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions?
      Mike Burrows
    2. Thursday 12 January, online, 15:00GMT, 16:00CET, 10am ET:
      How do we keep bringing outcomes to the foreground?
      Mike Burrows
    3. Thursday 02 February, online, 15:00GMT, 16:00CET, 10am ET:
      Where – and where else – could we be doing strategy?
      Mike Burrows

    Series link: The questions that drive us (eventbrite.co.uk)

    In the absence of a featured guest, each webinar will finish with an Ask Mike Anything (AMA) session. After the initial (and relatively short) presentation, feel free to raise topics outside the session’s theme.

    In March, we cycle back to the first question, joined this time by special guests Stephen Dowling & friends. Note the change of time – our guests are dialling from Melbourne, Australia:

    1. Wednesday 08 March, online, 09:30GMT, 10:30CET, 10am ET:
      What if we put agreement on outcomes before solutions?
      Mike Burrows, Stephen Dowling & friends

    Bookmark the series link and join us when you can!


    Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
    Agendashift  Academy: Leading with Outcomes | Facilitator and Trainer Programmes

    Links: Subscribe | Events | Contact | Mike

    We help organisations, leaders at every level, and engaged team members to pursue strategies developed together in the language of outcomes – and as they progress, to innovate, learn, adapt and transform.