My kind of Agile

I’ve alluded to my kind of Agile in previous posts, but let me spell it out. I’ve hinted at it for quite a while, most recently in my popular post Right to Left: a transcript of my Lean Agile Brighton talk, which helps to explain the necessity and urgency of a Right-to-Left treatment of Agile.

I’m in the process of reworking the second chapter of my 2019 book Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile. Verbatim, here’s a key passage from chapter 2, Right to left in the digital space:

In chapter 1, we saw some of the quite different ways in which Lean is understood. Before we get to Lean-Agile, let me describe my kind of Agile, a kind of Agile that should already sound familiar:

  • People collaborating over the rapid evolution of working software that is already beginning to meet needs, their teams placing high value on collaboration, continuous delivery, and adaptation

That’s my highly condensed and “from-the-right” summarisation of the Agile Manifesto (agilemanifesto.org), describing a sweet spot for digital, and widely applicable elsewhere[1].

If you want to know what Agile is, the manifesto is where you need to start. Agile isn’t a defined process, method, or framework; Agile means embracing manifesto values. To embrace them you must understand them, and to understand them you must catch something of how they reveal themselves in environments that have allowed them to flourish.

Clearly, the manifesto values resonate with many. Meaningful conversations, the opportunity to build things that actually work for people, and the ability to keep improving the working environment to the mutual benefit of developers, customers, and the organisation – who wouldn’t want that? In other words, these things are valued for their own sake (which is why we recognise them as values).

For a values system to be more than just wishful thinking, there must be a clear relationship between the values, the kinds of behaviours expected, and the assumptions that underpin these behaviours. In the case of Agile, these assumptions are well documented – not least by the manifesto itself – and they go a long way to describe the behaviours:

  • Assumption 1: Direct, ongoing collaboration with customers is necessary to develop and maintain a mutual understanding of needs and potential solutions
  • Assumption 2: Collaboration across the entire process is what makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts – not just multiple perspectives brought to bear on complex problems, but new ideas created in the interactions between people
  • Assumption 3: The most effective way to build anything complex is to start with something that works[2], and ensure that it still works as it evolves. This is true not just for products, but for the working environment in terms of its technical infrastructure, processes, practices, organisation, and culture (not to mention all the complex interactions between those all of those internal elements, the product, and the outside world).
  • Agile’s breakthrough comes from bringing these assumptions together to everyone’s attention in the form of a compelling values statement. The underlying message is clear: wherever those assumptions are likely to hold, you would be wise to behave accordingly!

[1] I would stand by this definition outside of the digital space too and would argue that it is far more achievable than some would admit. But that’s outside the scope of this book.

[2] See Gall’s law, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gall_(author)#Gall’s_law, and John Gall’s rather wonderful book Systemantics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail (Pocket Books, 1978).

How does this resonate with you? Is there anything there that you would challenge?

The book is due early next summer; if you’d like to stay on top of developments and perhaps even get involved:

  • Subscribe to updates via the book’s landing page here
  • Join the Agendashift Slack community and its #right-to-left channel, the place for book-related conversations
  • On Twitter, follow @Right2LeftGuide &/or hashtag #Right2LeftGuide
    (Note: I’ve only just stopped using the more generic hashtag #RightToLeft, so don’t expect to find much at the new one just yet. I’ve renamed the account accordingly.)

Screenshot 2018-11-16 10.40.57


Upcoming public Agendashift workshops (Germany * 2, India * 2):


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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

Coming in January: a 2-city, 2-conference, and 2-workshop visit to India

I’m thrilled (as always) to be returning to India, this time for a 2-city conference/workshop tour, by invitation of my good friends at Innovation Roots. There’ll be one Advanced and one Core workshop (in that order), and at the conferences I’ll give my  keynote “Left to Right” and also a Changeban session. The keynote will be a the full-length version of the one transcribed here, with more insight into my next bookSuper busy!

First, Gurugram (New Delhi area):

And then Mumbai:

I hope to see you there!


Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

21-22 November, Berlin, my last public workshop of the year

Quick one…

Today, I’m on my way to Brescia, Italy for a 1-day workshop tomorrow and then Italian Agile Days 2018. Then, in exactly two weeks, my last public workshop of the year:

I would love to see you there!

Just a little under a month away and also in Germany, Agendashift partner Julia Wester is holding a 1-day workshop in Munich:

Private workshops and an Agendashift Studio aside (these aren’t shown on the calendar), that’s it until we publish some 2019 dates. We have some cool locations in the pipeline and will be announcing the first of those soon.


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Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

Agendashift is not a maturity model

Agendashift – an engagement model – is sometimes mistaken for a maturity model. I can imagine how this happens, but let me explain.

At no point did we specify a number of stages or steps and further corroborate with characteristics (what Wikipedia describes as a top-down approach). Neither did we determine distinct characteristics or assessment items and cluster into steps (the bottom-up approach).

Yes, we do have an assessment tool, and after many iterations of community refinement (much of it in #asssessments in the Agendashift Slack) we think that it’s one to be proud of. No, it doesn’t tell you where you fit on a journey described by someone else’s narrative (one that often says more about the vendor than the client). And the more we look at how our data clusters (we’ve tried), the more sure we are that a linear model would at best a gross oversimplification. We try to avoid those – people spot them a mile away.

What our tool does do is help teams and organisation find opportunities, whether that’s to build on strengths, address weaknesses, or to bridge gaps. The subsequent process is far from prescriptive (a material risk if the job of the aforementioned assessment items is to identify specific practices that you’re not doing by the vendor’s book); instead it’s generative:

  1. Decide what prompts (our assessment items) are important. When I’m facilitating, my opinion is not important, and not shared unless I’m asked directly – I value authentic agreement too much to risk undermining it.
  2. Identify what obstacles are in the way and prioritise them
  3. Identify the outcomes that lie unrealised behind those obstacles, the outcomes behind those outcomes, and so on (visit 15-minute FOTO to see how this is done)

You have by now plenty of raw material from which a plan – an agenda for change (see principle #3 in the graphic below) – can be organised. As for realising those outcomes, the approach to take very much depends on what kind of outcome it is:

  • Where there’s already widespread agreement on what needs to be done and what the impact will be: It’s done already (well almost)
  • Things that need a bit more analysis and planning: Delegate someone who will circle back later with a plan
  • The outcomes that you’ll never achieve in one go: Frame a big hypothesis and some smaller/cheaper/safer experiments that will test its assumptions and get you moving in the right direction

I’ve just described Exploration, Mapping, and Elaboration, the middle three chapters of the book and most of the top row in the graphic below. Typically, it’s preceded by Discovery (chapter 1), a way to build broad agreement on what the destination might look like (a broad brush picture, not a design or a detailed plan). At the bottom of the graphic is Operation, which is about the feedback loops and behaviours that sustain change (the fifth and final chapter in the Agendashift book and to be expanded upon in Right to Left).

Screenshot 2018-11-05 14.40.43

(Yes, I’m still tweaking the graphic. The new circular arrows? The moment you learn something, you might decide to revisit your earlier work. You’ll want to do so periodically anyway.)


Upcoming public Agendashift workshops (Italy, Germany * 2):


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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

Agendashift’s many extension points

I was going to do “Agendashift isn’t a maturity model” this week, but that can wait. In response to a question that came up in the run up to our last #leancoffee (there’s an alternate today at 4pm GMT, on a week where our time difference to the US is an hour less than usual, see Slack for joining details), here are Agendashift’s extension points, things that by design can be swapped for other things.

Nearly all of these extension points are mentioned in the book, Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Often they come with recommendations of other things to try and mentions of books and other resources on the Recommended reading page if suitable references exist. So by chapter:

1. Discovery

  • Use a different context-setting exercise / icebreaker to the described Celebration (5W). Recommended: Remember the future (Hohmann) and The Future, Backwards (Snowden). Note: a page on agendashift.com for the Celebration (5W) exercise is on my to-do list.
  • Use a different True North. At our next joint masterclass, Karl will probably have us create one.
  • Instead of the Clean Language-inspired 15-minute FOTO game to generate outcomes, use something based another coaching model, Solutions Focus (McKergow & Jackson), say

2. Exploration

  • Use an assessment other than the Agendashift delivery assessment. We’re rather proud of ours, but other good ones do exist. You want one that generates insights and helps uncover genuine opportunities, so avoid:
    • Assessments that are just checklists of practices (prone to generating more cynicism and resistance than insight)
    • Anything too vague or fluffy to pinpoint where the opportunities lie
  • See Discovery above re generating outcomes

3. Mapping

  • This remains an area ripe for innovation (and watch this space)
  • The book mentions X-Matrix / TASTE (Karl again) and Impact Mapping (Gojko Adjic). More recently I’ve become a fan of Wardley Mapping (Simon Wardley).
  • After mapping, reconcile with other models to help you spot the gaps. The book references my own 6+1 Strategies (although I cringe a little to see it described as the “Agendashift transformation strategy framework”, which would also describe Agendashift itself. I will fix that.)

4. Elaboration

  • Use your favourite hypothesis template
  • Use your favourite A3 template (here’s ours). I joke that there are as many A3 templates as there are Lean consultants.
  • Use, don’t use, or find an alternative to the Cynefin 4 points contextualisation exercise (it’s described as optional, though 15-minute FOTO does such a good job of providing its input ‘micro-narratives’ that I am usually loathe to skip it)

5. Operation

Beyond the book

  • Agendashift is about change, introducing/developing/deepening the use of Lean and Agile, not a delivery process or framework. So Agendashift + other frameworks? Agendashift + Kanban is already a thing (I don’t advertise it but I do get called upon to do it). I sometimes speculate out loud that Agendashift + DevOps ought to be thing. I also wonder aloud (and not entirely in jest) whether Agendashift could be “the safe way to introduce SAFe”. And why not Agendashift + Scrum?
  • Agendashift + Strategy very much a thing – I do strategy workshops privately and may find a way to do it in public workshops. Karl also majors in this area; X-Matrix / TASTE is a strategy deployment model.
  • Agendashift + OpenSpace Agility (OSA) looks like a natural partnership but I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet. I suspect that others will beat me to it (which is great of course).

Just counting top level bullet points, I make that 17. Not to mention that sometimes we sometimes change the sequence or run exercises standalone.

The standard exercises are all well described in the book. Become an Agendashift partner, and you get ready-made (and customisable) workshop materials as well as unfettered access to the assessment tools (there is a limited free trial also). But don’t feel like you must stick to the standard exercises – we don’t!


Upcoming public Agendashift workshops (Italy, Germany * 2):


Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
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Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter

We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

Agendashift roundup, October 2018

In this edition: Brighton; Right to Left; Featureban (DE); Other resources; Three public workshops still to come in Europe this year; 2019 Calendar; Top posts

Brighton

I spent the second week of October in Brighton (UK’s hippest city, according to Wikipedia). Tuesday to Thursday was a joint 3-day masterclass with Karl Scotland, then on Friday I was the last speaker of the day at a brand new conference, Lean Agile Brighton.

By a country mile and already a top 5 post for the year, the transcript for my short (20-minute) talk is this month’s top post. Speaking last gave me a great opportunity to namecheck several other speakers, also one or two other collaborators and influencers that were in the audience.

If you missed it:

Right to Left

Monthly status check: 24,755 words and I’ve completed an initial draft of the 5th chapter of 6. With roughly half of chapter 4 deferred and an introduction still to write, I estimate that this first draft is approaching 70% complete. But before I continue to chapter 6, enough time has passed that I can look at the existing material with fresh eyes, and I’ve started on a round of revision.

Overview, with an initial cover design:

Featureban (DE)

Even without an official German language translation, our Kanban simulation game Featureban has been played quite a bit in Germany. And now there is one – thank you Tim Themann!

Go to the downloads section of the Featureban landing page to get your copy. Also available in English, French, Polish, Russian, Italian, and Spanish.

Other resources

I’ve substantially reworked Agendashift’s about page, which as well as a refresh of the text incorporates the new clickable Overview image and a link to the new Engagement model page.

Next I plan to bundle up what the Resources page refers to as “referenceable elements” such as the True North, Principles, and Done along with the old poster and the aforementioned Overview image into one convenient download. Each of these are single-slide (or single image) resources that are referenceable in the sense that they each have their own nice url, and are published under a Creative Commons with-attribution license to facilitate adaptations, translations, etc. I’ll do 16×10 format first and then A4 for those assets that would benefit most.

Work on Changeban 1.0 and Featureban 2.3 will begin after that.

Three public workshops still to come in Europe this year

Julia Wester deserves a special mention: she’s coming over from the US in December to lead a 1-day workshop Core Agendashift: Facilitating Outcome-Oriented Change in Munich, Germany, in a tie-up with DevOpsCon.

Before that, I’m doing a 1-day workshop in Brescia, Italy on November 9th (Friday next week) in conjunction with Italian Agile Day 2018 on the 10th, then a 2-day Advanced workshop in Berlin, Germany, 21-22 November, courtesy of my friends at Leanovate.

2019 Calendar

Nothing published yet, but expect to see a 2-day UK workshop in Q1, and (fingers crossed) appearances in the US, India, and mainland Europe. Also, expect Agendashift Studio workshops to take place roughly quarterly; these are cozy workshops for 3-4 participants at Agendashift HQ here in Chesterfield, UK, organised informally via the #agendashift-studio channel in Slack.

As always, if you’d like to see a workshop at a location convenient to you (whether public or private, and I’m doing the latter with increasing frequency), do please get in touch. Conference tie-ins work particularly well, making it double value for the trip for everyone involved.

Top posts

Recent:

  1. Right to Left: a transcript of my Lean Agile Brighton talk
  2. 5 reasons to come to an Agendashift workshop
  3. Engagement: more than a two-way street (September)
  4. Dealing with internal contradictions – if they can’t both be true at the same time, then what?
  5. A small departure from the book (September)

A couple of Kanban-related classics also did particularly well this month:

  1. Scrum and Kanban revisited (August 2017)
  2. Introducing Kanban through its values (January 2013)

In case you’re new here, that second one is the career-changing post that led to my first book. Even though Kanban is now only a small part of what I do, it still has to be said that the rest wouldn’t have happened without it. Values got me to outcomes, and outcomes is what Agendashift and Right to Left are all about.


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Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

Dealing with internal contradictions – if they can’t both be true at the same time, then what?

From my post Towards the wholehearted organisation, outside in (May 2018):

It got me thinking that I would love to be known for being in the business of helping organisations to be more wholehearted – less at war with themselves, their contradictions identified and owned so that they can be resolved in some pleasing way. If squeezing out excess work-in-progress is a key strategy for improving our delivery processes, perhaps squeezing out the contradictions is the way to improve our organisations for the mutual benefit of all concerned.

In the draft of the Outside In chapter of Right to Left (2019) I’ve included a version of the above paragraph together with the Christopher Alexander quote that inspired it. However, it seems wrong for the book to raise the prospect of bringing contradictions out into the open without also suggesting some constructive ways of looking at them.

The key question in a nutshell: If X and Y can’t both be true at the same time, then what?

On the premise that it can often be helpful to make explicit the thought processes that lead to our decisions, (perhaps as an aid to creating an agreed precedent or policy for next time), I offer a breakdown of the main ways in which contradictions get resolved. If I’ve missed any important combinations or references, do please let me know!

X and not Y

  • X achieves our goals better (in some defined way) than Y
  • Y does not align with strategic objective, mission, or core purpose X
  • Y is incompatible with core value X

Caution: Whilst it may be good to exclude Y, it’s possible that this decision says little about the merits of X, which may not be better than other alternatives (including doing nothing).

X and not yet Y

  • X naturally precedes Y / Y depends on X
  • X is more urgent than Y / X has a higher opportunity cost than Y (see also Cost of Delay)
  • X has higher priority than Y (because reasons)
  • We choose X to precede Y (because reasons)

Similar cautions apply. Y’s deferral may not justify X starting. And might Y be deferred for so long that it ought to be taken off the table entirely?

An important variation on the first one that an outside-in review might generate: Not Y because we don’t have capability X, the X not previously identified. Begs the obvious question: should we make it a priority to build capability X?

Neither X nor Y, but Z

  • Some higher objective Z either delivers X and Y or renders them unimportant
  • Some prerequisite objective Z comes first, or in other words, Z and not yet X and Y
  • Z as an alternative to X and Y – superior in some way, a better use of our time

X and Y

  • Creative tension: contradiction as a motivation for innovation (see TRIZ)
  • Perhaps, after challenging the assumptions of the apparent contradiction, we can demonstrate that X and Y aren’t necessarily in conflict (see Evaporating Cloud, one of the six Thinking Processes in the Theory of Constraints)
  • Conflict felt at a personal level, needing mediation perhaps

Caution: Beware the cop out, dodging the difficult decision…


Upcoming public Agendashift workshops (Italy, Germany * 2):


Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter

We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…