It’s out! Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile

Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile is released out today in both print and Kindle editions, with other e-book formats to follow. Find it here:

  • Amazon UK (amazon.co.uk) and Amazon US (amazon.com), disregarding Amazon’s incorrect estimated shipping dates
  • Waterstones (waterstones.com)
  • Barnes & Noble (barnesandnoble.com)
  • Or search “Right to Left Mike Burrows” at your favourite online bookstore

And when you’ve read it, do please leave a review – it really helps.

Whoop – I was lucky enough to read Mike’s new book as it formed. It somehow manages to be a crisp, articulate read with depth and reflection. Mike has written an essential read for anyone interested in people-centric, pragmatic, outcome-based change. I’m very happy to recommend this and excited for Mike!

Angie Main (linkedin.com), Change & Organisational Development Lead, UK

A third book, and so soon after the last one! Why this one, and why should I read it?

Most people reading this announcement ve rcould easily describe themselves a digital leader of some kind, whether that’s understood in some corporate sense or perhaps as a practitioner of Agile, a movement whose co-evolution with the rise of digital technology is no accident. Whichever way you respond to the term, this book is for you.

Both audiences – and yes, there’s a challenge there – deserve a book that does all of these things:

  • Speaks with empathy and from experience to anyone who is called to digital leadership or might have it thrust upon them
  • Speaks respectfully, insightfully, and at times firmly to Lean, Agile, and its other key sources and communities – avoiding lazy dogma and tribalism, and not excusing failures and excesses either
  • Represents a clear departure from 20th century thinking, not falling into the trap of trying to explain Agile and Lean-Agile in the terms of past models

To give a sense of what makes this book different, let me present two representative elements: the Right to Left metaphor, and my kind of Agile. In place of a glossary, a selection of short and characteristic extracts such as the two below are collected in Appendix B, My kind of…

Right to Left:

A whole-process focus on needs and outcomes … Putting outcomes before process, ends before means, vision before detail, “why” before “what”, “what” before “how”, and so on. It can also mean considering outputs before inputs, but give me outcomes over outputs, every time.

Simultaneously visualising this and echoing Agile’s manifesto, what if Agile meant putting the things on the right (needs met, outcomes realised) ahead of everything to their left (process, tools, practices, and so on)? Happily, an explicitly outcome-oriented Agile is straightforward enough to describe, and it makes me wonder why it is not done more often. Perhaps Right to Left will change that!

Agile (short version):

People collaborating over the rapid evolution of working software that is already beginning to meet needs

Whether or not you get the references, if you get that definition, you will love this book. If you don’t get it, you need to read it.

Across chapters 1-4, Right to Left is both the metaphor by which the fundamentals are (re-)introduced and the fresh perspective from which the Lean-Agile landscape is surveyed. The last two chapters, 5. Outside in and 6. Upside down, take complementary perspectives on issues of organisation, change, governance, strategy, and leadership, drawing on Viable System Model (VSM), Servant Leadership, Sociocracy (aka Dynamic Governance), and of course Agendashift for inspiration. In case you’re wondering why I reference models from outside the Lean-Agile mainstream, let it be said for now that process frameworks, the Agile practitioner’s stock-in-trade, will never be enough. For a more considered treatment of frameworks than that, you’ll have to read the book!

Readers of my previous books will have some sense of Right to Left‘s humane and optimistic philosophy already. My first, Kanban from the Inside (2014), was organised around values and it’s only a short step from values to outcomes. Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (2018) describes a 21st century approach to change; for reasons of focus it leaves behind a Right to Left-shaped hole that I knew would be exciting to fill. If you’ve read neither of those, start instead with my latest and see where your interest takes you – I give full credit to my sources and provide an extensive recommended reading list.

For further book-related news and conversation, follow us on Twitter, join the #right-to-left channel in the Agendashift Slack, and check out blog posts tagged right-to-left. Via the Right to Left page on agendashift.com you can send book-related questions direct to my email inbox (or simply wish me luck!) and subscribe to the mailing list.

Enjoy!
Mike

cover-right-to-left-2019-04-26.001 border


August 15th 2019: Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile is released today in both print and Kindle editions, with other e-book formats to follow. Find it here:

Agendashift founder Mike Burrows is known to the Agile and Lean-Agile communities as the author of Kanban from the Inside (2014) and Agendashift (2018), the creator of the Featureban and Changeban simulation games, a keynote speaker at conferences around the world, and as a consultant, coach, and trainer. His new book Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile is published August 15th 2019.

Right to Left‘s foreword is by John Buck, Director at GovernanceAlive LLC (MD, USA), co-author with Sharon Villenes of We the people: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy (2nd Ed. 2019) and co-author with Jutta Eckstein of Company-wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space & Sociocracy: Survive & Thrive on Disruption (2018).

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: New Generation Publishing (15 Aug. 2019)
ISBN-10: 1789555310
ISBN-13: 978-1789555318

A question among the good luck emails

There’s a contact button on the landing page for Right to Left, and through it I got this question which I have permission to reproduce:

Keep up the good work, and btw how do you use the Kanban Method these days, after your current progression?

My reply (verbatim):

In Right to Left you’ll see Kanban as just one of a set of complementary patterns in the Lean-Agile space (none of them more important than the others), and a more general approach to organisation development and the leadership that goes with that.

In my own work, Kanban is still in the mix but I’m very definitely needs & outcomes first, not solutions/framework first. STATIK tries to do a bit of that* but it does rather presuppose the answer! I prefer Reverse STATIK anyway, and my very occasional Kanban training uses that. The principles and practices are abstracted in the values, and they live on through the Agendashift delivery assessment (a conversation-starter, not a checklist of practices).

*To be fair, it does this quite valiantly and self-consistently compared with peer frameworks, but my comment stands.

And a PS, sent moments later:

One thing to add: this is not to diminish anyone’s work on Kanban (my own included) or any other framework. Testing boundaries is learning. But it’s also healthy to draw back a bit and broaden one’s horizons from time to time. And integration is also learning.

Some links to help with decoding the above (I knew my correspondent to be familiar with most of them):


Autumn workshops
– Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin, and online

Leading change in the 21st century? You need a 21st century engagement model:

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Agendashift in 12 icons

Ten days until the big one – Right to Left comes out on the 15th – but still time to squeeze in something Agendashift-related…

Count carefully! Agendashift in 12 icons:

discoveryexplorationmappingelaboration-operation

They have a new section on the Agendashift home page and a dedicated page at agendashift.com/icons, both with links to related resources.

To see them in a bit more context, check out these workshop-related pages:

Other opportunities to experience all of this for yourself this autumn: Stockholm (9-10 September), Athens (17-18 September), Istanbul (26th October), and Berlin (13-14 November).

*The early bird discount for the London workshop expires at the end of this month so grab it while you can!

Credits:

  • Idea: this was one of several ideas discussed at the last Berlin workshop (writeup here, though this particular idea isn’t mentioned)
  • Produced in collaboration with Steven Mackenzie with the encouragement of Mike Haber, whose Celebration-5W template design is reflected in its icon
  • I appreciate also Teddy Zetterlund‘s input on naming of items in the third and fourth rows – I’m pleased how options emerges more clearly as a theme, with Mapping (the fourth row) bringing about the shift in perspective
  • Inspiration: Liberating Structures (www.liberatingstructures.com) and The Noun Project (thenounproject.com)

And as you’d expect, Creative Commons. See the icons page for details.


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Agendashift roundup, July 2019

It’s the summer, so I’ll keep this short. In this edition: Right to Left comes out August 15th; Updates to open source (Creative Commons) resources; Autumn workshops – Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin, and online; Top posts

Right to Left comes out August 15th

This being my third time you’d think I’d know better by now, but getting a book out takes longer than expected! Anyway, I’m thrilled to announce that Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile comes out on August 15th.

The print edition is actually available for preorder on Amazon now, the Kindle edition soon. Naturally I’ll have more to say around launch date. Keep an eye out for interviews & stuff too.

Updates to open source (Creative Commons) resources

Some updates not quite big enough for separate announcements:

  • 15-minute FOTO has has some slides specific to online and in-room use
  • Aleksei Pimenov has translated both Featureban 3.0 and Changeban into Russian

    into

  • Massimo Sarti has translated Featureban 3.0 into Italian (having previously contributed a translation of an older version of Changeban)
  • Very minor tweaks to the Celebration-5W deck

Slack channels #cleanlanguage, #featureban, #changeban, and #workshops respectively. More resources here.

Autumn workshops
– Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin, and online

I’ll be adding a couple of online workshops also, likely the during the week of October 14th (two consecutive UK afternoons, two hours each) and the first week of December (UK mornings). If you have preference for days, let me know soon.

Top posts

  1. Visualising Agendashift: The why and how of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (June)
  2. What scales up should scale down (July)
  3. How Agendashift scales (July)
  4. At last! Featureban 3.0 and Changeban 1.2 (June)
  5. What kind of Organisational Development (OD)? (And a book recommendation) (May)

Most recently this month:


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Making assessments more visible

Summer means programming, still a passion 🙂

Along with some bigger updates that are hidden for now, I released a minor change to the design of agendashift.com today.

Gone is the old navbar menu called ‘Context’, replaced by one called ‘Assessments’. The old name was uninviting and potentially confusing (“context menus” were already a thing). Hopefully, the new one – in that prime position on the left of the navbar –  suggests something that might actually be of interest to the casual visitor!

Here’s how it looks if you’re not signed in:

Screenshot 2019-07-23 15.31.20

Much more self-explanatory, and a call-to-action too!

For partners and trial users this menu is a key launching point. Here’s mine:

Screenshot 2019-07-23 15.20.52

How it works now:

  • ‘Activity’ is lit up to indicate that there is some recent activity (ie people responding to my surveys) that I haven’t reviewed yet.
  • ‘New survey…’ comes next. This is a fairly recent addition; previously surveys could only be created after visiting its containing context* – sensible enough from a data model point of view but hardly the pinnacle of usability!
  • After that come handy links to surveys that I’ve visited recently – the Spanish (ES) language version of the public survey and the surveys set as prework for the recent online workshops
  • ‘My contexts’, which takes you to a list of all your contexts, has been demoted. Originally the topmost menu item, now it’s “below the line”, heading a list of contexts that I’ve recently visited.

The help pages have of course been updated accordingly.

*It’s ancient history now but I just couldn’t bring myself to call it a ‘project’!


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What scales up should scale down

This is turning into a series! You may wish to read these first:

Here’s a super-quick variation on Agendashift’s Discovery and Exploration sessions. First I’ll describe it, and then explain how it differs from the by-the-book version.

10-minute Discovery

Let me quickly explain how we kick this off – I’m asking the same of everyone I’m meeting today:

  • First, just a little about yourself – your role, what you’re responsible for, and so on.
  • Then, for a multi-month timescale of your choosing, tell me what outstanding success would look like – describing something truly celebration-worthy if you can
  • Finally, what obstacles are in the way of that?

And do you mind if I take notes?

I ask all of the above in one go, and give the interviewee the space to answer, lightly guided as necessary. 10 minutes max!

50-minute (or less) Exploration

Now we go to the assessment, which typically (although not always) has been completed by my interviewee in advance. We begin with a quick review of their overall and per-category score distributions (some reassuring noises may be required here; these low scores are very common):

Screenshot 2019-07-10 12.19.02

With this alternative view it may be easier to infer some kind of narrative:

Screenshot 2019-07-10 12.17.20

  • Collaboration and transparency at the top – evidence perhaps of some Agile working
  • Seeing flow and balance scoring close together would come as no surprise to any student of Lean or Kanban
  • To the trained eye of our machine learning model, the score for leadership looks surprisingly low relative to everything else (hence the amber colouring)
  • I tell them that sadly, a low score for customer focus is very common (something that 20 years of Agile has failed to fix)

We spend no more than a few minutes on the category-level summaries. We skim or skip over most of the report (more on these parts later) and land here on the ‘starred’ items. Out of the 43 prompts of the full assessment, these have been prioritised for further discussion:

Screenshot 2019-07-10 12.16.26

For each of those prompts in turn, these questions are asked (one at a time this time):

  • What would it be like if this was working at its best for you?
  • What obstacles are in the way of that?
  • What would you like to have happen?
  • Then what happens?
  • etc

In well under an hour in most cases, the meeting is concluded. I write up my notes and include them in a thank you email. Done!

What just happened? What’s different?

Let’s compare that to a more typical Discovery/Exploration, done workshop style. First, Discovery:

  • Celebration-5W – normally done in table groups and taking (say) 40 minutes to introduce, do, and debrief – is condensed into a question (in fact one part of a multi-part question): “Then, for a multi-month timescale of your choosing, tell me what outstanding success would look like – something truly celebration-worthy”
  • We skip True North and jump straight to obstacles, still expecting that many of the obstacles heard will relate to ways of working and other organisational issues
  • No 15-minute FOTO (with participants ‘coaching’ each other, generating outcomes); if there’s any outcome generation at all, it is cursory at best
  • No time spent organising outcomes (no ‘Plan on a page’); if they’re generated at all they just get recorded in my notes

Then Exploration:

  • At best, we skim over most of the debrief slides: strengths, weaknesses, areas of high and low consensus
  • No group-wise prioritisation of prompts or their respective obstacles
  • Again, no 15-minute FOTO ; it’s me asking the questions (and I’m free to use a wider palette of questions with perhaps some cleanish freestyling)
  • Again, no time spent organising outcomes (no Mapping); they just get recorded in my notes

The big difference though isn’t the stripped-down meeting design. It’s that instead of working with several people together workshop-wise, I’m spending an hour or so at a time with a succession of people on a one-to-one basis. Instead of acting as facilitator, I’m the roving consultant (albeit a “clean” one). And instead of participants collaborating with each other, they’re my interviewees.

Naturally, there’s a tradeoff. Less time is required from participants, and for many, that’s welcome. Unfortunately, it also means little (if any) time spent facilitating agreement on outcomes (principle #2). If I’m able to report back to my sponsors a coherent picture thanks to the similarity of interview results, this omission might be fixable. That’s a big if though; what seems the most efficient might not be the most effective in the end!


Upcoming public Agendashift workshops
– online, Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin


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How Agendashift scales

Last week’s post Visualising Agendashift: The why and how of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation is already in the top 3 for 2019. Clearly it resonates! I will build on that post now by enumerating some the ways in which Agendashift scales – not by becoming bigger, heavier, more layered, or more bureaucratic, but by fitting its context.

The bottom line: Agendashift scales because it is scale-free (not an oxymoron, but using the technical term), evidenced by a fractal quality inside it, similar patterns occurring naturally at different scales.

First, there are some initial high level decisions to be made about scale:

  • The initial organisational scope of the exercise (we find that it is well worth making this explicit)
  • Who is invited to participate in workshops (and how that invitation should be given)
  • Who is invited to participate in the pre-workshop assessment (at a minimum, this is the workshop participants for whom it is set as prework, but it is often widened)
  • Any specific organisational themes that should mentioned in either invitation

Often, the exercise is centred on a leadership team of some kind, making the above decisions quite easy to make. However, I do make two recommendations:

  • At least three levels of seniority should participate – not to make a virtue of hierarchy but allowing it to be bypassed for the sake of interesting and authentic conversations
  • It’s good to get wide coverage in the assessment; potentially the whole business function and beyond, or some representative sample thereof

There are more choices about workshop design that we could make here, but usually they’re better left until later exercises and we’ll put them to one side for a moment.

In the workshop itself, scale is everywhere:

  • In the warm-up exercise Celebration-5W, different table groups might generate anything from an internal technical achievement for a small team to things like “One billion pounds in turnover” or “Our millionth registration” (both of these are actual examples). I recall one team coming up with a new product idea!
  • After True North (in Discovery) and the assessment debrief (in Exploration), obstacles can range from everyday niggles to fundamental misalignments and dysfunctions.
  • For any given obstacle, the outcomes generated in 15-minute FOTO can range from short-term quick wins beyond even long-term goals through to enduring values. Surprisingly often, the entire range is covered in the course of a conversation that lasts only a few minutes.
  • The Mapping exercises expose different kinds of structure in the naturally coherent (by construction) but still fragmentary output of the preceding exercises.
  • In Elaboration, we bring focus where the range of options is high, looking up for the big payoff and down for opportunities for rapid learning and early value.
  • In Operation, we raise awareness of the connection between everyday choices and bigger-picture organisation design

Discovery and Exploration both feature our Clean Language-inspired coaching game 15-minute FOTO. At first glance it might seem redundant but the repetition of the same tool in different settings demonstrates the utility, repeatability, and scale-independence and of the pattern (for that is what it is). Regardless of scale, you can:

  • Reflect on the promise of the challenge in question
  • Identify and (briefly) clarify the obstacles currently in the way of a successful conclusion to that challenge
  • Rapidly explore the landscape of outcomes to be found when those obstacles are overcome, bypassed, or ignored

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.29.37That might sound obvious, but for people used to the experience of conversations that start with solutions already decided, it’s both liberating and highly illuminating.

The workshop designer seeds this process with challenges that have some compelling promise, made all the more compelling by their avoidance of prescription. The off-the-shelf workshop design provides these in the form of the True North and the assessment prompts. These have been tested and refined through repeated use and I would recommend sticking to them initially (advice that may evolve as we gain more customisation experience). However, subsequent events may make use of harvested content, with the potential to make any broader ‘scale out’ excitingly fractal.

There’s a balance to be struck between focussing on new kinds of conversation (clean, outcome-oriented), and on new conversations (the follow-through on specific, newly-articulated outcomes). There’s win on both sides so perhaps I worry too much about whether I get the balance right, but why not have it both ways? Those new kinds of conversations re-seeded by those harvested outcomes. Now we’re talking!

___________

While we’re here, check out these opportunities to experience this for yourself in a public setting (for private settings reach out to me or your friendly neighbourhood partner). One of them is less than two weeks away:


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