New from the Outside-in Strategy department

Two things:

  1. The next Leading with Outcomes module, Outside-in Strategy: Positioned for Success
  2. A new Agendashift-style assessment/survey tool, the Outside-in Strategy Readiness Assessment

1. Outside-in Strategy: Positioned for success

This is the third of the Agendashift Academy’s four planned Leading with Outcomes modules, and its self-paced incarnation begins its rollout today. Tentative schedule:

  1. Monday, June 20th: Customer
    “What’s happening when we’re reaching the right customers, meeting their strategic needs?”
  2. Friday, July 1st: Organisation
    “When we’re meeting those strategic needs, what kind of organisation are we?”
  3. Friday, July 8th: Product
    “Through what products and services are we meeting those strategic needs?”
  4. Friday, July 15th: Platform
    “What are the defining/critical capabilities that make it all possible?”
  5. Friday, July 29th: Team(s)
    “When we’re achieving all of the above, what kind of team(s) are we?”

We are big believers in leadership and strategy at every level of organisation. “Strategic needs” brings together our customers’ needs and our strategy – whether we’re a team, a team-of-teams, or something bigger, and whether our customers are inside or outside our organisation.

Here’s a quick introductory video (05:33):

Module-wise, Leading with Outcomes is nicely on track to complete its rollout this year:

  • Leading with Outcomes: Foundation – already live (take this one first)
  • Inside-out Strategy: Fit for maximum impact – already live
  • Outside-in Strategy: Positioned for success – rolling out now
  • Adaptive Organisation: Business agility at every scale – due in the autumn

All go live initially as self-paced, video-based training; instructor-led training (with me) is available right now for all but the last one, and we’ll be announcing a train-the-trainer programme soon too.

All four modules are included in your Agendashift Academy subscription. There are affordable plans for both businesses and individuals, with yearly and monthly options in both cases. If you’re a leader in a transforming organisation, you aspire to that role, or you support others in that journey, then it’s for you.

2. The Agendashift Outside-in Strategy Readiness Assessment

Developed for the above but I’m keen to see how it applies elsewhere, a really short (15-prompt) assessment tool, three prompts for each of the five layers of Agendashift’s outside-in strategy review. It’s free to try (registration required in this public survey mode). Like all the Agendashift assessment tools it can be used as the template for an organisational survey too; if you’re an Agendashift partner, you’ll find it on the templates dropdown.


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Resistance – or feedback?

This week I came across blog post that categorised resistors to “Agile” (actually to Scrum) as “diehards, sabateurs, followers, and skeptics”. I couldn’t let that lie and I responded on LinkedIn, but my post is now unavailable, possibly – though I speculate – because the one I responded to in an important way misrepresents Mike Cohn’s original. So here it is again, and slightly longer.

To those who take a solutions-first approach to change, resistance means:

  1. You’re not selling hard enough, and
  2. It’s the fault of those resisting that they’re not buying (and hence those shamefully blaming labels)

Never mind the contradiction, it simply does not occur that maybe it’s feedback, a quite reasonable response when you’ve failed to involve people in the right way early enough, failed to recognise real systemic issues, or most likely both. But that would mean admitting that the solution and/or the change paradigm are wrong. For different reasons, both are difficult things to admit, so it doesn’t happen.

And they wonder why people disengage when Agile, Scrum, or <insert framework here> are inflicted on them! As far as I’m concerned, in frameworks-land, this is the only fight worth fighting. Forget fixing the the process frameworks, our relationship with them needs to change. In a healthier relationship, we would see them not as solutions to roll out, but as resources to draw on as people up and down the organisation find fitting solutions to strategic goals agreed authentically and in proper context. Not solutions-first, but outcome-oriented.

Outcome-oriented change is both practical and teachable. If you want to be a more effective leader in a transforming organisation, you aspire to that, or if it’s your job to support others in that journey, check out Agendashift Academy. We help leaders at all levels succeed at developing and pursuing the kinds of strategy that go hand-in-hand with transformation. Membership is now by subscription, and with plans for both businesses and individuals and monthly and yearly options for both, you’ll find a plan that suits you.

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Agendashift roundup, May 2022

In this edition: June workshop; Academy Update; A fight worth fighting; New podcast interview; 15-minute FOTO version 12; Upcoming; Top posts

June workshop

Plenty of reasons to put this one first: It’s less than 3 weeks away, there’s a 10% discount on offer, and it’s my first public workshop in quite a while:

Academy update

For Agendashift Academy subscribers, the fifth and final chapter of Inside-out strategy: Fit for maximum impact was released last Friday and already we’ve issued the first certificate of completion for this self-paced training.

Currently live:

  • Leading with Outcomes: Foundation (do this one first)
  • Inside-out Strategy: Fit for maximum impact

In production, chapter 1 due for release in June, announcement to follow:

  • Outside-in Strategy: Positioned for success

In development:

  • Adaptive Organisation: Business agility at every scale

Not only are we on track for releasing the whole of the planned Leading with Outcomes curriculum this year, we have plans for some ‘bitesize’ content that we’ll be able to drip out on a weekly basis.

A reminder of our intended audience:

  1. Leaders in transforming organisations – at whatever level of experience and in whatever role
  2. Those that aspire to that – whether that’s aspiring to leadership or to be a leader in an organisation that’s transforming healthily
  3. Those who support the above

Check out our subscription plans for both businesses and individuals; both have monthly and yearly options. And talk to us if you might be interested in the trainer or facilitator programmes which we’ll be announcing soon.

A fight worth fighting

As featured on the Agendashift and Agendashift Academy homepages, the three strategies thing is brewing nicely. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means – all is explained in my latest article on InfoQ:

That’s pretty definitive, well worth the read if you want to understand where Agendashift is right now. And inspired by my current reading (Bateson):

Read both and the connection between the two will be obvious enough. The punchline to the second one:

In the methods & frameworks world, I believe there is only one fight worth fighting, and it is not between frameworks. It is between those who would fit people and organisations to frameworks (branded or otherwise), and those who find that idea intolerable.

New podcast interview

Last month’s roundup went out early, and it missed a podcast interview that went out on the 30th. It was with Shahin Sheidaei of the Elevate Change podcast, and you can find it here and on the usual podcast platforms:

15-minute FOTO version 12

A small tweak to our Clean Language-inspired coaching game 15-minute FOTO, further emphasising the Host role:

Upcoming

Top posts

  1. 15-minute FOTO, version 12
  2. On values, meaningfulness, and change – parallels with Bateson and Mead
  3. You can’t deliver a task (August 2018)
  4. My favourite Clean Language question (January 2019)
  5. Big changes for the Agendashift Academy (April 2022)

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On values, meaningfulness, and change – parallels with Bateson and Mead

Punchline first:

In the methods & frameworks world, I believe there is only one fight worth fighting, and it is not between frameworks. It is between those who would fit people and organisations to frameworks (branded or otherwise), and those who find that idea intolerable.

From a book I am taking the time to savour, here is acclaimed anthropologist and systems thinker Gregory Bateson, on the work of his former wife Dr Margaret Mead, another acclaimed anthropologist:

[If] we go on defining ends as separate from means and apply the social sciences as crudely instrumental means, using the recipes of science to manipulate people, we shall arrive at a totalitarian rather than a democratic system of life. The solution she offers is that we look for the “direction” and “values” implicit in the means, rather than looking ahead to a blueprinted goal and thinking of this goal as justifying or not justifying manipulated means. We have to find the value of a planned act implicit in and simultaneous with the act itself, not separate from it in the sense that the act would derive its value or from reference to a future end or goal.

Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972)

This passage resonated strongly with me. Translating from the social space to organisations, how, as leaders, do we make it easy for people to find meaning in work whilst still respecting their choice in the matter? And if it’s the job of leadership to take people to new places, can we make the process of change more meaningful, again without dictating what form that meaning should take for each individual concerned?

My biggest contribution in the frameworks space was a values model for the Kanban Method (2013). It explained why and how Kanban was meaningful to me, and it turned out to be helpful to other people too – to the extent that it become adopted as part of the method’s formal definition.

But I didn’t stop there. I was on a journey, and it wasn’t long after the publication of Kanban from the Inside (2014), that I found myself detaching myself from Kanban community. There was no big disagreement behind this move, and to be clear, I remain proud of that model and my first book. It was simply that there was a job to be done, and I felt that it would be easier done outside.

Bateson goes on:

This then is the type of discipline which has enabled Dr Mead to point out that a discrepancy – a basic and fundamental discrepancy – exists between “social engineering”, manipulating people in order to achieve a planned blueprint society, and the ideals of democracy, the “supreme worth and moral responsibility of the individual human person.” The two conflicting motifs have long been implicit in our culture, science has had instrumental leanings since before the Industrial Revolution, and emphasis on upon individual worth and responsibility is even older. The threat of conflict between the two motifs has only come recently, with increasing consciousness of, and emphasis upon, the democratic motif and simultaneous spread of the instrumental motif. … Are we to reserve the techniques and the right to manipulate people as the privilege of a few planning, goal-oriented, and power-hungry individuals, to whom the instrumentality of science makes a natural appeal? Now that we have the techniques, are we, in cold blood, going to treat people as things? Or what are we going to do with these techniques?

Again, parallels. In the methods & frameworks world, I believe there is only one fight worth fighting, and it is not between the frameworks. It is between those who would fit people and organisations to frameworks (branded or otherwise), and those who find that idea intolerable.

I am on that second side. My fight is against those so convinced of their rightness that they’re sure that the ends justify the manipulative or coercive means, or they lack the imagination, curiosity, or courage to consider that there might be alternative approaches to change. And there really are alternatives. Let no one tell you that change-by-imposition – legitimised the change management industry despite its repeated failures – is the only model. That wasn’t true even 20 years ago – Agilists take note – and it definitely isn’t true now.

That fight is what has energised me in the 8 years since my first book and I expect it to continue to sustain me for the rest of my career. It has taken me from method to values and then to outcomes, meaningfulness, wholeheartedness, leadership, and strategy. They’re integrated into a participatory approach to change and transformation, one that is more than capable of reconciling sophisticated thoughts on organisation design with utmost respect not only for the person but for the organisation that people create together.

It’s hard enough being a leader in a transforming organisation without your approach to change making things worse. If that’s you, Agendashift Academy is there for you. And if your organisation is entering into a relationship with a process framework, make sure that the relationship is healthy one*.

*That’s my recent article on InfoQ: Adaptability by Agreement: Valuing Outcomes over Imposed Solutions. It’s the most complete written treatment yet of Agendashift’s three strategies model. Watch out for videos too, in particular from last week’s Lean Agile London (#LALDN22).


What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions?

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1-day Leading with Outcomes workshop, June 20th, Europe-friendly timing

You may recall that we put public training on hold while we – Agendashift Academy – reorganised the Leading with Outcomes curriculum and launched our self-paced training offerings, but we’re back! It’s also our first full-day workshop for quite some time. It’s offered by the Swiss professional association swissICT as part of LAS Academy, a week of workshops they’re hosting in the run-up to their LAS Conference on June 23rd. Thank you to them and in particular Wolfgang Rathert for helping to make this happen.

What you need to know:

  • When: 20th June 2022, 09:30CEST (08:30BST) to 17:30CEST (16:30BST)
  • Where it is: Zoom
  • What it’s called: Inside-out Strategy: Leading with outcomes in times of change
  • What it is: Workshop-based training
  • What you’ll be doing: You’ll be doing some inside-out strategy¹ (twice in fact), and doing it Agendashift-style
  • What you’ll be learning: You’ll be learning how to put outcomes ahead of solutions², avoiding the dysfunctions that accompany traditional change management approaches
  • Prerequisites: None – we’ll cover enough of Leading with Outcomes:Foundation that no prior knowledge is necessary, and you’ll qualify for your Inside-out Strategy certificate without it³
  • Who’s it for: anyone who recognises that being a leader in a transforming organisation is difficult enough without your change management approach making things worse
  • Price: CHF690 (roughly £570 or €670), less a 10% discount when you book via the link below

¹ Inside-out: that’s strategy that starts from your internal experience and capability; we have an outside-in (customer-first) strategy track too and will discuss the two approaches together
² That’s basically who we are, outcomes-before-solutions people
³ We won’t be doing that often – the opportunity was just too good to miss

Use the link below to claim a 10% discount:


What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions?

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15-minute FOTO, version 12

The facilitation deck for our Clean Language-inspired coaching game 15-minute FOTO is now at version 12. Just one change: for the Lite format of the game, what previously were announced under a heading of “Tips:” are now announced as follows:

Help your colleagues enjoy a productive time:

  • Start small: 5% and 15% outcomes, bullet point answers
  • Be generous in the outcomes you accept (and write down)
  • If a minute passes without an outcome being captured, something is wrong

A renamed heading might seem a trivial change, but in the debrief after the game we will introduce (retrospectively) the three roles of Client, Coach, and Host, which in the Lite format any player can adopt at any time. Client and Coach correspond very obviously to the tasks of answering and asking the questions from the cue card, but until this version, it didn’t seem that we had done enough to set up the Host role.

Bonus

Emphasising the “leading” in “Leading with Outcomes” (our core curriculum), this discussion question comes from the Agendashift Academy version of the 15-minute FOTO debrief:

Reflecting some more on the Client, Coach, and Host roles, which one is the leader?

There it’s pre-recorded; I have tested it “live” also.

For some background on prior changes that led up to this one:

As ever go to agendashift.com/15-minute-foto for tips, download instructions, and an ancient but still fun video.


What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions?

Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
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Big changes for the Agendashift Academy

As predicted, Friday 29th is pivot day! As of today:

  • Agendashift Academy (academy.agendashift.com) has moved to a subscription model
  • Choose between Agendashift for Business and Agendashift for Individuals – subscription packages for businesses and individuals, each with yearly and monthly options

And we’re picking up the pace – new content goes live today and we’re committed to releasing new content at least twice a month:

  • Leading with Outcomes: Foundation is already live and very well received – this self-paced module is the one to take first (if you have this already, we’ve given you all the benefits of a yearly individual subscription for the next 6 months)
  • Starting today, we’re releasing Inside-out strategy: Fit for maximum impact at the rate of a chapter a week:
    1. Everybody on the same page with purpose (today, Friday, April 29th)
    2. Getting to the issues that matter (Friday, May 6th)
    3. Organising strategy visually (Friday, May 13th)
    4. From outcome to action (Friday, May 20th)
    5. Designing your inside-out strategy sprint (Friday, May 27th)
  • Outside-in strategy: Positioned for success is in production and will come onstream from June
  • Adaptive Organisation: Business Agility at every scale will come onstream from September
  • Also beginning this summer, we are putting together two long series of short “bite-size” videos that will take us well into next year

On our student community platform (based on Circle), each new module gets its own discussion space. We’re already holding regular AMA sessions (“Ask Mike Anything” – sorry, couldn’t resist), and there will be other subscriber-only events, webinars for example.

Workshop-wise, in the short term we have made the decision to concentrate first on business subscribers, with public workshops to follow. Individual subscribers are not forgotten however! In due course, we’ll announce changes to our existing partner programme and a new programme for trainers wishing to teach from our material.

If you are a leader in a transforming organisation or aspire to be one, then we’re here for you! To find out more – our vision, features, subscription plans, FAQs etc – head over to academy.agendashift.com now.


What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions?

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Agendashift roundup, April 2022

In this earlier-than-usual edition (you’ll see why): Friday is pivot day; Interviewed by Mike Leber; Agendashift as framework, 2022 edition; German translations; Upcoming; Top posts

Friday is pivot day

Friday would have been roundup day, but we’re saving that for the next big announcement from the Agendashift Academy. Yes, there’s new content, the expected next module in the Leading with Outcomes curriculum, but the real news is more significant than that, a lot of hard work (and not just by me) coming together in a really exciting way.

If you’re not already on the mailing list, now would be a good time to subscribe.

Interviewed by Mike Leber

I was interviewed recently by Mike Leber – see below for the recording, and see also What I really think about Kanban, highlighting what was just one part of what was a wide-ranging conversation.

Hot on the heels of that one, Friday or soon after I’ll be making an appearance on the Lean On Agile (& Elevate Change) Show, interviewed by Shahin Sheidaei. I’ve had the chance to listen to the podcast already and look forward to sharing that one too.

Agendashift as framework, 2022 edition

As announced earlier in the month I’ve updated agendashift.com/framework to lead with the three strategies:

If you have access to Agendashift’s Commons or more specifically to Agendashift assets, there’s a new framework overview deck, Agendashift framework overview 16x10 2022-04 v3.pptx. Best viewed full screen and with the Source Sans Pro font installed. If you don’t have it, you can request access via the framework page.

Why is this important? Well, one important source of struggle for organisations and their leaders is that those 1990’s models of change (models still accepted as “doing it properly”) don’t work for most interesting kinds of business challenges, certainly not the kinds of challenges associated with transformation. As my friend Patrick Hoverstadt puts it:

If the model doesn’t work more than half the time, the model is wrong – so wrong indeed that it can’t be said to be useful.1

What if we stopped leading with solutions – solutions that are not only likely to be a poor fit to their intended context, are hard to implement, and meanwhile deny everyone the opportunity to do something better – and started leading with outcomes instead? What if we could hold the right conversations – strategy conversations – at the right time, agreeing on outcomes, organising around outcomes, and steering by them? And not just “rinse and repeat” (glibly assuming that this happens for free) but seeking opportunities to do this at every scale?

Only after the Why and the What if comes the How – Agendashift’s patterns and tools. I’m learning not to get to those quite so quickly as I used to, and the strategies bridge the What if and the How really nicely 🙂

1 See Patrick’s new book The Grammar of Systems: From Order to Chaos and Back. From memory, so I’m paraphrasing. Highly recommended.

German translations

A quick reminder that all of my books are now available in German:

I still have a few review copies of the recent Agendashift translation left. If you feel a review coming on, please get in touch!

Over the coming weeks, some of our translated resources will receive updates.​​

Upcoming

Top posts

  1. What I really think about Kanban (April)
  2. Updated: Agendashift as framework, 2022 edition (April)
  3. What I really think about Scrum (August 2020)
  4. Video: Leading and Transforming with Outcomes (March)
  5. What I really think about SAFe (October 2019)

What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions?

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What I really think about Kanban

Previously on this blog:

My first book, Kanban from the Inside (2014), remains a top book for Kanban so I really ought to complete that list.

Earlier this week I was interviewed by Michael Leber. The hour (livestreamed) flew by very quickly and I’m very pleased with how it came out, so thank you very much Mike! If you’re on LinkedIn, this is the better link to the recording:

Otherwise this one:

It was a wide-ranging talk but we started with Kanban (the method as well as the tool) and I said a few things about it I haven’t really said before. A couple of key quotes:

I don’t find that [evolutionary change] principle exciting. I don’t get excited about evolutionary change – it’s like the wrong metaphor for a great tool.

If you’re serious about it, it has got to be with some intent. If you’re just fixing problems just because you see them, it doesn’t actually meet needs, it doesn’t get you to where you want to get to. And if you’re going to get to where you want to get to, you’ve got to have a conversation about where that is, what that looks like, what direction it’s in. … If you’re serious about the outcomes and their obstacles, serious about where you’re going to focus your efforts, serious about understanding the relationships between outcomes, you’re actually doing strategy.

To be fair to Kanban (the method), it tries harder than most Agile frameworks to get to that, but it doesn’t really get there, and nor will it so long as a tool (the kanban system and its supporting structure) is the predetermined answer. That’s why I am where I am now, non-aligned framework-wise, developing Agendashift as a way to help organisations and their leaders approach change and transformation strategically. If you want change, learn to have the strategy conversations around it. Don’t start with a solution (an Agile framework, say); start with agreement on outcomes. Done authentically – the right people in the room, the results of the conversation not prejudged – the rest follows so much more easily.

Finally, some of the links mentioned:

And my books (all of them now available also in German):

  • Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (2nd edition 2021)
  • Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile (2019, audiobook 2020)
  • Kanban from the Inside (2014)

What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions?

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Updated: Agendashift as framework, 2022 edition

I’ve updated agendashift.com/framework to lead with the three strategies:

Update 2022-04-07: If you have access to Agendashift’s Commons or more specifically to Agendashift assets, there’s a new framework overview deck, Agendashift framework overview 16x10 2022-04 v3.pptx. Best viewed full screen and with the Source Sans Pro font installed. If you don’t have it, you can request access via the framework page.

Enjoy!


What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions?

Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
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