Agendashift in a nutshell

[Update, February 2020: We’ve come a long way since this was first published back in 2015 and you’ll find a more up-to-date overview here. We now understand Agendashift as The wholehearted engagement model, and rather than “value-based” (as used here), outcome-oriented much better describes Agendashift’s stance. And there have been two books: Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (2018) and Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to lean and Agile (2019).]

[Slideshare below added 2015-11-16; I’d treat this as more definitive than the blog post]

[Lightly edited 2015-11-07 based on feedback]

Question: What do you get when you cross feedback loops with Agendashift’s core themes, namely values-based delivery, values-based change, and values-based leadership? Answer: Something that looks eerily like a framework!

Let’s start with those feedback loops. For some months I’ve been using this picture to describe the process I first outlined in my book:

With feedback loops

What starts at step 1 as a linear process becomes over time a system of nested feedback loops. The initial pass leaves us with actions to track; when those are exhausted or become uninteresting, we revisit the assessment and agree a new agenda for change. When we’re getting diminishing returns there, it’s time to revisit our initial “givens” – the values and behaviours of the assessment template – and work to make them truly our own.

In this next picture I’ve given those loops names – “Action”, “Alignment”, and “Discovery” – and removed all extraneous detail:

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 10.44.25

That picture seemed to me quite reusable, very adequately describing not only a process of change (hypothesis-driven or otherwise), but of delivery too (ditto). Could it be applied to leadership also? It was time for me to draw up a 3×3 matrix and to try to fill the blanks. Here’s how it came out:

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 15.51.34

I don’t know how accessible this matrix is to the casual reader, but to me it does a good job of summarising what I’m trying to achieve. Additionally, it has helped me to identify those areas where I (and Agendashift) could be said to be particularly “opinionated”. In a few bullet points:

  • Discovering user needs should be a first class activity; delivery success should somehow align to customer outcomes; service orientation (Kanban-style) is a powerful way to think about how to organise and improve delivery
  • In parallel with delivery, discovering better ways of doing things needs also to be recognised as a first class activity; alignment here is to a values-based agenda and towards the kinds and levels of capability needed; hypothesis-driven change coupled with a pull-based process captures much of what we know and teach about framing and managing change
  • Servant Leadership (in its fullest sense – see my recent post Servant Leadership un-neutered) helps us separate the enduring and aspirational aspects of our organisation (purpose, values, etc) from those that need to evolve; alignment on purpose helps to enhance the meaning we derive from work

To make my sources of inspiration explicit, Agendashift can be described as a values-based integration of the following:

  • Agile: collaborative, sustainable delivery; fast feedback
  • Kanban: service orientation and fitness for purpose
  • Lean: validated, hypothesis-driven change; the pursuit of flow
  • Systems thinking, complexity, Cynefin: longevity (of the organisation), safety (of people), leverage; narrative, the importance of context
  • Servant Leadership: meeting needs, aligning to purpose, finding meaning in work

That list rather understates Kanban’s enormous contribution – you could say that Agendashift is Kanban with attitude! All the Kanban principles, practices and values should be taken as read, in particular the first foundational principle: Start with what you do now. Start with what you do now, learn to use the Kanban Lens and to see services; scale out service by service. Alongside existing Kanban tools (eg STATIK), use Agendashift to frame, prioritise, and manage changes. Take leadership seriously and endeavour to build something that will outlast everything you’re currently doing and bring real benefit along the way.

That, in a nutshell, is Agendashift-the-framework. Agendashift-the-tools are coming along nicely (try the assessment part here), as are Agendashift-the-services (here and here, for example). There don’t seem to be quite enough hours in the day but I didn’t ask for a life free of challenge, so that’s ok!

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