Discovery of purpose and values

[First, previous, next in series]

This is the seventh of nine articles in a series exploring the matrix below (introduced here). For the last three articles we’ll be working our way down the right hand column.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 19.16.55


In Better ways of working, the preceding post in the series, we made reference to fitness for purpose. We’ll revisit fitness next time, but what about purpose, and why do I have it in a row labelled Discovery?

You might think that purpose is something you find within, but in our experience the most powerful statements of purpose involve some relationship to the outside world. Powerful for two reasons: (1) they articulate something motivating at the personal level, and (2) they provide a point of reference for everything that happens internally, the end point (and often the start point too) of many of the organisation’s most important workflows.

Here’s a great example (you’ll recognise it if you have read my book):

Driven by our endless curiosity and creativity we promise to make our drivers happy and proud by anticipating mobility needs of people and society ahead of time.

That “brand promise” is to be found on the wall behind the service desk of my local Toyota dealership. As an outward-looking statement of organisational purpose, its reference to people and society make it hard to beat. I love “anticipating needs … ahead of time” too (I wrote about that in 2013).

If your part of your organisation hasn’t recently articulated its purpose, I’d encourage you to give it a try as a team exercise. A good starting point is in the line “Know what you’re delivering, to whom, and why it matters“. Two-thirds of that (the “to whom” and the “why”) lie outside the team, so there’s plenty of scope here for “discovery”!


Agendashift is an “opinionated framework” – it has some sensible defaults built in. Amongst these are Kanban’s nine values of transparency, balance, collaboration, customer focus, flow, leadership, understanding, agreement, and respect. (Coincidentally, I first articulated these exactly three years ago this week.)

Drilling down, the Agendashift values-based delivery assessment goes on to identify 44 key ways in which we might reasonably expect the values to be exemplified in a mature Lean-Agile implementation, whether Kanban-based or otherwise.

There’s plenty of room here for exploration, some of it challenging:

  1. How does the organisation (or part thereof) stack up against that 44-prompt model, what is the impact of any gaps, and what action should be taken?
  2. In what other ways should we expect the values to be exemplified in our context?
  3. What about other values (specific to us or borrowed from other models) that are important to us?

The existence of an off-the-shelf model should not imply just a checkbox approach. It is my sincere hope that organisations will develop values-based models of their own, and indeed our leadership workshop (developed with the kind support of Code Genesys Inc) provides significant help in that direction. What better way to understand in a deep way what Lean, Kanban and Agile are really about, and to look with fresh eyes at things your organisation has long taken for granted?

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