Going full circle on values

Back in 2014 I devised a simple paper-based or slide-based workshop exercise, the Kanban Values Exercise . The object of the exercise was to find correspondences between the nine values of my 2013 model for the Kanban Method and the principles and practices from which they were originally abstracted. Unfortunately, as the method and the values became more obviously aligned with successive revisions (a good thing), some of the fun went out of the exercise.

Time then for a new exercise. It’s based on the Full Circle exercise described at the back of the Agendashift book, the reflective exercise that we use to close our transformation strategy workshops. It isn’t Kanban-specific (Agendashift is framework-agnostic), but it does have two prerequisites that Kanban fulfils quite elegantly:

  1. A subject, a point of reference in the form of a body of knowledge (a trivial requirement in the context of a training class, for example) or a cultural initiative of some sort (a transformation, say)
  2. A set of values – words or phrases that imply some sense of both what we do and why we do it – that is relevant to the subject

It also needs sticky note, pens, and some space somewhere to gather them for the debrief.

Exercise: Full circle on values

On separate stickies, compose sentences that will become increasingly true in your organisation as:

  1. The organisation progresses with <subject>, and
  2. A specific value (chosen by the participant and identified on each sticky) is realised more fully

Sentences should conform to this style guide:

  • Inclusive – Start each sentence with “We” or “our” and make it a statement that you believe most of your colleagues could embrace
  • Present tense – not impossibly out of reach; perhaps there are pockets of this happening already
  • Non-prescriptive – avoid specifying practices or other means by which this outcome will be achieved, instead allow multiple approaches

Some examples, taken from the Agendashift delivery assessment:

  • “We identify dependencies between work items in good time and sequence them accordingly”
  • “Our vision and purpose are clear to us, our customers, and our stakeholders”
  • “We ensure that opportunities for improvement are recognised and systematically followed through”

To debrief this exercise, it might be enough just to read out the stickies as they’re brought together, take a moment to reflect on each one, and once they’re all there, take a photograph to share as a memento of the event.

For more depth:

  • Are each of the values on our original list sufficiently well represented here?
  • Do we see any conflicts, contradictions, or tensions – statements that sit uncomfortably with each other or with other values?
  • Are there any other values suggested here?

To bootstrap something much bigger, Agendashift-style:

  • How well are we currently doing at each of these statements?
  • Which statements would we choose to prioritise right now?
  • Addressing the prioritised statements together or one at a time:
    • If this were realised wonderfully, what would that be like?
    • What obstacles lie in the way of that?

Then (and see the 15-minute FOTO game):

  • What would you like to have happen? (with respect to an obstacle)
  • Then what happens? (with respect to an outcome)

The Agendashift Full Circle exercise is so named because you’ve effectively created your own values-based assessment, akin to ours. Explore far enough into ‘outcome space’ and you’ll begin to identify themes and values. Back to where you started perhaps, but you’ve made them your own!

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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 evolution 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…

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