Out today: Agendashift (part I) revision 3

Over the past few weeks I’ve published on a fortnightly basis three quick revisions of the Agendashift book. I did (and still do) consider it finished, but refinement is always possible and I have been soliciting feedback actively. Thank you Dragan Jojic, Kert Peterson, and Philippe Guenet for your recent comments – most helpful.

A quick run-down of recent changes, many many of them anticipated here on the blog:

If you have bought the e-book already, you’ll be notified that there’s a new version to download. If you haven’t, get your copy here:

There are PDF, EPUB and MOBI formats available. For iOS devices (iPad and iPhone) I would recommend EPUB for viewing in iBooks in preference to MOBI for Kindle – we are experiencing formatting issues on the Kindle for iOS platform. Other platform combinations are unaffected as far as we know.


Links: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter | Agendashift home | Mike

(Non-)Prescription, frameworks, and expertise

Let’s look again at Agendashift in 5 principles, 5 principles for organisational adaptability and 21st century change leadership:

  1. Start with needs
  2. Agree on outcomes
  3. Keep the agenda for change visible
  4. Manage options, testing assumptions
  5. Organise for clarity, speed, and mutual accountability

Alongside those principles let’s consider also Agendashift’s description as “inclusive, non-prescriptive, and methodology-neutral”. Taking all of that together, what place is there here for skills and expertise in methods, frameworks, and so on? As it happens, quite a lot. It might seem counter-intuitive, but non-prescriptive is an excellent stance for the serious change agent to take.

Just one of the several cool things about starting with needs and outcomes instead of requirements and (pre-selected) solutions is that you give yourself the opportunity to generate and evaluate options (part of principle 4). That’s an interesting process in itself, and here are some of the ways in which a skilled facilitator can encourage diversity and innovation:

  • For every option that involves implementing a tool, we try to think of one that doesn’t (eg to “Implement Slack” we might add the alternative “Get out more”)
  • For every option that involves someone outside our circle providing more accurate inputs, we try to think of one where we we take the responsibility for better and timelier conversations (eg to “Better requirements documents” we might add the alternative “Spend time with customers”)

And some questions:

  • “What has worked elsewhere?”
  • “What would experts from different backgrounds recommend?”
  • “What’s the most radical option we could try?”

To people and teams already familiar with a framework (Scrum, for example), it makes total sense to try things that have worked for similar teams, so long as there’s a decent chance that it will help you achieve the outcome you’re currently focused on. For non-trivial problems, it also makes a lot of sense to understand how other people have solved similar problems outside your framework. For all but the most unusual problems, an expert worthy of that title will have ready access to a range of options and will be able to provide insight into when and why some options work better than others under different conditions.

Industry experience and framework expertise come into their own again with principle 5, organising for clarity, speed, and mutual accountability. Many frameworks have their own answers (technical answers, at least) to how communication and decision-making should work, but only a fool would pretend that it won’t be a challenge to change how organisations operate, especially at scale. Without a good understanding of i) what’s possible and ii) how to help make it happen, you’re stuffed.

The majority of Agendashift partners have deep expertise in at least one Lean-Agile method or framework and a working knowledge of others. No less valuable are those that come from the organisation, facilitation, and change side as employees or external consultants and work with and respect the technical experts (and vice versa).

If this inclusive (“it’s all great”), non-prescriptive, methodology-neutral thing sounds attractive to you, give Agendashift a closer look. Check out our partner directory, either to find some local expertise or to help you decide that you’d belong there yourself. If you’re a practitioner, check out the partner programme. If a potential sponsor, the unbenchmarking service and the transformation mapping workshop will give you a flavour of the services we and our partners can offer. And for depth, there’s the book: Agendashift: clean conversations, coherent collaboration, continuous transformation.

Links: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter | Agendashift home | Mike

Agendashift roundup, July 2017

In this edition: Latest on the Agendashift book; Cue card updates; Agendashift in 5 principles; #opportunities; Public workshops; Speaking; Top posts

Latest on the Agendashift book

Just a quick note to let you know how much I’m enjoying the Agendashift book. I haven’t read much in the Lean-Agile space for a few years as I felt nothing new was being said. Your book has changed that for me – great work!

That was from Alex Johnston. Thanks Alex!

To the main site I have added Recommended reading, a list of recommended books and other references extracted from the “behind the scenes” sections of each chapter of part I. The blog post that announced it was one of the top two posts this month, so clearly it was appreciated!

In case you don’t have it already, part I is published here: Agendashift: clean conversations, coherent collaboration, continuous transformation [leanpub.com].

Cue card updates

The post Revisions to the book and cue cards describes some recent revisions to part I of the book and the inclusion of an additional Clean Language question on the cue cards for the 15-minute FOTO game described in chapter 1. Anyone registered for the preview chapter or the cue cards will have received new download links by email; if you’d like either or both of these, just shout.

Agendashift in 5 principles

In the race for top post of the month and catching up quickly with the recommended reading announcement is this one: Agendashift in 5 principles.

You can read these as 5 principles of 21st century change management (it came about as the rewritten conclusion of my keynote on that topic) or – and you’ll know where I’m coming from if you’ve read chapter 5 of the new book – 5 principles for organisational adaptability.

Screenshot 2017-07-25 16.31.36


This is the name of a new channel in our Slack community, available for the posting of relevant vacancies, availabilities, etc. If you need a Slack invite, ask here.

Public workshops

India, UK, and South Africa – the next public Agendashift workshops in the calendar:

Want a private workshop? Get in touch, or find a partner near you.


India, UK, South Africa, and France:

Top posts

Links: Roundups | Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter | Agendashift home | Mike

Agendashift in 5 principles

Screenshot 2017-07-25 16.31.36

If you see from me a list of five things, chances are that it maps forwards or backwards* to Discovery, Exploration, Mapping, Elaboration, Operation, the five sessions of an Agendashift workshop and the five chapters of part I of the new book.

Here then is Agendashift in 5 principles:

  1. Start with needs
  2. Agree on outcomes
  3. Keep the agenda for change visible
  4. Manage options, testing assumptions
  5. Organise for clarity, speed, and mutual accountability

You can read these as 5 principles of 21st century change leadership or 5 principles for organisational adaptability.

1. Start with needs

If you don’t know what the user needs are, you won’t build the right thing [gov.uk]

It’s no secret that I’m an admirer of the UK Government Digital Services’ focus on needs. At GDS, “Start with needs – user needs not government needs” isn’t just spin, but a statement of strategic intent. I can tell you from firsthand experience that if your UK government digital service fails to demonstrate a serious ongoing commitment to exploring and meeting needs, you can expect trouble!

Whether it’s change to products and services or to organisation and process, if your idea of driving change consists of handing down requirements from your ivory tower, you don’t get the needs thing at all. Face it though: you can satisfy a long list of requirements and still not meet needs. (See also: Better user stories start with authentic situations of need).

Neither do you get it if you think it’s ok for your improvement efforts are mostly inward-looking, attending mainly to your team’s efficiency and comfort. If you don’t take time to understand the needs of people outside your four walls, how do you know that you are improving in any meaningful sense?

2. Agree on outcomes

You’d be forgiven for thinking that 20th century change management was all about overcoming resistance to change: trying to convince people, and when all attempts at persuasion have failed, going ahead anyway.

Whether or not that’s fair (certainly there’s truth in it), I believe that 21st century change management is different. Just as we put needs ahead of requirements, we put outcomes ahead of solutions. Agreement on outcomes is gold; once you have that, it’s just a question of how those outcomes will be achieved, the kind of problem that motivates people (not everyone perhaps, but enough people if the outcome is sufficiently meaningful).

3. Keep the agenda for change visible

Agreeing on outcomes and then forgetting them would be quite a waste of effort! To quote the last chapter of my first book (published in 2014):

Shaping the agenda … with the explicit aim of producing a compelling set of agreed upon priorities, goals, and actions

Little did I know it at the time, but chapter 23 of Kanban from the Inside would be the springboard for Agendashift – you can even see where the name came from! Ever since, I have been motivated to help organisations produce their own compelling agendas for change, agendas that whilst remaining true to the Start with what you do now principle still manage to convey a sense of challenge and ambition. You see that sense of challenge and ambition in my proposal A True North for Lean-Agile?, my distillation of what we strive towards.

4. Manage options, testing assumptions

Representing a real alternative to prescription, Agendashift is generative twice over (generative squared?). It contains repeatable and transferable tools first to generate outcomes, and then to generate options for their realisation.

We’ve adopted Lean Startup language for framing options as hypotheses, we take an initial look at assumptions when deciding on which options to select, reject, or hold, and we use an A3-based tool to develop this thinking further. At all three levels of detail we’re bringing assumptions to the surface and devising experiments by which they can be tested. Relentless validation becomes the engine of change; we learn and adapt quickly because we have both the courage and the humility to be wrong.

5. Organise for clarity, speed, and mutual accountability

… it reads like a list on how to align to purpose

Exactly! That was Damian Crawford commenting in the Agendashift Slack on alternative wordings to #5, endorsing this one.

We’re talking transparency, leadership, autonomy, alignment mechanisms, knowledge discovery processes, feedback loops, and so on. Right conversations, right people, best possible moment (an Agile-influenced element of our True North proposal). Pushing authority to the information (David Marquet, author of the fantastic Turn the Ship Around!). For leaders, it means more than just clarity of intent, it means a genuine commitment to the people who will carry it out. And it’s not just about personal style, it has significant implications for organisation design.


Here again is Agendashift in 5 principles:

  1. Start with needs
  2. Agree on outcomes
  3. Keep the agenda for change visible
  4. Manage options, testing assumptions
  5. Organise for clarity, speed, and mutual accountability

Whether for 21st century change management or organisational adaptability, what principles would you choose? How do they align to these?

*See Lean-Agile transformation as Lean-Agile process for a backwards example.

Links: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter | Agendashift home | Mike

Revisions to the book and cue cards

Today I’m simultaneously releasing revisions to:

  1. The Agendashift book (part I published on Leanpub in May)
  2. The printable cue card for the 15-minute FOTO game, available from the Agendashift Resources page

If you’ve purchased the book and registered for updates (most readers have), you’ll be notified and reminded to download the new version. If you’ve requested the preview chapter or cue cards from me in the past, I’ll send you download links.

The changes

  • I’ve incorporated a seventh Clean Language question, “What is happening when X?”, impacting both the book and the cue cards
  • Chapter 1’s Behind the scenes now includes a True North section – as anticipated by the blog post A True North for Lean-Agile?
  • Lots of edits to the intro and Chapter 1 made in the interests of readability

To that last point, do please give feedback. Readability is key! If anything doesn’t flow as well as it should, let me know.

Grab your copy

If you’ve requested downloads previously you should be updated automatically in the next few hours.

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Recommended reading

From the “behind the scenes” sections of each chapter of the Agendashift book (part I published on Leanpub in May) I’ve extracted a list of recommended books and other references.

By chapter, you’ll find reading recommendations on these topics:

  1. Discovery: Clean Language, 1-2-4-All (the facilitation pattern)
  2. Exploration: Cynefin, “plan on a page”
  3. Mapping: User Story Mapping, Impact Mapping, Strategy
  4. Elaboration: Lean Startup, A3, Toyota Kata
  5. Operation: Organisation, culture, Systems Thinking, Kanban

Find it here: Recommended reading. See also our Resources page. Enjoy!

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Online and offline, the Agendashift unbenchmarking report

Online first. Here’s the unbenchmarking report as a simple single page app (SPA). Instead of fiddling about with sort orders in the old ‘charts’ view, this is facilitator-friendly, taking you through survey results in the same tried-and-documented sequence that we use in our workshops. You can even page through it with your clicker!

unbenchmarking animated

For offline purposes, it prints nicely to A4 and (as of our next deployment) US Letter. Here’s a sample as a 14-page PDF download:

Note: This isn’t quite the full report. I’ve taken the full-sized 43-prompt original edition survey taken as prework for the recent Lean-Agile Strategy Days workshop and applied the 18-prompt mini edition template to it. The latter has one prompt (3.3) not included in the original survey, which is why it shows no scores.

The sections titled Complete survey results, original order and Complete survey results, pathway order are specifically designed for printing, optimised for the 43-prompt template (explaining the large amounts of white space in the sample). We find that paper copies of these two sections are invaluable when prioritising prompts and producing transformation maps (respectively).


Please note that the unbenchmarking report is currently available only in English. If you’d like to receive or facilitate one in another language, please let us know.

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