A postscript to ‘How I Choose my Models’

With a view to referencing it in the Agendashift 2nd edition I’ve been checking out the new Cynefin book Cynefin – Weaving Sense-Making into the Fabric of Our World (Dave Snowden & friends). It’s a book with many contributors and I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect but I’m enjoying it! If you have any interest in Cynefin I would definitely recommend it.

Despite appearances, this post isn’t about Cynefin. One contribution by Anne Caspari and Johann Entz von Zerssen really resonated with me, especially these two paragraphs from Anne (quoted with her permission):

I (Anne) come from 15 years of critical engagement with integral theory, adult development, and all kinds of change theories. When I started working with these theories and frameworks, they helped me immensely. They opened up my thinking and gave me a means to counteract both gross and subtle reductionism in practical work. This was especially helpful to me in my project management work in environmental planning and sustainability contexts. Adult development theory also helped me understand some of the phenomena I encountered in coaching and leadership work.

Over time, however, I experienced a growing scepticism around a new kind of reductionism that crept into most applications of these theories that often went unobserved by the respective communities. Examples include developmental bias (“we need to develop people”) in large parts of the integral theory scene and some very formulaic and linear applications of change theories (“step 5: find deeper meaning and purpose”).  Since this kind of uneasiness is hard to pinpoint and address, I just noticed that I kept away. I settled at the fringes of these communities and did my own thing. 

Yes! This! Exactly!

Anne’s struggle is the same as the one that triggered (via an outburst over Zoom of which I am not proud) the How I choose my models post. And the really funny thing: Andrea Chiou, the target of my outburst agrees with me. Violent agreement is a strange beast! From our Slack channel #what-i-am-reading (I pasted the above quote there as soon as I read it):

It is the ‘we need to’ of the ‘we need to develop people’ that annoys me. It separates ‘us’ from them -> increasing the gap between the ‘experts’ and the underdeveloped others.

And yes, you are doing your own thing.

It has been in fact a very interesting few weeks, one of those times when you’re really glad to be part of a diverse and supportive community with knowledge in areas I’ll never be expert in. My gut instinct hasn’t changed, I stand by every every word I wrote in How I choose my models, and yet I’ll be referencing some of that developmental stuff (caveated of course) in the 2nd edition.

The title of a new 6th and final chapter, Up and down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation, is inspired by Robert Kegan & Lisa Lahey Laskow’s Deliberately Developmental Organisation (DDO), a model described in their interesting but slightly scary book An Everyone Culture. The surprise (not least to me) is that the DDO model comes from the same stable as Adult Development Theory, my “trigger”! I’m grateful to Jonathan Sibley for pointing me in that interesting direction, also to Teddy Zetterlund for some earlier seed-sowing.

I’ve learned that living by these three bullets of mine is harder than I thought:

  • Models that have withstood scrutiny over a length of time
  • Models that treat the individual’s agency, creativity, and problem-solving ability with the utmost respect
  • Models that help to scale up the preceding

If I’m not going to ignore a ton of potentially valuable and relevant work, there’ll be times when I will need to remind myself that the model, my reaction to it, and the reactions I observe in others or fear from them, are different things. What helps to win me – albeit cautiously – over to DDO is that this is part of the model itself. Not in an especially self-aware way methinks, but it’s a start.

A last word to Jonathan, which I apply first to myself:

A great challenge is to build a model and then hold it lightly. And sometimes, followers hold the model more tightly than the founder does!


Upcoming workshops

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Agendashift roundup, November 2020

A quick one this time in advance of the big 2020 review next month. In this edition: New media; Upcoming workshops; Top posts

New media

Added to the media page this month:

Upcoming workshops

All the usual discounts apply: repeat visits (not uncommon), partners, gov, edu, non-profit, country, un- or under-employment, bulk orders. If you think that one might apply to you, do please ask. We have a quorum already but the more the merrier.

Top posts

  1. How I choose my models
  2. The Outside-in Service Delivery Review (OI-SDR)
  3. Agile Uprising discusses Agendashift’s Leading with Outcomes workshop
  4. My favourite Clean Language question (January 2019)
  5. How the Leader-Leader model turns Commander’s Intent upside down (June 2018)

oi-sdr-slide-2020-11-07


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The Outside-in Service Delivery Review (OI-SDR)

oi-sdr-slide-2020-11-07

It’s something of a work in progress but I have given the Outside-in Service Delivery Review (OI-SDR) its own page now, agendashift.com/oi-sdr, its content Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA). It’s long overdue – the OI-SDR was introduced in the 1st edition of Agendashift (2018), described more fully (with a case study) in chapter 5 of the  Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile (2019, audiobook 2020) and it will be revisited big time in the Agendashift 2nd edition due early 2021.

I don’t want to give too much away just yet but you can expect the second edition to be a lot stronger on questions of organisation, leadership, and (self-)governance than the first, and the OI-SDR is a key part of that (moreso than might be obvious at first glance). Meanwhile, there’s plenty in Right to Left if you haven’t already read that or listened to it, and the Deep Dive workshop – see Upcoming workshops below.

Related

Upcoming workshops

All the usual discounts apply: repeat visits (not uncommon), partners, gov, edu, non-profit, country, un- or under-employment, bulk orders. If you think that one might apply to you, do please ask. We have a quorum already but the more the merrier.


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Agile Uprising discusses Agendashift’s Leading with Outcomes workshop

On Sunday evening I got a very nice surprise – Twitter alerted me to this new episode from the Agile Uprising Podcast additional to my interview with Jay only a few weeks ago:

Listen here. SPOILER ALERT (per their tweet): take this course!

Slightly embarrassingly, when this went out on Sunday I had only this month’s Deep Dive workshop in the calendar. Naturally, this includes a deeper version of Leading with Outcomes, but still! So in gratitude to Jay and Mike the first public Agendashift workshop of 2021 will be Leading with Outcomes, scheduled late enough in the my (UK) afternoon for folks based in the Americas to join.

All the usual discounts apply: repeat visits (not uncommon), partners, gov, edu, non-profit, country, un- or under-employment, bulk orders. If you think that one might apply to you, do please ask.

And I’ll mention this just this once: discount code UPRISING for 15% off either/both events.

workshop 2x1


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Agendashift roundup, October 2020

In this edition: Media – recordings, articles, etc; November Deep Dive; Updates to Celebration-5W; Progress on the 2nd edition; Top posts

Media – recordings, articles, etc

Released this month:

I’ve taken the opportunity to gather these and similar resources from the past year or more on a new media page, agendashift.com/media. Over time I’ll add dig out some Agendashift-era conference recordings etc also. If you have any favourites you think I should add, let me know!

Thanks for those I’ve added so far go to the Cutter Consortium, Jay Hrcsko (Agile Uprising podcast), Martin Aziz & team (SquirrelNorth), Joe Auslander & Jakub Jurkiewicz (Joekub podcast), Ben Linders (InfoQ), Rahul Bhattacharya (Agile Atelier podcast), Mo Hagar (Agile on the Edge podcast), John Rouda (A Geek Leader podcast), Paul Klipp & Justyna Pindel (Agile Book Club podcast).

November Deep Dive

17th-20th November: Agendashift Deep Dive: Coaching and leading continuous transformation – eight 2-hour sessions over four days, EMEA-friendly timing. A practical, hands-on experience of Agendashift, the wholehearted outcome-oriented, engagement model.

All the usual discounts apply: repeat visits (not uncommon), partners, gov, edu, non-profit, country, un- or under-employment, bulk orders. If you think that one might apply to you, do please ask. We have a quorum already but the more the merrier.

Updates to Celebration-5W

There is a new version 4 deck for our workshop kickoff exercise, Celebration-5W. Like most of our exercises, games, templates etc it is Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA) and you can obtain it via its resource page agendashift.com/celebration-5w.

The main changes:

  • I’ve tweaked a key slide – see the image below – to suggest some initial iteration between When and What; the discussion (if not its later presentation) begins here
  • Unhiding the initial slides for facilitators – they weren’t showing up in Dropbox
  • In those initial slides for facilitators, the quote from Agendashift is now from the pending 2nd edition (more on that in a moment)

celebration-5w-2020-10-30

Progress on the 2nd edition

A couple of blog posts this month flow from (among other things) work on the 2nd edition of Agendashift:

From the second of those, nearly 3 weeks old now:

I’ll be pulling out all the stops, integrating (as Agendashift has done consistently for a long time) ideas and experience from Lean-Agile, organisation development, and strategy

Glad to report that this work on the 5th and final chapter is not only well underway, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now! Just a few more sections and I’ll have a first complete draft and I’ll be at the “90% done and still half the work to do” stage. I’m not quoting dates yet but quarter 1 of 2021 seems very doable.

Top posts

Recent:

Classic:


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How I choose my models

As demonstrated by the models-sources-inspirations picture below, I like my models. If you’ve read my third book Right to Left, you’ll know also that I have little time for the idea that there is one best model – one best Agile framework, for example. And the fun isn’t in choosing between them, not even in recognising what each of them can bring, but in integrating them. And it doesn’t stop there: this is not a one-shot process design exercise, but a process of continuous transformation. In short, I’m a pluralist, and I love to see what happens when models and their underlying patterns are allowed to combine.

agendashift-inspiration-map-2020-06-29

Believe it or not, I am a picky though. In one of our weekly community Zoom sessions (see #community in Slack), that pickiness resulted in a conversation that was outside our usual norms (if the truth be told I was abrupt to the point of rudeness) and I reflected afterwards on what happened. Happily, we cleared things up quickly and had a much healthier conversation the following week after I had the chance to turn something heartfelt into something more articulate. What follows is a summary.

If Agendashift has taught me anything, it is to be very careful with assumptions. Credit for this goes to Clean Language, which turns the dial up to 11 on the discipline of its practitioners to minimise the influence of their private assumptions (which are SO not the point) on their conversations. This discipline applies most to their explicitly Clean conversations but it rubs off elsewhere in ways that need not mean “coachiness” when that is not called for. Practicing it subtly trains your brain to recognise when you are imposing yourself in ways that aren’t helpful.

You see that attention to assumptions in Agendashift’s outside-in strategy review. The way we make explicit its carefully minimal assumptions is of great help to the facilitator. See my recent Cutter paper for details (announcement included in my post last week); they’re also in Right to Left (chapter 5) and there will be brief coverage in the forthcoming 2nd edition of Agendashift also.

I tend to avoid models that encourage me to make assumptions about what is going in someone’s mind, how they will behave, how they will develop, and so on. The same at team level and organisation level, and I have come to be particularly sceptical of extrapolations from one of those levels to another. The replication crisis (en.wikipedia.org) gives me pause also.  For better or for worse therefore, you won’t see Agendashift depending on many “popular” models of psychology, development, or maturity. This is not to say that they are valueless, rather that they make potentially unreliable foundations.

What I do appreciate:

  • Challenges to my own assumptions
  • Ways to moderate the impact of unsafe assumptions
  • Ways to bring assumptions and misalignments to the surface at the right time
  • Ways to encourage people to find their own solutions in the pursuit of outcomes (authentically shared outcomes most especially)
  • Ways to sustain all of the above – engines of transformation

And supporting those:

  • Models that have withstood scrutiny over a length of time
  • Models that treat the individual’s agency, creativity, and problem-solving ability with the utmost respect (you’ll permit me some personal values and base assumptions there I trust)
  • Models that help to scale up the preceding

Thankfully, the list of helpful and reliable models compatible with my outlook of optimistic pluralism outlook is long, a fact to which my Models, Source, and Inspirations picture attests. And please do not take the omission of a favourite model of yours as a snub; if I don’t have time to throw yours into the Great Model Collider™ in the hope that something interesting will fly out, perhaps you (or someone else) will.

Opinions mine, strongly held it would seem. Thank you Andrea Chiou and Tom Ayerst for putting up with me – we got there in the end 🙂


Upcoming workshops

Just the one event in the calendar for now – I’ll be adding some more soon, and feel free to twist my arm if you have a particular requirement, public or private. The full menu of workshops is laid out here and over the months I schedule them for most time zones.


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Good obstacle, bad obstacle: The recording

The recording of yesterday’s webinar Good Obstacle, Bad Obstacle is now live on Youtube. You can find it and all the links mentioned in it gathered together here:

I’ve added the deck to the Agendashift Assets Dropbox and you can request access to it via the above page. It’s CC-BY-SA, so feel free to have some fun with it.

While we’re here, let me repeat Monday’s updates, starting with the November Deep Dive:

Don’t hesitate to ask for a discount code if you think you might qualify on grounds of country, non-profit, government, educational, etc. Also if you’d be a repeat participant, of which there have been a good number!

Jay Hrcsko interviewed me the other day for the Agile Uprising podcast and you can listen to the recording at the link below. Thanks Jay, that was a lot of fun!

Also in the “just happened” category, Cutter Consortium has just published an article of mine in the form of an Executive Update. It’s a little dense compared to my books but it was fun rehearsing that particular chain of thought for the Agendashift 2nd edition. Grab it here:


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From: Good Obstacle, Bad Obstacle

Happening (or just happened)

Update: The webinar recording is now live – see here

Happening: Good Obstacle, Bad Obstacle; Agendashift Deep Dive. Just happened: Agile Uprising podcast; Cutter Consortium paper

Tomorrow’s free webinar is sailing close to the 100 participant limit (to the point that I’ve asked anyone who can’t attend to cancel) but there are at the time of writing a single-digit number of tickets available. Get yours here:

After that, the next big event is the November Deep Dive:

Re that one, don’t hesitate to ask for a discount if you think you might qualify on grounds of country, non-profit, government, educational, etc. Also if you’d be a repeat participant, of which there have been a good number!

Meanwhile, Jay Hrcsko interviewed me the other day for the Agile Uprising podcast and you can listen to the recording at the link below. Thanks Jay, that was a lot of fun!

Also in the “just happened” category, Cutter Consortium has just published an article of mine in the form of an Executive Update. It’s a little dense compared to my books but it was fun rehearsing that particular chain of thought for the Agendashift 2nd edition. Grab it here:

And thank you Andrea Chiou, Jonathan Sibley, and Jon Cashmore for your help – very gratefully received!


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From: Good Obstacle, Bad Obstacle

Still not a fan of the PDCA cycle or the continuous improvement initiative

I’ve just finished the first decent draft of chapter 3 of the Agendashift 2nd edition and its segue into the more operational part of the book. Choosing my words here quite carefully: you can take this post as warning that I won’t be praising the PDCA cycle or the continuous improvement initiative. There, I said it. Heresy?

Last week I posted this question on LinkedIn:

Ask LinkedIn: Why does Lean Startup’s build-measure-learn loop seem often to sustain itself but the continuous improvement loop (PDCA) that inspired it typically run out of steam quickly? I’ve written on the PDCA problem more than once before and I have plans to do so again but I’m curious to know what people think [source]

36 comments and several good answers later, the one that best gets to the issue is this from my friend Patrick Hoverstadt:

My suspicion Mike is that this is structural – PDCA works ON the process, whereas build-measure-learn IS the process. If you stop doing PDCA, the work still goes on, product still gets produced and shipped and paid for, but it just stops improving. If you stop doing build-measure-learn, then the build part stops, so no product, and the business stops. PDCA shouldn’t be, but often is seen as an extra. [source]

The Agendashift book’s strapline is Outcome oriented change and continuous transformation, so I do need to get beyond just identifying the issue. Here’s how the new chapter 3 begins to tackle it (and for context, here first is the patterns picture):

patterns

The […] myth is that change happens naturally in cycles. You plan an experiment. You do the work of the experiment. You check the results of the experiment. You act on those results. Rinse and repeat, one experiment leading to the next. The PDCA cycle (<figure>) in other words.

Replace PDCA with another improvement cycle and the brutal fact remains: one experiment does not inevitably launch another. Improvement cycles are not perpetual motion machines; they do not sustain themselves. If ever you have wondered why continuous improvement initiatives seem to run out of steam so quickly, perhaps instead you should be wondering how they last any time at all.

Let’s look at two places where experimentation does seem widespread:

  • At the high tech startup
  • At Toyota, the inspiration for Lean

Size-wise, they’re at opposite ends of the scale. So what do they have in common? It can’t be the technology – many of Toyota’s experiments are remarkably low-tech. Common (and I would say glib) answers such as “leadership”, “sponsorship”, or “culture” don’t help much because their respective cultures are so different. There is a grain of truth to them though, and I believe the lesson is this:

Experimentation is sustained where these two things are true:

  1. The learning that it generates matters to people
  2. When that learning isn’t happening, it gets noticed

If you’re not a startup it would be inauthentic to pretend that your situations are equivalent. Even if genuinely you’re in a fight for survival, your organisation most likely has (or at least had) some viable business at its core; the startup lacks even that anchor. And don’t expect to magic up Toyota’s kaizen culture overnight – it took them generations after all.

Agendashift’s answer:

  1. Experiments flow from meaningful outcomes and their measures of success (not rationalised the other way round), each experiment framed to ensure that learning will happen regardless of how it turns out
  2. Experimentation is conducted in the full knowledge that multiple levels of learning will be accounted for in forums that matter

My advice is to abandon the notion of the cycle and to keep separate the framing of individual experiments, the day-to-day management of your active experiments, and the harvesting of learning. Of the three, the last is by far the most important; with the right focus on it, the other two fall into line behind it.

Hence the pattern Right to left strategy deployment, the right to left part signifying the working backwards from meaningful outcomes, the strategy deployment part a reminder (among other things) of ­the importance and relevance of the work. Solving problems just because they are there will no longer do.

A reminder of those three aspects to keep separate:

  1. Framing experiments
  2. Managing your portfolio of active experiments
  3. Harvesting the learning

They’re covered across the final two chapters. The first two of those are well understood and the 1st edition covers them well. For the last one, which really means building a learning organisation, I’ll be pulling out all the stops, integrating (as Agendashift has done consistently for a long time) ideas and experience from Lean-Agile, organisation development, and strategy. Chapter 5 won’t be just the wrap-up chapter, it will be the climax, and I’m really excited about it. Happy to report that doing a 2nd edition is no drag 🙂

Before you go, a couple of dates for your diary:

Only a few places left for that first one. For the second, don’t hesitate to ask for a discount if you think you might qualify on grounds of country, non-profit, government, educational, etc. Also if you’d be a repeat participant, of which there have been a good number!

Related articles


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Agendashift roundup, September 2020

In this edition: Good obstacle, bad obstacle; The quality that now has a name; 15-minute FOTO update; Agendashift #community Zoom; Upcoming events; Top posts

Good obstacle, bad obstacle

Important dates coming soon: a free October webinar ahead of a November Deep Dive workshop. Details of both here:

The quality that now has a name

I’m hard at work on the 2nd edition of the Agendashift book (not far short of a rewrite if I’m honest) and I’m now on chapter 3 (of 5). In my head I’m a couple of chapters ahead and in this blog post you can see some of what’s going on up there!

15-minute FOTO update

I’ve done some work on the deck for 15-minute FOTO, aligning it with how I have been facilitating our Clean Language-inspired coaching game over recent weeks. Also, I’ve made it both easier for me to maintain and more flexible: hide/show slides according to format (Lite or Classic) and medium (in-room or online). More here:

Agendashift #community Zoom

On Wednesdays I like to put out a reminder on Slack that tomorrow (ie every Thursday) it’s the Agendashift #community Lean Coffee Zoom at 14:00 BST, 15:00 CEST, 9am EDT. I can’t include the Zoom link in this post so ping me for details or check the #community channel in Slack.

Upcoming events

I might yet add some December dates but that will very definitely be the last Deep Dive of the year. If you’re holding out for one in a different time zone in early 2021, let me know.

I get asked about discounts based on country or similar factors. Typically answer is yes, also for non-profit, government, educational, etc, or if you’ve done one of the bigger workshops before – several people have attended multiple times. And Agendashift partners of course. Again, ping me.

Top posts

Recent:

  1. What I really think about Scrum (August)
  2. 15-minute FOTO, latest v9 deck
  3. The quality that now has a name
  4. Good obstacle, bad obstacle
  5. #2MBM: Meaning before Metric, Measure before Method (July)

Classic:

  1. My favourite Clean Language question (January 2019)
  2. What kind of Organisational Development (OD)? (And a book recommendation) (May 2019)
  3. From Reverse STATIK to a ‘Pathway’ for continuous transformation (October 2019)
  4. Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley (February 2019)
  5. ‘Right to Left’ works for Scrum too (July 2018)

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workshop 2x1