Agendashift roundup, June 2019

In this edition: Visualising Agendashift; Online workshops; Featureban & Changeban; Right to Left (and Wholehearted); Upcoming workshops; Top posts

Visualising Agendashift

I’m rather chuffed that after only three days, Tuesday’s post is already the most read this month. I think it’s my best explanation of Agendashift yet! It is certainly the most visual, being based on the slides for a talk I gave at the Agile in Covent Garden meetup in London last week.

Read it here:

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.29.37

Online workshops

One way to experience for yourself what’s described in that post is to participate in a public workshop. I’ve already announced an autumn programme of immersive, in-room workshops (see Upcoming workshops below) but what’s new is the chance to do it online*. Furthermore, we’re partnering with the Open Leadership Network** to offer this as certified training for the first time.

The first of these was held this week; the next one will be in just over two weeks’ time and there are places still available:

*Some partners are doing Agendashift online with their clients already and we of course compare notes. This week I’ve done a quick debrief of my experience to the #workshops channel in Slack.

**It was the Open Leadership Network that brought me to Boston last month. For a reminder of why I think this new expression of Open is significant, read my pre-Boston post Why the Open Leadership Symposium is a big deal.

Featureban & Changeban

The other big news for June was the long-promised release of Featureban 3.0 and alongside it some updates to Changeban. They now live under a shared Dropbox folder so that subscribers always have access to the latest versions. All completely free of course – along with many of our other resources, they’re published under a Creative Commons license. Read the announcement here:

Right to Left (and Wholehearted)

Frustratingly, what should have been the biggest news of all for June will happen instead in July. My third book Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile has taken a bit longer to go to print than anticipated, but it’s nearly there now.

Agendashift partner, collaborator, and book reviewer extraordinaire Steven Mackenzie has been running meanwhile with the idea of the wholehearted organisation, something you may remember that I blogged about during the writing of the book. Naturally, I’m very glad to have sparked something! Here’s Steven:

When Right to Left comes out you’ll find the referenced passage in chapter 5 (of 6).

Upcoming workshops
(Online, Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin)

I must also mention the conferences whose support makes two of these workshops possible:

For the Istanbul conference I have a discount code for 10% off the Super Early Bird price (so be quick I guess!); ping me if interested.

Top posts

  1. Visualising Agendashift: The why and how of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation
  2. At last! Featureban 3.0 and Changeban 1.2
  3. Martin, this one’s for you
  4. Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley (February)
  5. What kind of Organisational Development (OD)? (And a book recommendation)

Leading change in the 21st century? You need a 21st century engagement model:

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Links: Home | Partners | Books |Resources | Events | Contact | Mike
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Visualising Agendashift: The why and how of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation

First, what doesn’t work (or at least it fails more often than it succeeds), transformation (Agile or otherwise) as project:

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.27.19.png

Using a shallow and dysfunctional version of a model that was already tired 20 years ago [1], linear plan meets adaptive challenge in a complex environment. Seriously? I’m not sure which is the saddest thing – that its failure modes are so painfully familiar, or that they’re so avoidable:

  • Instead of obsessing over how to overcome resistance, stop provoking it! Instead of imposing change, make it a process that is open in a big way to meaningful participation and creative collaboration.
  • Wrong solutions aren’t a problem if your experiments are:
    1. small enough to fail quickly, cheaply, and safely
    2. framed to generate learning about real needs, succeed or fail
  • Instead of being driven by solutions – with energy wasted on the consequences of  commitments made in the past – organise around outcomes, getting quickly to the point where you can confirm that they are already beginning to be realised
  • Instead of a depressing sequence of failed change projects – each of which on its own would risk fatigue – normalise a continuous style of change, baking it into everyday ways of working

None of this is hard. Despite its record of failure though, that linear model has familiarity on its side, not to mention generations of managers being taught that this how things are done “properly”. Thankfully, credible alternatives do exist however (see [2] for a selection), and here’s Agendashift (this is the Agendashift blog after all).

Agendashift’s defining characteristic is that it is outcome-oriented. Just about every part of it deals in some way with outcomes: identifying them, articulating them, organising them, working out how they might be achieved, and on on. In this post I endeavour to visualise that process.

I will describe Agendashift in 10 steps. That might sound worryingly linear, but there’s some structure to it:

  • Steps 1-4 are happening frequently, at different levels of detail, and to varying degrees of formality – in fact those are just some of the ways in which Agendashift scales (the topic of a forthcoming post). Together, these steps represent a coaching pattern (or routine, or kata if you like).  It’s not just for practitioners – we teach it to participants too, introducing a more outcome-oriented kind of conversation into organisations that may have become over-reliant on solution-driven conversations.
  • Steps 5-9 are about managing options, a continuous process punctuated from time to time by more intense periods of activity.
  • Step 10 could just as easily be numbered step 0 – it’s about the organisational infrastructure necessary to sustain the transformation process.

Steps 1-4: A coaching pattern that anyone can practice

Step 1: Bring the challenge close to home

The pattern starts with some kind of generative image, the organisation development (OD) community’s term for “ideas, phrases, objects, pictures, manifestos, stories, or new words” that are both compelling in themselves and are capable of generating a diverse range of positive responses [3, 4].

Agendashift provides a number of these starting points:

  • The Agendashift True North [5]
  • The prompts of one of the Agendashift assessments; the Agendashift delivery assessment in particular has 43 of these, a few of which are prioritised by people individually or in small groups
  • Potentially, any of the outcomes generated through this process overall (we make this explicit in the Full Circle exercise, presented in the book [6] as an epilogue)

Sometimes these generative images may seem out of reach, but nevertheless, reflecting on them is typically a positive experience, sometimes even cathartic. The invitation is simple:

  • “What’s that like? How is it different to what you have now?”
  • “What’s happening when this is working at its best for you?”
  • “X months down the line, what will you be celebrating?”

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.27.40.png

Step 2: Identify obstacles

Again, a simple question:

  • “What obstacles are in the way?”

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.28.01.png

Step 3 (optional): Clarify

Deep diagnosis at this stage tends not to be productive. Sometimes however it can be helpful to clarify a little, when obstacles seem vague and/or overgeneralised, or when they seem to prescribe a solution already:

  • “What kind of X?” (the X here referring to an obstacle)
  • “What’s happening when X?”  (ditto, this question being helpful for finding the real obstacles that motivate prematurely-specified solutions)

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.28.31.png

Step 4: Outcomes, more outcomes, and yet more outcomes 

From our generative image, a generative process, one capable of producing lots of output! It starts with a classic coaching question:

  • “What would you like to have happen?” (for an obstacle)

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.29.09.png

Moving deeper into ‘outcome space’:

  • “And when X, then what happens?” (the X here identifying an outcome noted previously)

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.29.24.png

Clarifying, exploring locally, or preparing to take conversation in different direction:

  • “What kind of X?”
  • “What is happening when X?”

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.29.37.png

See [7] for more of these Clean Language questions (with a video) and [8] for an brief introduction to how they work. What we have here is a highly repeatable coaching pattern adaptable to a wide range of contexts. And as we practice it we’re teaching change agents of every kind how to speak the language of outcomes.

Steps 5-9: Managing options

These steps are about managing the bigger picture (sometimes quite literally):

Step 5: Organise (Map)

Here are two possible visual organisations of the generated outcomes: the Options Orientation Map (aka Reverse Wardley [9,10]) and something akin to a User Story Map, with outcomes prioritised in columns:

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.32.21.png

Step 6: Prioritise, just in time

When – by design – everything is changing, it’s better to give yourself options than to decide and specify everything up front:

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.32.34.png

Step 7: Choose the right kind of approach

Outcomes don’t just vary by size or difficulty, they differ fundamentally:

  • Outcomes that need the minimum of ceremony, because everyone can easily agree what needs to be done
  • Outcomes that can be delegated to someone with the necessary expertise
  • Outcomes for which multiple ways forward can be identified, yet (paradoxically perhaps) it’s clear that the journey will involve twists and turns that are hard to predict
  • Outcomes for which it’s hard to see beyond symptomatic fixes

If you’re thinking Cynefin at this point, well spotted! See [9, 10] again.

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.32.52.png

Step 8: Generate options

Where you want innovation, create the opportunity to generate multiple options for the outcome or outcomes currently under the spotlight, and as diverse as you can make them. If you have a framework in mind and it has good options for your current challenges, include them! (We’re framework-agnostic, not anti-framework!)

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.33.05.png

Step 9: Frame hypotheses, develop experiments

Not every outcome is best approached this way (see step 7), but where uncertainty is high, frame your chosen option as a hypothesis, then develop it as an experiment [11]:

Keeping the show on the road

Step 10: Rinse and repeat

So often said, and so often ignored! Whenever you hear “change cycle” or “improvement cycle”, it’s important to ask about the mechanisms in your organisation design (structure, process, leadership behaviours, etc) that will sustain the process. That’s a question we know to ask, and we have some helpful patterns to suggest when the current organisation design is lacking.

Among other things, we’re looking for at least three levels of feedback loop:

  1. The day-to-day meetings whose purpose is to help people make informed choices about what to do, where to collaborate, and when to seek help
  2. Operational review meetings that:
    • Step far enough back from the day-to-day to scrutinise progress (or lack thereof) in terms of both speed and direction
    • Create expectations of continuous and impactful experimentation
    • Cause learnings to be aired and spread
  3. Strategic review meetings that reconfirm key objectives (calibrating the level of ambition appropriately), and ensure the right levels of commitment relative to other goals

One way to visualise the strategic calibration part is as an “aspiration gap”, the area in red below between the outcomes being worked towards and the overall challenge that seeded this process.

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.33.31.png

Sometimes the aspiration gap is so big that it isn’t even recognised – not seeing the wood for the trees, so to speak. With too little ambition and too little coherence across the options under consideration, both energy and alignment are lacking. Continuous improvement initiatives are prone to this; their failure modes may be different from those of the linear change project but failure here is still uncomfortably common.

Conversely, when the aspiration gap is small, there may be too much focus on an overly specific objective, leaving few options available outside a prescribed path. You’re into linear planning territory again, and we know how that goes!

This is why those three feedback loops are so necessary. Almost by definition, continuous transformation needs daily conversations. For it to be sustained, it also needs a tangible sense of progress and periodic reorientation and recalibration.

“Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation” – the strapline to the Agendashift book – summarises the process pretty well. If there’s anything hard about it, it is simply that it’s a departure from that familiar but tired old linear model, the one that we all know doesn’t really work. So dare to try something new!


[1] What kind of Organisational Development (OD)? (And a book recommendation)
[2] Engagement: more than a two-way street
[3] Notes on Dialogic Organizational Development (
[4] Gervase Bushe: Generative Images (
[5] Resources: True North
[6] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation
[7] 15-minute FOTO
[8] My favourite Clean Language question
[9] Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley
[10] Takeaways from Boston and Berlin
[11] The Agendashift A3 template

Upcoming Agendashift workshops
(Online, Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin)

Leading change in the 21st century? You need a 21st century engagement model:

Blog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | Partners | Books |Resources | Events | Contact | Mike
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At last! Featureban 3.0 and Changeban 1.2

As long promised, there is now an official 3.0 version of Featureban that incorporates the best of Changeban, making it easier to facilitate and more fun to play. Changeban itself has a new version 1.2 after some weeks in beta.

For the uninitiated, Featureban is (and I quote) our simple, fun, and highly customisable kanban simulation game. Since its creation in 2014 it has been used by trainers and coaches in Lean, Agile and Kanban-related events the world over. Changeban was derived from Featureban and retains many similarities, which is how improvements to Changeban have ultimately benefited Featureban too.

Which to use?

  • Featureban if you’re teaching Kanban in a development context and/or want to teach Kanban metrics
  • Changeban for most other purposes

I don’t go out of my way to advertise Kanban training. No big drama there but I have other priorities now and there’s no shortage of people who can do it. However, being the author of a recommended book has its privileges and I do get asked from time to time! In accordance with my experience before explanation” mantra I always start any training with Featureban. I get to use Changeban rather more often these days – it’s a fixture at Advanced Agendashift workshops (see public workshop listings at the end of this announcement).

Key changes:

  • For Changeban, version 1.0 represented the completion of a transition from the use of coins as the source of variation to the use of cards instead (more on those in a moment). Featureban 3.0 does the same, with a transitional (coins or cards) version 2.3 and a classic 2.2 version (coins only) still available for old times’ sake in the Dropbox.
  • Affecting Featureban only, its biggest source of confusion has been eliminated. There is now no mention of pairing and gone are the well-intentioned but non-obvious restrictions that went with that; instead players may “help someone” (anyone!) if they’re out of other options. There is a small price to pay and it’s the reason for my hesitation to address the frustration: the flow efficiency calculation in the spreadsheet is now merely an estimate.
  • Changes to the slides to make both games quicker and easier to introduce. Changeban has improved in this regard even since the recent video! Thank you (once again) to Steven Mackenzie for the nudge and for your own experiments.
  • For practical reasons, it was a mistake on my part to distribute Featureban by sharing links to individual files. There’s now a single combined Dropbox folder with all the files (original sources, PDFs, and translations) for both games. Once you’re subscribed, you’ll always have access to the latest.


Coins are not only less ubiquitous than once they were (it’s amazing how times change), they’re fiddly to handle, and they lack the replayability of cards. Trust me, once you’ve made the switch, you won’t want to go back!

Regular playing cards work well enough but I prefer to use these printed cards with the colour-specific rules on them:

These 65mm square cards were done by Moo (advertised as square business cards). We’re very happy with the results from testing but will continue to experiment with other formats. One small niggle here: the accept/reject rule shown here at the bottom of each card applies only to Changeban; this is made clearer in the most recent sources.


Featureban was one of my earliest experiments in Creative Commons licensing, and never a moment’s regret! Both games are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit

Check out blog posts tagged open for more on our commitments in this area.

Subscribe! Collaborate!

Go to either Featureban or Changeban and request your combined Dropbox invite there. It’s not essential that you subscribe to the two individually – the folder is the same but feel free if you want to signal your interest in both.

And if you haven’t already, I would strongly recommend joining the #featureban and #changeban channels in the Agendashift Slack.

Upcoming Agendashift workshops
(Online, Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin)

Leading change in the 21st century? You need a 21st century engagement model:

Blog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | Partners | Books |Resources | Events | Contact | Mike
Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter


Five public Agendashift workshops this autumn: Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin


Very pleased to confirm this autumn programme of public workshops:

As well as to partners Kjell Tore, Nikos, and Leanovate (my repeat hosts in Berlin), I’m grateful to the organisers of these conferences, without whom two of these workshops wouldn’t be happening:

Can’t wait that long? Can’t travel? Check out these online workshops:

Leading change in the 21st century? You need a 21st century engagement model:

Blog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | Partners | Books |Resources | Events | Contact | Mike
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Agendashift roundup, May 2019

In this edition: Martin, this one’s for you; Two kinds of organisation development (OD); Featureban and Changeban; Upcoming workshops – Stockholm, Berlin, and online; Top posts

Martin, this one’s for you

This month the Lean-Agile community mourned the sudden and tragic loss of Martin Burns, a friend to many. My tribute, with links to several others – all of which well worth reading – is here:

Right to Left

Everything crossed, Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile comes out next month (sorry, I can’t give an exact date yet). Watch out for a Q&A with Ben Linders on InfoQ soon, always a pleasure!

Two kinds of organisation development (OD)

“So many books, so little time” (Pliny the Younger or Frank Zappa – take your pick). I began the month with a book I wish I had known about soon enough to reference in Agendashift, Bushe & Marshak’s Dialogic Organization Development: The Theory and Practice of Transformational Change. In a highly encouraging way it had a profound effect on me and continues to do so; read my initial thoughts and then some practical follow-through in these two posts:

Featureban and Changeban

For months I’ve been promising a big update to Featureban, a Kanban simulation game that is used around the world and remains one of my most popular downloads. Not only do I now have a 3.0 beta version that I’ll be playing next week and releasing soon, we’ve tested some improvements too in Changeban (see below a photo from Berlin last week) that benefit both games. So watch out for an announcement, both here on the blog and in your inbox if you’re a registered user of either game.

2019-05-23 13.28.28-1.jpg

Meanwhile, we have at last a video for Changeban (thank you Steven Mackenzie for producing it), announcement here:

Upcoming workshops – Stockholm, Berlin, and online

Watch this space for autumn dates in Greece, Turkey, London, and the Benelux region.

Top posts


  1. Martin, this one’s for you
  2. What kind of Organisational Development (OD)? (And a book recommendation)
  3. A video for Changeban (and related: what’s in store for Featureban)
  4. Takeaways from Boston and Berlin
  5. Needs-based, outcome-oriented, continuous, open


  1. ‘Right to Left’ works for Scrum too (July 2018)
  2. How the Leader-Leader model turns Commander’s Intent upside down(June 2018)
  3. Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley (February 2019)

Blog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter

We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence 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…


Takeaways from Boston and Berlin

Update (June 28th 2019): Over the months, the exercise referred to here by my working title Reverse Wardley has served us incredibly well. With full credit to Liz and Karl, it’s a great addition to our workshops and I love it! My name for it has proved way too nerdy for some tastes though, and after several iterations in the Agendashift Slack we may be settling on Option Visibility Mapping. If that changes, I’ll update this update! I’ve also added a new tag ‘mapping‘ to this and related posts.

Within days of each other, two 2-day Advanced Agendashift workshops in very different settings and the opportunity therefore for both experimentation and fast feedback. In no particular order:

  1. I was in Boston not just for the workshop but for the Open Leadership Symposium, and my biggest takeaway was that Agendashift and OpenSpace Agility (OSA) seem to be made for each other. The question is when we get try it! There seem to be multiple ways to do it: Agendashift as OSA’s Assessment phase, Agendashift as the way to generate an “in our own words” challenge for the first OpenSpace, Agendashift to formalise some of what happens between OpenSpaces, and so on.
  2. If you want constructive feedback, go to Germany! As a regular visitor (see below for the next Berlin workshop) I knew this one already; last week’s group didn’t fail me and I’m grateful to them for helping to identify both a facilitation risk and an easy mitigation. Long story short: participants should be given more help to avoid generating overly abstract obstacles, guided to start with more everyday frustrations, misalignments, and missed opportunities instead. Abstract concepts are a difficult starting point, and we can still trust 15-minute FOTO to reach them as a destination instead.
  3. In both workshops, we kept referring back to a new slide I added to the introduction. This summarises the diagnostic and dialogic approaches to organisation development outlined in my recent post What kind of Organisational Development (OD)?). Deliberately emphasising the dialogic side, the question “Are there things here that we could take back to the wider organisation?” seems to be a good one for facilitators to ask. Taking this further, it’s not hard to imagine an ‘expanded’, ‘bootstrapped’, or multi-level Agendashift that replaces or augments its provided content (mainly the True North and the assessment prompts) with user-generated content.

In both workshops, that awareness of the opportunity for wider dialogue remained with us in day 2. As described in Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley, the second day now opens with this ‘string’ of interconnected mapping exercises:

  1. The Cynefin 4 Points Contextualisation exercise, or ‘4 Points’ for short (it’s strongly advised not to mention Cynefin or its jargon until the end)
  2. ‘Option Orientation Mapping’, which is Karl Scotland’s proposed name for what I have been calling ‘Reverse Wardley’
  3. Story Mapping (not an accurate name; ‘Pathway Mapping’ might be better)

From Berlin, here’s a very nice 4 Points example:

2019-05-23 10.10.07

Marked with asterisks around the top left corner are outcomes that are likely suited to an iterative and hypothesis-based approach. Let’s now also visualise what the book calls ‘thematic outcomes’, around which plans might be organised or consultation exercises conducted. These are to be found towards the top (and often towards the left) of the Option Orientation (aka Reverse Wardley) Map, which is very quick to build if you have done 4 Points first:

2019-05-23 10.39.49-1

Zooming in, note the exclamation marks (the words used aren’t as important as the fact they’re seen by the group as important):

2019-05-23 10.47.25

Identifying these themes makes it much easier to let go of the provided story map headings (the larger orange stickies, based on the Reverse STATIK model) and consider replacing them with user-generated structure (positioned above those):

2019-05-23 12.25.30-1

The Boston example kept more of its original structure, but an interesting touch was to add themes from Discovery too, potentially a useful technique:

2019-05-17 12.19.45 cropped

(And no, I don’t see “RIMBAP” catching on in the way STATIK did!)

So… lots to feed back into the standard materials over the summer (for use not just by me but available to all partners), plenty of food for thought too, and a new Slack channel #future-developments in which ideas can be aired. All in all, those weeks of travel were very fruitful.

Upcoming workshops – Stockholm, Berlin, and online

Watch this space for autumn dates in Greece, Turkey, London, and the Benelux region.

Blog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter

We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence 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…



Martin, this one’s for you

A week ago we were trying process the impossible – the news that friend, colleague, encourager, and debating partner Martin Burns had suddenly passed away. Starting with one from Martin’s wife Lucy, here are some touching tributes:

In the light of the above it’s easy to explain my small tribute, which is to dedicate my forthcoming book Right to Left to his memory. Lucy has given her permission, and I’ve had confirmation that the dedication and a postscript can be accommodated at this late stage (it is already with the typesetter).

I have described Martin as “encourager and debating partner”. And it’s not just me – two very strong themes can be drawn from the tributes:

  1. Martin the optimist – always ready to think the best of people, “people positive”, to borrow a phrase from Aaron Dignan’s recent book
  2. Martin the principled – prepared to make a public stand for difficult causes in the face of opposition from people he continued to respect

Those weren’t two different Martins; rather he demonstrated that you could be both things at the same time. To take a notable and relevant example from his recent professional life, he supported SAFe because of what he believed it could do for people in the right context, and not to imply that it should be imposed on people (and oh how I wish that more people could separate those two concerns).

Martin was already named in the acknowledgements as a contributor to Right to Left. This was not just for his SAFe knowledge (key to a chapter on scaling, a potentially controversial chapter and one I really wanted to get right), but for confirming to me that the tension between the left-to-right (backlog-driven and implementation-focussed) and right-to-left (needs-based and outcome-oriented) perspectives manifests itself in SAFe just as it does for Scrum. Moreover, I knew him as an Agendashift supporter, an enthusiastic participant at the first ever Advanced workshop, and a valued advocate for it in his client engagements. To say that his name deserved inclusion would be an understatement.

People like Martin don’t come along every day, and it is good therefore to say thank you when they do. Martin, this one’s for you.

Martin Burns-4-square.jpeg