FOTO in 15-minuti

Quick one: Massimo Sarti has kindly translated the 15-minute FOTO cue card into Italian. Thanks to Alex Pukinskis, we have it in German also. If you’d like either one of these, just go to the 15-minute FOTO page, request the materials as usual, and mention which one you’d like.

Massimo’s translation is particularly timely: since July’s roundup we now have a booking page up for the Core Agendashift workshop Facilitating Outcome-Oriented Change in Brescia, Italy on November 9th, ahead of Italian Agile Day 2018 on the 10th. We both hope to see you there!

Screenshot 2018-08-06 12.41.25

15-minute FOTO is our Clean Language-inspired coaching game, an essential and memorable component of every Agendashift workshop. We have released it under a Creative Commons with-attribution licence to enable its wider use and to encourage adaptations.

FOTO stands for “From Obstacles to Outcomes”, and you have 15 minutes to generate as many as you can, using only the questions on the cue card. An example of “generative over prescriptive” if you like.


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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 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…

You can’t deliver a task

As suggested in the July roundup, this is the first of a few posts expanding on tweets that have sprung to mind while writing (or thinking about writing) my third book, working title Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile.

Years ago, in my past life as a manager (which I still re-enter from time to time as an interim), I learned that there was little value in me tracking tasks. What mattered to me was the deliverable. Interestingly, I noticed that when I visibly stopped taking an interest in tasks, most of my team members followed suit. I said “It’s completely fine by me to tasks on the board if that’s what works for you, but I’m not going to ask about them”, and soon the task stickies disappeared.

As a team, we made rare exceptions for features that failed our “2 day rule”, which is to say features that at a very rough guess would require more than a couple of days worth of development. Experience taught us that these were disproportionately risky, so it seemed justified to insist on some kind of plan. Of course what actually happened was that most of these big features got sliced into smaller features, and then everyone’s happy to go back to feature-level tracking.

Stop tracking tasks, and no longer does the tracking system drive the developer to work in a way that doesn’t seem natural. A bit over here, a bit over there, then back to the first bit… if the tests say it’s fine, it’s fine! Two people with different skills working together on the same feature? Go for it! And at a stroke it eliminates the anti-pattern of “tasks for quality” – ie separate tasks for unit tests, refactoring, and the like (in the global department I ran more than a decade ago, these tasks disappeared when I asked why these things weren’t happening as the code was being written; I guess my predecessor didn’t see things in quite the same way).

And then there’s the whole question of when a task can be said to be “done”. How do you that some low-level piece of work is really done if the feature as a whole isn’t yet working? Somehow I think that this may have come up before….

Screenshot 2018-05-05 06.23.15Our handy, referenceable, Definition of Done

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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 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…

Agendashift roundup, July 2018

In this edition: Strategy workshop and Agendashift Studio; Right to Left; Public workshops (US, UK, IT, DE); Top posts

Strategy workshop and Agendashift Studio

On consecutive days early this month (before things began to slow down for the summer) I led a private strategy workshop done Agendashift-style and then a small “Agendashift Studio” workshop held in my studio office in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, just outside the Peak District National Park.

For obvious reasons I can’t go into a lot of detail about the private workshop but it did result in a blog post:

There’ll be at least a chapter’s worth of this in the new book (more on that in a moment), covering the use of this kind of outside-in structure for strategy and operations reviews in the kind of depth that wasn’t possible in the Agendashift book.

The Agendashift Studio workshop was a lot of fun. Here’s some great feedback:

We’ve started a new #agendashift-studio channel in the Agendashift Slack for coordinating future Studio workshops. It’s an exercise in self-organisation – if 3 or 4 participants can agree a date that also works for me, then we have a workshop; likely we’ll have another one in the coming weeks, perhaps as soon as August. They’re very affordable, there are generous discounts for government/education/nonprofit etc, and we generally hold them on a Friday or Saturday so that participants can spend some weekend time in the Peak District if they wish.

Right to Left

Monthly status check: 11,258 words, and well into chapter 3. Also, a new landing page:

In addition to the one already mentioned, this month’s blog posts are very much related to the new book:

The first of those is already a top 3 post for the year, which is very encouraging! I happen to know that at least one forthcoming article from a member of the SAFe community has been inspired by it, and I’m hopeful of some constructive engagement with other scaling communities too. If you’re part of one, please get in touch!

Some tweetable thoughts that might become future blog posts:

Right to Left will be my least technical book (it’s aimed at managers first, practitioners second), but still I maintain my usual respect for my sources. I’ve been exploring the Viable System Model as “deep background”, and several of us have been discussing this and other things from the world of Systems Thinking, Complexity, and the Learning Organisation, which you may recognise as a chapter title from my first book Kanban from the Inside. To join us in that particular conversation, find the #systhink-complexity channel in the Agendashift Slack.

Public workshops (US, UK, IT, DE)

Note: Early bird pricing for the Brighton workshop ends on Tuesday.

We’re also looking at doing one in northeast England, perhaps in Newcastle. If that would be of interest, please get in touch.

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Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
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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 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…

#RightToLeft is #Agendashift (outcome-orientation) for delivery

Going by chapter counts, Agendashift [1] is 80% outcome-oriented change and 20% continuous transformation. It describes an approach to Lean-Agile transformation that  rejects imposition, replacing it with meaningful agreement on outcomes, bringing together organisational ambitions and the needs of everyone who will help bring those ambitions to reality.

Can we do for delivery what Agendashift does for change? Of course we can, The only surprise it that it’s so necessary!

It has always been well understood in Lean circles that to make proper sense of a delivery process, you must start with how the thing that is being delivered creates value in the eyes of the customer, and work backwards from there. Somehow, that lesson gets forgotten in Agile circles; either Agile is all about teams (a view I can find some respect for, even if I don’t fully buy it), or we’re fed the ironically process-centric lie that teams start with backlogs and create value from there.

Screenshot 2018-05-05 06.23.15
Our handy, referenceable, Definition of Done

#RightToLeft is about recovering a focus on customer outcomes for Lean-Agile delivery [2], and maintaining that perspective as we work backwards through the delivery process, understanding it better, managing it better, and finding ways to do it better.

It’s a simple but surprisingly radical change of perspective. With it, it’s surprisingly easy to see that there are two Scrums [3], the mechanistic, backlog-first left-to-right version and the ‘iterated goal-seeking’ right-to-left version. It turns out that there are two versions of SAFe too; expect to see more on that soon (and not just from me). I haven’t yet established whether there are left-to-right and right-to-left versions of the other leading scaling frameworks; it would be nice to identify some that are predominantly right-to-left, but we’ll see (if you can help or just want to stay in touch with this work, join us in the #right-to-left channel in the Agendashift Slack [4]).

The Right to Left book [5] will come out next summer. Meanwhile, Agendashift has plenty to offer. For example, how do you explain survey results [6] like these?

Screenshot 2018-07-20 10.59.11

When I see results like these (which I do a lot), it’s all I can do to resist sarcastic lines like “Great to see all that leadership put to such good use!”. There’s some good(ish) news –transparency, balance, and collaboration are doing somewhat ok, relatively speaking (even if the numbers aren’t great in absolute terms and they’re not having the impact on flow that we would hope for), but just look at customer focus! Fortunately, I see a great appetite for doing something about this, paying more attention to needs, embracing validation, and so on.

I’ve said a few times now that I would be happy to see the rest of my career (I’m 53) being devoted to outcomes. When I first started saying it, I didn’t have #RightToLeft in mind, but that’s 100% ok. Perhaps one day we’ll be describing #Agendashift as #RightToLeft for change!

[1] Agendashift (www.agendashift.com)
[2] Understanding Lean-Agile, right to left (blog.agendashift.com)
[3] #RightToLeft works for Scrum too (blog.agendashift.com)
[4] Agendashift on Slack (www.agendashift.com)
[5] Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean-Agile (www.agendashift.com)
[6] Agendashift™ Assessments, also chapter 2 of the book (www.agendashift.com)


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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 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…

An outside-in strategy review, Agendashift style

I’ve just about finished an initial draft of the second chapter of Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean-Agile (which now has a landing page). Its three-part structure is firming up nicely as follows:

  1. Right to left (four chapters): Lean; Agile; Fundamental Lean-Agile patterns and how they combine; Scaling frameworks
  2. Outside in (one to three chapters): Strategy reviews (and related tools); Capability reviews; Feedback loops and other organisational patterns
  3. Upside down (one  to two chapters): Designing for leadership and change: Servant leadership, Leader-Leader, the inverted pyramid, engagement models (of which Agendashift is an example) and so on

The shape works, and I’m thrilled with how the well the right-to-left thing is working out – see for example last week’s post #RightToLeft works for Scrum too which is already a top 5 post for the year and is helping me find collaborators interested in giving the scaling frameworks a similar treatment.

I’ve not just been writing. Let me share four questions I posed (one at a time) at a outside-in strategy review (a private workshop):

  1. Customer: What’s happening when we’re reaching the right customers, meeting their strategic needs? (‘Strategic needs’ being the customer needs that best define our mission)
  2. Organisation: When we’re meeting those strategic needs, what kind of organisation are we?
  3. Product: Through what products and services are we meeting those strategic needs?
  4. Platform: When we’re that kind of organisation, meeting those strategic needs, delivering those products and services, what are the defining/critical capabilities that make it all possible?

(Admission: I got two of these the wrong way round in my prep last week, which changes the wording slightly. This exercise still worked great though!)

If you’re familiar with the model, you may be wondering what happened to the fifth and innermost layer, Team. This we covered not by a question, but via the Agendashift True North, focussing not on the work that teams are doing but on ways of working.

As we considered each layer, we captured some vision, then obstacles. After exploring the five layers individually, 15-minute FOTO to turn obstacles into outcomes.

15-minute-foto-cue-card-2018-01-29 The 15-minute FOTO cue card

Precede all of that with some forward-looking context-setting and segue into hypothesis driven change and A3 (all of which are standard features of our transformation strategy workshops) and you have an outcome-oriented strategy review, done Agendashift style.

Want to explore these and other complementary strategy-related tools with us? Join myself and Karl Scotland at our Agendashift + X-Matrix Masterclass9th-11th October, Brighton, UK. Or drop us a line about private workshops. You might even facilitate one yourself – the tools and materials aren’t expensive!


Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
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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 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…

#RightToLeft works for Scrum too

Here’s a “left to right” [1] description of Scrum:

A Product Backlog (all the stuff we’d like to do), a Sprint Backlog (the stuff we plan to do this sprint), then a Sprint (a timebox) that culminates in a potentially shippable increment, a review, and a retrospective. Rinse and repeat.

To me, this is how NOT to describe Scrum. Is it a straw man, put up just so that I can knock it down? Hardly! Not all descriptions of Scrum follow this narrative, but it’s common enough. Complete with a video, here’s a nicely-produced example from a reliable source, the Scrum Alliance: Learn about Scrum (web.archive.org). It’s one of the first pages returned by Google in response to the question “What is Scrum?”.

The bullet points below are the first few from that page’s 30 second summary, and they’re very close to the commentary on the video:

  • A product owner creates a prioritized wish list called a product backlog.
  • During sprint planning, the team pulls a small chunk from the top of that wish list, a sprint backlog, and decides how to implement those pieces.
  • The team has a certain amount of time — a sprint (usually two to four weeks) — to complete its work, but it meets each day to assess its progress (daily Scrum).
  • Along the way, the ScrumMaster keeps the team focused on its goal.

If you wanted to describe Waterscrumfall, would you describe it any differently? Perhaps “the team is arm-twisted into pulling a implausibly large amount of work into the sprint (or the project manager helpfully does it for them)”, but little else changes.  Would it help if the process description were prefaced with mentions of agility, complexity, and so on? That must depend on the reader’s frame of reference; if they don’t share our understanding of those words, they’re just noise.

Let’s try a “right to left” description:

A Scrum Team moves towards its Product Vision goal by goal, the team collaborating around a shared goal for a timeboxed interval called the Sprint, at the end of which the team reflects on how well the Sprint Goal was achieved before it prepares for the next one, organising around a new goal. The team’s best understanding of the work required to achieve the Sprint Goal is represented by a Sprint Backlog; options for future sprints are maintained in a Product Backlog.

The same process, yet so different, and with much less room for misinterpretation. This – I think – is much more like the Scrum that people love. Do you agree? Would you describe it differently?

Thanks to Steve Porter and Thorbjørn Sigberg for their feedback on earlier drafts of this post.

[1] Understanding Lean-Agile, right to left

Suppose you had to understand Lego – and I mean really understand it. Where do you start? With children playing, or with plastic feedstock?

 


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Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: 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…

Agendashift roundup, June 2018

In this edition: Agendashift as…; A new joint 3-day workshop; Happy birthday!; Progress on Right to Left; Out and about; Top posts

Agendashift as…

In recent weeks and in weeks to come we’re pushing boundaries, getting into new areas:

  • Agendashift as an enhancement to Kanban training – using the assessment and some lightly structured “obstacles to outcomes” conversations to organise the day and help participants focus their work on things that really matter. I don’t actively seek out this kind of training opportunity but am happy to deliver an outcome-oriented experience when the call comes!
  • Agendashift as leadership development – another private workshop, helping leaders make the shift away from command and control, getting comfortable with (i) outcomes as the focus for self-organisation, and (ii) experiments as a powerful way to frame and develop actions.
  • Agendashift as business strategy development – “outcome-oriented” meets “outside-in”, the latter just a minor theme of the Agendashift book but one that will see greater prominence in the next one. Expect to hear more in the meantime as we pursue this on the ground, taking our tools of transformation strategy and adapting them for application in more general strategy work.

This October: 3-day Advanced Agendashift + X-Matrix workshop

One of my key collaborators is already very active in the strategy deployment space, and I’m delighted to announce another joint workshop with Karl Scotland. For the first time we’re bringing together the Advanced Agendashift workshop (already at least 2 days worth) and Karl’s X-Matrix workshop. You can be part of that collaboration, joining us for 3 days in Brighton ahead of the Lean Agile Brighton conference. More here:

Happy birthday!

On June 14th our Slack community celebrated its second birthday. Of all the things I’ve helped create, this is definitely one of the coolest. If you’re not participating, you’re missing out! More here about the kinds of channels on offer and how to join:

Progress on Right to Left

A quick monthly update on the third book: 7,164 words, nearing the end of chapter 2, still aiming for early summer next year. I have a ton of other people’s stuff to read and re-read; I’ll put together a new reading list soon.

A reminder meanwhile that the references for the Agendashift book make an excellent reading list:

Out and about

Next week I’m at Agile Cymru in Newport, Wales, where no fewer than 5 Agendashift partners (Jose CasalKarl ScotlandMatt TurnerCat Swetel, and myself) will be speaking! Hope to see you there. A couple of private workshops aside, the summer period will provide some space for writing and development (I don’t mind admitting that I miss programming when I haven’t done it seriously for a while).

Have a great summer (or winter, if you’re south of the equator). There probably will be July and August updates but I will allow myself at least the option of a break!

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