Agendashift roundup, November 2019

In this edition: More new stuff; Tampa, London, Gurugram, Copenhagen, Malmö, and Oslo; Top posts

More new stuff!

November saw a couple of key announcements, and they’re related:

Impact! is a new 1-day workshop, a member of a growing family of outside-in strategy review workshops as outlined in chapter 5 of Right to Left. You can think of this one as covering the “outside” part of “outside in”, a way to get started in strategy not by focussing on existing capabilities (these come later in the full review) but on positioning with respect to customer needs.

Meanwhile, the latest update to our Clean Language-inspired coaching game 15-minute FOTO adds an introductory ‘Lite’ mode, which takes not just obstacles as input but an initial shortlist of outcomes too. For the Impact! workshop, the outcomes in question are product (or service) goals.

And there is more in the pipeline – read the next section carefully for clues 😉

Tampa, London, Gurugram, Copenhagen, Malmö, and Oslo

I’ve just reached the end of several weeks of foreign travel for both public and private engagements (training, speaking, and an intense half-day slot at a leadership offsite). Exciting though it all was, it comes as something of a relief that I’m now grounded until February!

Coming up in February and March (read on for some commentary):

A few comments on that programme…

As per the initial announcement of the Impact! workshop (see More new stuff above for the link), I’m thrilled that its first public outing will be at an Open Leadership Network event and certified by that organisation, of which I am an advisory board member. Then I’m back to the city of my birth for a repeat performance, by which time it will be been done privately – and not only by me – a number of times.

I make it to India roughly once a year, and I love it. I hope it’s not my only visit of 2020 but to be sure of participating in an Agendashift workshop in India soon, you’d be advised to take this firm opportunity.

We don’t have a page for it yet, but ahead of the Malmö workshop I’ll also be doing a meetup in Copenhagen. It’s on the way! I’ll fly into Copenhagen, do the meetup, and then take the famous Øresund/Öresund bridge by train from Denmark to Sweden.

As of today (November 29th) there is only placeholder information available about the Wholehearted:OKR workshop scheduled for Oslo. In London last week I spent a very productive afternoon with Agendashift partners Karl Scotland and Steven Mackenzie and special guest contributor Mike Haber to design it, and trust me, it will be worth the wait 🙂 Expect a more complete announcement in the next week or two.

Via its teaser curriculum page I am already receiving enquiries for private workshops. If you’re looking to kick off 2020 with some participatory strategy, do get in touch, whether it’s for this, one of our other workshops, or something custom. And don’t forget to ask about January discounts!

Top posts

  1. What I really think about SAFe
  2. From Reverse STATIK to a ‘Pathway’ for continuous transformation
  3. Announcing v7 of 15-minute FOTO
  4. Announcing a brand new (but tested) workshop:
    Impact! Strategically outcome-oriented for products and services
  5. There will be caveats: Warming cautiously to OKR


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Impact! Strategically outcome-oriented for products and services

So here it is, the Who, What, Where, When, and Why of a new Agendashift workshop: Impact! Strategically outcome-oriented for products and services.


Well… you of course! In one or more of the following roles:

  • As the sponsor of a strategy workshop for your product line or service (or perhaps your team, department, division, or whole organisation, but there’s more on this workshop’s scope, intent, and alternatives further down this post)
  • As a participant, anyone with a stake in the strategy for your product or service
  • As a practitioner, attending a public workshopready to practice, to learn, and be challenged
  • As an Agendashift partner, authorised to facilitate of what looks set to be the easiest of our workshops to run


From the blurb (there’s more there):

Impact! is a 1-day Agendashift workshop focussed on products and services. It is suitable for product teams, service delivery teams, managers, and expert practitioners. It covers:

  • Capturing business context
  • Hypotheses and experiments
  • Alternative/complementary expressions of user need
  • Thinking strategically about outcomes
  • Managing your portfolio of experiments – optimising and organising for learning
  • Experiment design with A3
  • And briefly, some implications for organisation design

Many of the concepts covered in the Impact! workshop are introduced in Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile, chapters 5 and 6. Reading the book is not a prerequisite, but if you enjoyed the book, you’ll love the workshop – and vice versa!

Coming as it does from the Agendashift stable, you can be sure that our needs-based and outcome-oriented philosophy shines through. The tools you’ll experience, among them Celebration-5W, 15-minute FOTO, Changeban, and Experiment A3 – all open source – aren’t about imposing cookie-cutter solutions on people but creating opportunities for them to participate in a collaborative exploration of the landscape of obstacles and outcomes, within which your key opportunities lie.

When & Where

We’re already doing Impact! workshops privately, and interest from other partners (Stockholm-based partner Teddy Zetterlund for example has two in the pipeline) has enabled us to iterate rapidly, refining the content and improving the overall experience. If you’d like to host one, get in touch, or check out the partner directory and find a partner near you.

The first two public outings of the Impact! workshop will be in February, in the US and the UK:

It’s no accident that we’re launching at an Open Leadership Network event. As I’ve been saying in the run-up to Berlin (November 19th with masterclasses either side; ping me for a chunky discount):

For the kind of engagement that sparks not just effort but collaboration, self organisation, and innovation, ‘generative’ beats ‘prescriptive’ hands down. Conversely, if you want to destroy those things, try imposition.

And the good news: It’s really not that hard! Sadly under-recognised by mainstream Agile but there are some great engagement models out there. Agendashift is mine I’m but proud to part of an openleadership network that gathers multiple and complementary approaches together.

LinkedIn and Twitter


For a year or more there have been two families of Agendashift workshop:

  1. Transformation strategy workshops Core, Applied, and Advanced, Core and Advanced being suitable for public training workshops, Applied for internal use, focussed on the host/client organisation
  2. Outside-in strategy review workshops, for which the material exists for use by partners but in a form suitable only for internal use

The first family is very much as described in Agendashift, the second in Right to Left chapter 5, “Outside in” – for a number of readers its most impactful chapter. See also Oslo-based partner Kjell Tore Guttormsen describe his positive experience facilitating it prior to Right to Left‘s publication.

We have now a very encouraging answer to questions posed in Agendashift: if we replaced or even removed the Lean-Agile content from Agendashift – the True North and the assessments in particular – would what’s left still be valuable? Can we do other things with the various tools? Yes to both! Very much so!

Partly to address the suitability of the outside-in strategy review workshop for public use (and also because its joint theme interests us greatly), I’ll be meeting partners Karl Scotland and Steven Mackenzie and guest contributor Mike Haber in London soon to plan a 2-day Wholehearted:OKR workshop. Meanwhile and very fortuitously, the opportunity to do a private 1-day workshop for a group of product consultants gave me the ideal head start, and the Impact! workshop is the result.

From time to time, transformation strategy workshops go in the direction of product strategy instead of their usual focus on ways of working. Similarly, I’ve already seen the new workshop go in the direction of business strategy, which is more the domain of the generic outside-in review. That’s the power of the generative approach at work and I don’t mind it at all, but still it’s good to be able to offer these choices explicitly at the time the workshop is organised. An easier sell, certainly!

Related posts

Upcoming workshops – Berlin, Oslo, Malmö, and online

New dates for USA and UK coming soon!


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Announcing v7 of 15-minute FOTO

15-minute FOTO is our Clean Language-inspired coaching game, and version 7 of the facilitation deck is out of beta. On top of the usual minor improvements – fewer slides, better wording, that kind of thing – the big new thing is a new ‘Lite’ edition.


To understand why we’ve wanted to make changes, consider what each participant is doing when they play the game for the first time:

  • Familiarising themselves with the Clean Language questions (from the cue card if it’s an in-room workshop, from the screen if it’s online)
  • Taking turns in the role of client, coach, scribe, or observer, participating in or supporting what can be an intense 1-on-1 coaching conversation
  • Worrying about the game’s objective, which to generate and capture outcomes

That’s a lot! Instead of doing this all at once, the Lite edition starts with a familiarisation exercise, turns the conversation into one for the table group as a whole, and the objective matters only after everyone has had a chance to get comfortable with it all.

If, as happens in many of our workshops, you plan to do 15-minute FOTO twice, you can start with the Lite edition and do the classic edition the second time round.

Spoiler alert

Another motivation for this new version is that it enables new strings of exercises for new workshops. I’ll be announcing the first of those very soon, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

Get the materials

Just ask here:

You’ll find a helpful Youtube video there also.

When you subscribe, you’ll be sent a link to the 15-minute FOTO Dropbox folder and you can download materials (cue card and the deck) from there. Add that folder to your own Dropbox and you’ll get all updates automatically.

Get a taste online

There are two opportunities coming soon to experience 15-minute FOTO online:

  1. One of my two sessions at the Clean Language community’s online OpenSpace event  Metaphorum 2019 on November 22nd will be on 15-minute FOTO, focussing mainly on the Lite version
  2. Comprising two 2h sessions on December 11th and 12th, my next online workshop Learning the language of outcomes will feature both editions

By the December 11th if not November 22nd, there will be a version 8 that explicitly supports online use (the classic edition already does). Consider that announced 🙂


The best place for questions about 15-minute FOTO is the #cleanlanguage channel in the Agendashift Slack.

Upcoming workshops – Berlin, Oslo, Malmö, and online

New dates for USA and UK coming soon!

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Agendashift roundup, October 2019

In this edition: Berlin; Working at the intersection / a monster post on SAFe; Right to Left; Changeban, Featureban, and 15-minute FOTO; Upcoming workshops – Berlin, Oslo, Malmö, and online; Top posts


I have a free day in Berlin today, arriving a day early to avoid travelling on what threatened to be Brexit day before a private workshop tomorrow. That workshop is actually the first of three November engagements in Berlin, with a 2-day Advanced Agendashift workshop and (through happy coincidence) the Open Leadership Symposium:

I keep saying it and I will say it again:

  • The Berlin workshop consistently delivers – not just a full house and a great experience, but a reliable source of great feedback and new ideas. Thank you Leanovate not just for hosting but for participating
  • The inaugural Open Leadership Symposium in Boston last May was a key coming together of multiple communities and it launched a new one. I have high expectations of the Berlin event, which takes place on the 19th with a selection of masterclasses on the 18th & 20th. If you’re thinking of coming to the main event, ping me for a chunky discount code (big enough to make a real difference, so don’t miss out!).

Working at the intersection / a monster post on SAFe

This was just a quick picture posted to LinkedIn and Twitter, but it has struck a chord with many people and it has already established itself as a way to introduce both myself and the communities I participate in. You’ll see some of the language reflected on the Agendashift site, the partner programme page most especially.

Who/where we are on one slide: People working at the intersection of Lean-Agile, Strategy, and Organisation Development – bringing balance & perspective, focus on needs & outcomes, helping each other up their game in new areas

working at the intersection

That picture is a good scene-setter to a post that within 36 hours was my most-read post of the year:

Also doing well is a Kanban-related post:

And I can only apologise for this related tweet 😉:

Right to Left

Thank you Paul and Justyna! Two podcasts for the price of one, a book review and an interview:

After a long delay, Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile is at last available in EPUB format. That means you can download it as an ebook from more online booksellers, including Apple Books, Google Play Books, and Kobo – just search “Right to Left Mike Burrows”.

There were two more 5 star reviews on Amazon UK this month (thank you!), making eight so far. We’re still waiting for the first one on Amazon US though, so who will be first?

Changeban, Featureban, and 15-minute FOTO

Some news about three of our Creative Commons-licensed resources.

Changeban 1.3 is now the recommended version (it was in beta until properly tested). I’ll be making the equivalent changes to Featureban before making a separate announcement. Also, their respective Slack channels have merged into one, #featureban-changeban.

The updated 15-minute FOTO cue card is definitely an improvement and it too is out of beta. A new ‘Lite’ (gentle introduction) version of the game has been through a number of iterations and we’ll announce it soon. It’s available to try if you know where to look! Slack channel #cleanlanguage, and it’s enabling some new #workshops (we’ll announce those properly soon too).

Upcoming workshops – Berlin, Oslo, Malmö, and online

Top posts

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From Reverse STATIK to a ‘Pathway’ for continuous transformation

It seems that my 2014 post Reinvigorating an existing Kanban implementation with STATIK is now gone. It is very likely the first mention of Reverse STATIK, and fortunately has saved it here, but 5 years on let me take the opportunity to revisit it.

We start with STATIK, the catchy acronym I coined for David J. Anderson’s Systems Thinking Approach To Introducing Kanban, which is quite a mouthful. STATIK looks like this (or at least it did in 2014):

  1. Understand sources of dissatisfaction
  2. Analyze demand and capability
  3. Model the knowledge discovery process
  4. Discover classes of service
  5. Design kanban systems
  6. Roll out

You may recognise those steps as the chapters of Part III of my first book Kanban from the Inside (hereafter referred to as KFTI); otherwise it was day 2 of the standard 2-day Kanban training. I don’t do much Kanban training these days (I don’t advertise it and for reasons of strategy rather than any falling out I’m no longer affiliated with the certification body), but when I do, I don’t use STATIK.

My main issues with STATIK aren’t the individual steps (there’s value in them all), but these:

  1. Even avoiding the middlebrow dismissal of “It’s too linear” (often thrown around rather unfairly), it’s much more likely to be understood and used as a discrete intervention (albeit a participatory one if it’s done the right way), not as a model for a continuous process.
  2. Even if I grant that you could in theory bail out of the process at any stage, it does rather assume that Kanban is the answer, so if we are to avoid the accusation of being solution-driven, something else has to come before it.

Aside (further to that second point, a bit of detail that doesn’t invalidate it): KFTI describes a step 0, ‘Understand the purpose of the system’, a phrase I borrowed (with full credit) from Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints (TOC). That has morphed into ‘Understand fitness for purpose’ (for the service you are applying STATIK to). This is OK as far as it goes, but the faster the this turns (as seems to be its intent) into a conversation about metrics, the less time anyone spends actually exploring purpose. If I’m honest, this part leaves me a little cold, though in the interests of balance, it should be pointed out that Kanban still does far more than any other framework I know to encourage its introduction in ways consistent with its principles. If only the others were as careful; if they were, perhaps Agendashift would never have been so necessary!

My original idea with Reverse STATIK was to retrace one’s steps, working backwards through the STATIK process looking for improvement opportunities. Today, I see it as more than that, and find it useful in two ways, both of which may seem surprising:

  1. Reverse STATIK turns out to be a great way to introduce/teach Kanban too. You can start with the simplest to-do/doing/done kanban board design (not yet a WIP-limited kanban system) and at each step introduce multiple options for improving not just its detailed design, but much of the surrounding organisation design that makes it work. No longer a one-shot intervention, but a rich model for improvement
  2. You can strip out all the kanban-specific techniques, replace them with their corresponding outcomes (outcomes that might be achieved in myriad other ways), and revise for breadth of coverage. A few iterations later (much of it done in collaboration with Dragan Jojic) we arrived at the genuinely framework-agnostic assessment that in the early days was Agendashift’s most important tool (it’s still important today but there are newer parts that are more exciting).

Aside: I glossed over one important detail there: In most people’s first experience of the assessment tool, its ‘prompts’ are organised under headings of Transparency, Balance, Leadership, Customer Focus, Flow, and Leadership. These 6 values are the titles of KFTI’s first 6 chapters; moreover Leadership incorporates Understanding, Agreement, and Respect, the so-called ‘leadership disciplines’ of chapters 7, 8, and 9.  I make no apologies for retaining these; most people would recognise these values as having relevance in any Lean-Agile context.

Fast forward to 2019, Reverse STATIK (mostly under the framework-neutral name of ‘Pathway’) looks like this:

  1. Refine existing systems
  2. Improve the service experience
  3. Manage the knowledge discovery process
  4. Balance demand and capability
  5. Address sources of dissatisfaction and other motivations for change
  6. Pursue fitness for purpose

These headings appear in my aforementioned teaching materials, as an option in the assessment tool, and the spine of the ‘Pathway map’, a visualisation inspired by User Story Mapping (see chapter 3 of the Agendashift book, which also introduces the Reverse STATIK model).

Instead of (and I say this tongue-in-cheek) doing a bunch of analysis exercises before (tada!) a kanban system is designed, an improvement process that identifies opportunities at a wide range of challenge and sophistication, with kanban or without. The spine starts small, grows in sophistication, and ends on high with purpose, leadership behaviours, and other similarly challenging, bigger-picture issues of organisation design; what detail gets prioritised under whatever heading at any given time is a matter for participatory decision making.

Relentless commitments to 1) participation and 2) agreement on outcomes as the basis for change are what took me from Reverse STATIK to Agendashift. The former wasn’t quite the 21st century engagement model I was striving for but a decent first attempt, and it lives on, even if quite well hidden.


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2 for the price of 1: Agile Book Club review and interview

Earlier this month my friends Paul Klipp (who I’ve known for nearly a decade) and Justyna Pindel (since the 2017 ACE! conference) released a thorough and thoughtful review of my latest book Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile on their podcast Agile Book Club. Last week they interviewed me, and released it today as a separate podcast episode.

Both episodes can be found here: “Right to Left” by Mike Burrows. You can also find Agile Book Club on Spotify (review | interview) and Apple (review | interview).

Let me also take the opportunity to mention that the epub format of Right to Left is available at last on Google Play and Kobo, both with some mangled blurb that I’m getting fixed!

While we’re here…

A reminder that we’re doing an Agendashift update and Lean Coffee tomorrow, Thursday 17th,  at 12:30 UK time. The original announcement and details here:

And if you can be in Berlin around November 19th, the Open Leadership Symposium is not to be missed! Details here:

I have a chunky discount code for the Symposium – ping me for it!

Note that as per the calendar below I’m doing a 2-day Advanced workshop in Berlin the week before, a prior (and regular) engagement. Symposium participants will however get a discount for the online workshop, for which the Open Leadership Network (the symposium’s organisers) are the certifying body.


Upcoming workshops: Istanbul, Berlin, Oslo, and online

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What I really think about SAFe

I keep repeating myself – more so since the announcements of the latest edition of SAFe – so let me put it here for the record. It’s based on previous comments on Twitter, LinkedIn, and elsewhere; nothing I haven’t said before, but not all in one place.

My concerns (I do have them) are entirely around implementation, but SAFe is by no means unique in that regard. It’s one on a long list of things for which how you approach it matters way, way more than the thing itself.

See SAFe as 1) a curriculum 2) a demonstration of how things can fit together: fine, whatever, if that floats your boat. That much should be clear from chapter 4 (the scaling chapter) of Right to Left. Some aspects I praise, the principles most of all, and I suggest ways to start from there.

See SAFe as a realisation of patterns such as iterated self-organisation around goals, you’re on pretty good foundations. Credit where credit is due, I found in my researches for the book that SAFe makes this more explicit than any of its rivals, at least when it comes to descriptions easily accessible to outsiders (and I didn’t stop there).

See SAFe as a solution to be implemented: you are courting disaster. Implementing something as big as this with any kind of determination leads almost inevitably to imposition, and that’s the way to destroy collaboration, self-organisation, problem-solving, and innovation. Why would you do that?

This problem is not specific to SAFe, and it’s the driver behind engagement models such as Agendashift (mine), OpenSpace Agility (Mezick et al); moreover it’s a big enough problem that we actively cooperate, not compete.

The sad truth is that mainstream Agile acts like the last two decades of organisation development never existed. If the impact weren’t so serious, it would be laughable. It’s certainly embarrassing, shameful even. SAFe must take its share of responsibility for that, but it is by no means alone.

There. I said it. Arguing about the relative merits of the framework becomes a way of dancing around that most crucial point. So don’t ask me to endorse or condemn it; I just won’t. But don’t think I don’t care…

Upcoming workshops; Istanbul, Berlin, Oslo, online


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