Doing Agendashift online (4 of n): Ideal, Obstacles, Outcomes (IdOO)

The time to take a close look at 1) your strategy and 2) your ways of working is now. You need to do those together – integrated, wholeheartedly, no half measures. The place to do it is online. We’re here to help you.

This is #4 in a series of unspecified length, covering ways you can do Agendashifty things online (we have plenty of practice). And here, we really get to the heart of things.

Followers of this blog will know that 15-minute FOTO is our Clean Language-inspired coaching game, one of the highlights of any Agendashift workshop. You might even have guessed that this would be the 15-minute FOTO installment. You’re not wrong exactly, but first let’s see it in context.

Here it is in the Discovery session of the classic Core, Applied, or Deep Dive workshop, chapter 1 of the Agendashift book:

Idoo-Discovery

Same workshops, same book, but session/chapter 2, Exploration:

Idoo-Exploration

And now the Wholehearted:OKR workshop, different book (Right to Left), and the session Outside-in review (I):

Idoo-Wholehearted-OKR-outside-in-review-I

And session Outside-in review (II):

Idoo-Wholehearted-OKR-outside-in-review-II

Even if 1) the slides didn’t give the game away already and 2) I told you that there are two different flavours of 15-minute FOTO here and that sometimes we use a different tool entirely, you’d have no trouble recognising that there’s a pattern here.

I’m calling that pattern IdOO:

idoo-2020-03-25

Doing IdOO online

See the past installment 2. Celebration-5W to understand how we facilitate online at least one of the ways we can can establish some business context ahead of any reflection.

See 3. The assessments for how participants prioritise the assessment prompts on which they will reflect. For Discovery, it’s even simpler: just share the Agendashift True North (see the Resources section below).

Then (and you’ll find these questions in the True North deck):

  • When this is working at its ideal best for you, what’s that like?
  • And when that’s happening, what new stories could you tell?

Those questions work really well 1-2-4-All style as described in the assessments installment – individual silent reflections followed by pairwise, table group, and debrief conversations (a good test of your breakout room skills if you’re using Zoom).

That’s IdOO’s Ideal reflection part done. Easy!

To identify Obstacles:

  • What stops that? What gets in the way?

(See also The language of outcomes: 2. Framing obstacles)

Again, that’s straightforward enough. And again, 1-2-4-All works really well, except that this time those obstacles will need to be captured somehow when the conversation gets to table group level. Google Docs works great, but you’ll want to get documents set up and distributed ahead of time.

To generate Outcomes, you could just ask these questions with respect to the obstacles just captured:

  • What would you like to have happen? (or your favourite equivalent)
  • Then what happens? (asked a few times perhaps)

Even online, that’s temptingly easy. That would however be a huge opportunity missed. Instead of you asking the questions, how about your participants coach each other? That’s what 15-minute FOTO does, and both editions of the game (Lite and Classic) have versions specifically tailored for online use.

In some ways the online version is more efficient, with everyone joining in to help with the scribe’s task of capturing outcomes, clients as well as coaches able to refer to the notes (these roles rotate by the way). Especially if you’re facilitating it for the first time, don’t be afraid to join in – the Lite edition in particular includes a familiarisation phase.

Next time (not Monday, it being Easter) we’ll look at different ways those generated outcomes can be organised online.

Resources

All of these are open source (CC-BY-SA):

Become a partner for both the integrated workshop materials and the ability to administer the assessments described in the previous installment.

And the two books:

Upcoming online workshops


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The language of outcomes: 3. Generating outcomes

This is part 3 of a series looking at the language of outcomes and its lessons for leadership. If we’re keen to see collaboration, self-organisation, and innovation in our organisations, how should we conduct ourselves? What behaviours should we model?

The 5 posts of this series come roughly in the order that its leadership lessons arise in our workshops:

  1. Identifying the adaptive challenge
  2. Framing obstacles
  3. Generating outcomes (this post)
  4. Organising outcomes
  5. Between ends and means

As ever:

  • Subscribe to our mailing list, and whilst you won’t get every post as an email, you will get our monthly roundups and you won’t miss a thing, I promise!
  • Scroll to the end of this post for news of upcoming public workshops in which you can experience what I describe for yourself

3. Generating outcomes

One of the things Agendashift is remembered for is the use of Clean Language via our open source coaching game, 15-minute FOTO [1], which is among the exercises covered in chapters 1 & 2 of Agendashift [2]. Indeed, it would be easy to think that the language of outcomes and Clean Language were one and the same thing. If you’ve been following this series, you will understand already that they are not! However, and even if practised only sparingly, Clean Language as a leadership discipline does offer a number of important takeaways. Again in the context of wanting to see collaboration, self-organisation, and innovation, it’s not hard to see that you might want to:

  1. Practice asking questions to which you don’t already have the answer
  2. Practice asking questions that don’t needlessly pollute the conversation with your own assumptions

If you’ve heard that vulnerability might be key to good leadership but don’t know where to start, why not start with those?

15-minute FOTO is a great introduction to those two practices. It uses a menu of 8 Clean Language questions, which for an in-room workshop are provided on printed cue cards, one per participant:

15-Minute-FOTO-cue-card-2019-09-v14

Typically, the game starts with a list of obstacles (see the previous instalment). Digging into obstacles isn’t very productive (in the game certainly, and surprisingly often in real life too), so we go quickly (if not immediately) from ‘obstacles space’ to ‘outcomes space’ with “What would you like you have happen?”.

The questions in the main part of the cue card were specifically chosen for their usefulness when exploring outcomes space. From right to left, the questions in the middle can be taken in three groups:

  1. Then what happens? – a question that takes us deeper into outcomes space
  2. A choice of three clarifying questions – including my favourite [3]
  3. Two questions that draw us back

Not only can you experience a surprisingly rich and (in a good way) challenging conversations with just those questions, most of the work is done by only three, the three shown in bold on the card. What’s hard therefore isn’t mastering them, but resisting the temptation to depart from them! Mostly – and tellingly – it means resisting the temptation to give advice uninvited, to prescribe, and to ask questions that say more about the questioner than they do about the topic, the client, or what’s in their mind.

That leaves one last question – What obstacle might be in the way of X? – which you might remember from the previous instalment. It creates the opportunity for a shallow dive into obstacles space – not a productive place, so we won’t linger there for long!

The X’s in the questions are placeholders for the respondent’s own words, repeated as verbatim as possible. This isn’t about mind tricks, a sneaky way to build empathy! Rather:

  • The person in the coach role – the asker of questions – disciplines themselves not to impose their own assumptions on the conversation, helping them maintain an attitude of curiosity. They can expect to learn something!
  • The person in the client role – responding to those questions – isn’t jolted out of their thoughts by words that don’t fit the mental model that the process is exploring/building. We’re putting the client first, and the conversation can go so much deeper this way!

This is not about one ‘killer question’ (a shallow and rather silly idea if you ask me). Neither is it a hunt for the ‘right’ answer! Rather, it’s a powerful demonstration of a generative process, a simple set of rules that takes some input (as described in the first two instalments the initial challenge and the obstacles in the way of that) and patiently grows a list of outputs (outcomes here) through the repeated application of a defined procedure.

In 15-minute FOTO, the roles, of coach, client, scribe, and observer are rotated so that every participant gets a turn in each role. As coaches, they guide the process by choosing which questions to ask, but the content is always the client’s – they’re the experts after all! It’s an amazingly productive process, producing lots of output, all of it coherent by construction, and anchored on something real, those obstacles.

Even though it takes only a few minutes, there’ll be enough work produced that it will need organising somehow. That’s the topic of the next instalment. Meanwhile, practice!

  • Practice asking questions to which you don’t already have the answer
  • Practice asking questions that don’t needlessly pollute the conversation with your own assumptions

Next: 4. Organising outcomes

Notes & references

[1] 15-minute FOTO (agendashift.com, CC-BY-SA licence)
[2] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation, Mike Burrows (New Generation Publishing, 2018)
[3] My favourite Clean Language question (January 2019)

Acknowledgements

I’m grateful for feedback on earlier drafts of this post from Teddy Zetterlund, Thorbjørn Sigberg, Richard Cornelius, and Kert Peterson.

Workshops upcoming in 2020 – Tampa, London (*2), Gurugram, Malmö, Tel Aviv ,Oslo (*2), and online

For a 20% saving, use discount code LONDON2020 for the London workshops and NORDIC2020 for Oslo and Malmö.

See also our workshops and events pages – Switzerland and Australia to be added soon.


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The language of outcomes: 2. Framing obstacles

This is part 2 of a series looking at the language of outcomes and its lessons for leadership. If we’re keen to see collaboration, self-organisation, and innovation in our organisations, how should we conduct ourselves? What behaviours should we model?

The 5 posts of this series come roughly in the order that its leadership lessons arise in our workshops:

  1. Identifying the adaptive challenge
  2. Framing obstacles (this post)
  3. Generating outcomes
  4. Organising outcomes
  5. Between ends and means

As ever:

  • Subscribe to our mailing list, and whilst you won’t get every post as an email, you will get our monthly roundups and you won’t miss a thing, I promise!
  • Scroll to the end of this post for news of upcoming public workshops in which you can experience what I describe for yourself

2. Identifying obstacles

Given all the talk of adaptive challenges and needs in the series opener, it seems that the language of outcomes is about more than just outcomes! Shorthand can be dangerous (more on that in a moment) and I should come clean: the “language of outcomes” is shorthand for “the language of outcome orientation: needs, obstacles, and outcomes”.

The logic that ties needs, obstacles, and outcomes together is fundamental – it explains why Agendashift exists and a little of how it works:

  • Most especially in the context of an adaptive challenge, the most legitimate basis for change isn’t a solution – untried in this particular context – but agreement on outcomes [1]
  • The most meaningful and motivating outcomes are those that involve meeting real needs
  • In due course, action will need to be addressed at removing, overcoming, or bypassing whatever obstacles stand in the way of meeting those needs and realising those outcomes. In the wholehearted organisation – the focus of our mission [2] – those obstacles are owned up to and addressed. But long before then, it only takes a moment to take a peek at what lies beyond them, thereby identifying yet more outcomes and continuing a generative process.

It’s “needs, obstacles, and outcomes” because that’s typically the order in which we identify them. It’s not “problems and solutions” because they’re both traps:

  1. Solving problems and meeting needs aren’t the same thing – it’s way too easy to get sucked into solving problems without ever meeting a need
  2. Similarly, as soon as implementing the solution becomes the driver, needs and outcomes fall by the wayside. In the context of an adaptive challenge, the implementation of a solution – a process framework being a prime example – becomes massive distraction to the organisation and a source of needless pain. Small wonder that most such solution-driven initiatives fail.

There’s no great magic to identifying obstacles. With the focus on an adaptive challenge, True North, ideal, or generative image [3], just ask:

  • What stops that?
  • What’s in the way of that?
  • What seems to be in the way of that?
  • What obstacles might be in the way of that? [4]

More sophisticated wordings might be easier to justify intellectually or look nicer on the workshop slides [5] (believe me, I’ve experimented with this a lot), but they can invite a level of abstraction and speculation that proves unhelpful only later. That’s a subtle problem, and it’s why experience has taken us in the direction of short and punchy. Happily though there’s an easy fix when we get it wrong: badly framed obstacles are easily reframed. Let’s see how.

The language of obstacles

In my first book (now more than 5 years old), I identified “lack of” language (the language of scarcity) as often betraying lazy thinking. Fast forwarding to Agendashift –  in which we ask for obstacles at least once per workshop – here are some real examples of badly-framed obstacles:

  1. “Lack of a knowledge management system” (I got this one in my very first workshop)
  2. “Lack of the Agile mindset” (this one pops up quite frequently)
  3. “Lack of people/money/resource” (if you’re a manager, you may have heard this one yourself)

Respectively, these “lack of” obstacles:

  1. Prescribe a particular kind of solution, almost certainly excluding other options prematurely, and failing to identify a problem meanwhile
  2. Use shorthand, that not only fail (again) to identify an actual problem, but that could easily be taken as judgemental, thereby excluding people
  3. Identify only one side of an imbalance, implying one obvious but perhaps unavailable of kind of remedy whilst excluding others

The fix and this instalment’s leadership takeaway:

If you want see collaboration, self-organisation, and innovation, identify real issues, taking care to avoid language that needlessly excludes people or possibility 

Guided by that principle and prompted by “How do you know that?”, those badly-framed obstacles might be replaced by these:

  1. “People holding on to information” or “Information spreads too slowly”, preferring the latter, less judgemental form unless we have good reason to go with the former
  2. One of any number of real obstacles:
    • “Working in functional silos/big batches/…”
    • “Waiting on external approvals/dependencies/…”
    • “Waiting too long for customer feedback”
    • “Glacial pace of improvement”
    • “Lack of experimentation” (yes, that’s a “lack of” but I might let this one pass)
  3. “Teams overburdened, workload exceeding capacity”, or “Expectations running ahead of budget constraints”

Much better!

If we identify obstacles more than once (as we do in both the Discovery and Exploration sessions, for example), we repeat both the reframing exercise and the teaching point that goes with it. The “lack of” trap is so easy to fall into it’s well worth repeating – and it’s funnier the second time round!

Next: 3. Generating outcomes

Notes & references

[1] “Agree on outcomes” is  Agendashift principle #2 – see agendashift.com/principles
[2] Our mission: Wholehearted (agendashift.com, CC-BY-SA licence)
[3] Visualising Agendashift: The why and how of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (June 2016)
[4] “What obstacles might in the way of X?” is the “cleanest” of those. And for pragmatic reasons too, definitely the right one to include on the cue card (below) for our Clean Language-inspired coaching game, 15-minute FOTO (agendashift.com, CC-BY-SA licence)

15-Minute-FOTO-cue-card-2019-09-v14

[5] Workshop materials are available via the Agendashift partner programme, details at agendashift.com/about/become-a-partner. See also the Agendashift book, agendashift.com/books/agendashift.

Acknowledgements

I’m grateful for feedback on earlier drafts of this post from Teddy Zetterlund, Thorbjørn Sigberg, Richard Cornelius, and Kert Peterson.

Workshops upcoming in 2020 – Tampa, London (*2), Gurugram, Malmö, Tel Aviv, Oslo (*2), and online

For a 20% saving, use discount code LONDON2020 for the London workshops and NORDIC2020 for Oslo and Malmö.

See also our workshops and events pages – Switzerland and Australia to be added soon.


From the exciting intersection of Lean-Agile, Strategy, and Organisation Development, Agendashift: The wholehearted engagement model
Links: Home | About | Our mission: Wholehearted | Become an Agendashift partner | Assessments | Books | Resources | Events | Contact | MikeSubscribe
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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

Berlin

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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What scales up should scale down

This is turning into a series! You may wish to read these first:

Here’s a super-quick variation on Agendashift’s Discovery and Exploration sessions. First I’ll describe it, and then explain how it differs from the by-the-book version.

10-minute Discovery

Let me quickly explain how we kick this off – I’m asking the same of everyone I’m meeting today:

  • First, just a little about yourself – your role, what you’re responsible for, and so on.
  • Then, for a multi-month timescale of your choosing, tell me what outstanding success would look like – describing something truly celebration-worthy if you can
  • Finally, what obstacles are in the way of that?

And do you mind if I take notes?

I ask all of the above in one go, and give the interviewee the space to answer, lightly guided as necessary. 10 minutes max!

50-minute (or less) Exploration

Now we go to the assessment, which typically (although not always) has been completed by my interviewee in advance. We begin with a quick review of their overall and per-category score distributions (some reassuring noises may be required here; these low scores are very common):

Screenshot 2019-07-10 12.19.02

With this alternative view it may be easier to infer some kind of narrative:

Screenshot 2019-07-10 12.17.20

  • Collaboration and transparency at the top – evidence perhaps of some Agile working
  • Seeing flow and balance scoring close together would come as no surprise to any student of Lean or Kanban
  • To the trained eye of our machine learning model, the score for leadership looks surprisingly low relative to everything else (hence the amber colouring)
  • I tell them that sadly, a low score for customer focus is very common (something that 20 years of Agile has failed to fix)

We spend no more than a few minutes on the category-level summaries. We skim or skip over most of the report (more on these parts later) and land here on the ‘starred’ items. Out of the 43 prompts of the full assessment, these have been prioritised for further discussion:

Screenshot 2019-07-10 12.16.26

For each of those prompts in turn, these questions are asked (one at a time this time):

  • What would it be like if this was working at its best for you?
  • What obstacles are in the way of that?
  • What would you like to have happen?
  • Then what happens?
  • etc

In well under an hour in most cases, the meeting is concluded. I write up my notes and include them in a thank you email. Done!

What just happened? What’s different?

Let’s compare that to a more typical Discovery/Exploration, done workshop style. First, Discovery:

  • Celebration-5W – normally done in table groups and taking (say) 40 minutes to introduce, do, and debrief – is condensed into a question (in fact one part of a multi-part question): “Then, for a multi-month timescale of your choosing, tell me what outstanding success would look like – something truly celebration-worthy”
  • We skip True North and jump straight to obstacles, still expecting that many of the obstacles heard will relate to ways of working and other organisational issues
  • No 15-minute FOTO (with participants ‘coaching’ each other, generating outcomes); if there’s any outcome generation at all, it is cursory at best
  • No time spent organising outcomes (no ‘Plan on a page’); if they’re generated at all they just get recorded in my notes

Then Exploration:

  • At best, we skim over most of the debrief slides: strengths, weaknesses, areas of high and low consensus
  • No group-wise prioritisation of prompts or their respective obstacles
  • Again, no 15-minute FOTO ; it’s me asking the questions (and I’m free to use a wider palette of questions with perhaps some cleanish freestyling)
  • Again, no time spent organising outcomes (no Mapping); they just get recorded in my notes

The big difference though isn’t the stripped-down meeting design. It’s that instead of working with several people together workshop-wise, I’m spending an hour or so at a time with a succession of people on a one-to-one basis. Instead of acting as facilitator, I’m the roving consultant (albeit a “clean” one). And instead of participants collaborating with each other, they’re my interviewees.

Naturally, there’s a tradeoff. Less time is required from participants, and for many, that’s welcome. Unfortunately, it also means little (if any) time spent facilitating agreement on outcomes (principle #2). If I’m able to report back to my sponsors a coherent picture thanks to the similarity of interview results, this omission might be fixable. That’s a big if though; what seems the most efficient might not be the most effective in the end!


Upcoming public Agendashift workshops
– online, Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin


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How Agendashift scales

Last week’s post Visualising Agendashift: The why and how of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation is already in the top 3 for 2019. Clearly it resonates! I will build on that post now by enumerating some the ways in which Agendashift scales – not by becoming bigger, heavier, more layered, or more bureaucratic, but by fitting its context.

The bottom line: Agendashift scales because it is scale-free (not an oxymoron, but using the technical term), evidenced by a fractal quality inside it, similar patterns occurring naturally at different scales.

First, there are some initial high level decisions to be made about scale:

  • The initial organisational scope of the exercise (we find that it is well worth making this explicit)
  • Who is invited to participate in workshops (and how that invitation should be given)
  • Who is invited to participate in the pre-workshop assessment (at a minimum, this is the workshop participants for whom it is set as prework, but it is often widened)
  • Any specific organisational themes that should mentioned in either invitation

Often, the exercise is centred on a leadership team of some kind, making the above decisions quite easy to make. However, I do make two recommendations:

  • At least three levels of seniority should participate – not to make a virtue of hierarchy but allowing it to be bypassed for the sake of interesting and authentic conversations
  • It’s good to get wide coverage in the assessment; potentially the whole business function and beyond, or some representative sample thereof

There are more choices about workshop design that we could make here, but usually they’re better left until later exercises and we’ll put them to one side for a moment.

In the workshop itself, scale is everywhere:

  • In the warm-up exercise Celebration-5W, different table groups might generate anything from an internal technical achievement for a small team to things like “One billion pounds in turnover” or “Our millionth registration” (both of these are actual examples). I recall one team coming up with a new product idea!
  • After True North (in Discovery) and the assessment debrief (in Exploration), obstacles can range from everyday niggles to fundamental misalignments and dysfunctions.
  • For any given obstacle, the outcomes generated in 15-minute FOTO can range from short-term quick wins beyond even long-term goals through to enduring values. Surprisingly often, the entire range is covered in the course of a conversation that lasts only a few minutes.
  • The Mapping exercises expose different kinds of structure in the naturally coherent (by construction) but still fragmentary output of the preceding exercises.
  • In Elaboration, we bring focus where the range of options is high, looking up for the big payoff and down for opportunities for rapid learning and early value.
  • In Operation, we raise awareness of the connection between everyday choices and bigger-picture organisation design

Discovery and Exploration both feature our Clean Language-inspired coaching game 15-minute FOTO. At first glance it might seem redundant but the repetition of the same tool in different settings demonstrates the utility, repeatability, and scale-independence and of the pattern (for that is what it is). Regardless of scale, you can:

  • Reflect on the promise of the challenge in question
  • Identify and (briefly) clarify the obstacles currently in the way of a successful conclusion to that challenge
  • Rapidly explore the landscape of outcomes to be found when those obstacles are overcome, bypassed, or ignored

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.29.37That might sound obvious, but for people used to the experience of conversations that start with solutions already decided, it’s both liberating and highly illuminating.

The workshop designer seeds this process with challenges that have some compelling promise, made all the more compelling by their avoidance of prescription. The off-the-shelf workshop design provides these in the form of the True North and the assessment prompts. These have been tested and refined through repeated use and I would recommend sticking to them initially (advice that may evolve as we gain more customisation experience). However, subsequent events may make use of harvested content, with the potential to make any broader ‘scale out’ excitingly fractal.

There’s a balance to be struck between focussing on new kinds of conversation (clean, outcome-oriented), and on new conversations (the follow-through on specific, newly-articulated outcomes). There’s win on both sides so perhaps I worry too much about whether I get the balance right, but why not have it both ways? Those new kinds of conversations re-seeded by those harvested outcomes. Now we’re talking!

___________

While we’re here, check out these opportunities to experience this for yourself in a public setting (for private settings reach out to me or your friendly neighbourhood partner). One of them is less than two weeks away:


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More ‘Open’, and my first online workshops

I’m getting ready for a busy couple of weeks mid May:

Partly in preparation and partly as housekeeping, I’ve updated the generic workshop description page Advanced Agendashift: Coaching and Leading Continuous Transformation as follows:

  1. Very much in the Open spirit of the Boston symposium, it now has a Creative Commons 4.0 CC-BY-SA license. That’s not quite the big deal that it might sound since the Overview pages that describe all Agendashift-based workshops have long had one, but it’s good to get that sorted.
  2. Its structure now tallies with recent improvements. Day 1 is Learning the language of outcomes. Day 2 is Organising for impact, and it reflects the “rejigging” described in last week’s Notes from the April 2019 Advanced Agendashift workshop, London. I’ve updated the abovementioned Overview pages also.

As a spinoff from Boston (there’ll be discounts for attendees), from June I’ll be offering an online workshop, also titled Learning the language of outcomes. Presented as two 2-hour sessions on consecutive days it will be a great way to get up to speed quickly with outcome-orientation and Clean Language, getting some real practice in applying the latter to the former. At a minimum we’ll cover:

Officially, we launch these at the Symposium, but for a sneak preview (and early bird prices):

In person or online, I hope to see you soon!


Upcoming workshops – Boston, Berlin, Oslo, and Stockholm

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

workshop-2x1


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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…

 

Notes from the April 2019 Advanced Agendashift workshop, London

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.

Thursday and Friday last week was the 2-day Advanced Agendashift workshop in London. The quick version of my takeaways (all confirmed by the retro stickies):

  1. Mike Haber’s Celebration-5W template is a keeper
  2. The beta version of the 15-minute FOTO cue card passes muster
  3. My “Rule of Three” seems to resonate
  4. Some rejigging
  5. Excitement around “wholehearted

Also, details of the next four of these workshops – Boston, Berlin, Oslo, and Stockholm.

Mike Haber’s Celebration-5W template is a keeper

Announced only a couple of weeks ago, I would definitely recommend using Mike Haber’s template – it makes the exercise easier for everyone involved, and the output vastly more presentable. I’ve updated the Celebration-5W page to make it more prominent.

Celebration-5W-template-2019-03-v1

The beta version of the 15-minute FOTO cue card passes muster

Also announced recently but previously untested, a beta version of the 15-minute FOTO cue card is now made official:

No-one missed the old “Is there a relationship between X and Y?” question (a question that comes with health warnings) and according to the retro sticky, the new question “Where does X come from?” rocks!

My “Rule of Three” seems to resonate

I mentioned my “Rule of Three” in answer to an important question about who should be invited to internal workshops. I had already written it up for my forthcoming book Right to Left but I was encouraged to put together a page for it with an easy-to-remember url, agendashift.com/rule-of-three.

After a few iterations on the text (helped by feedback in the #right-to-left channel in Slack), here’s the key quote:

Clicking on the image or the link above you’ll find a condensed, bullet point version, and some notes that hint at what’s to come in the book.

Some rejigging

Consolidating experiments described in Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley, The Cynefin Four Points exercise moves from day 1 to day 2, the launchpad for Mapping rather than the conclusion to Exploration. It allowed me to run “my slowest ever Discovery” on day 1, and nobody minded one bit.

Update: The name “Reverse Wardley” is (as we say in the UK) “a bit Marmite”, meaning that some loved it and others hated it. Is it “way too geeky”? This was already suspected, but I still don’t have a better alternative.

Excitement around “wholehearted

Remember Towards the wholehearted organisation, outside in (May 2018)? For the evening of day 1, Steven Mackenzie (one of Right to Left‘s reviewers) suggested we held a “Lean Curry” around the topic. Here he is with his heart-shaped picture:

Before Right to Left is even published, perhaps a spinoff! Definitely one to watch.

Upcoming workshops – Boston, Berlin, Oslo, and Stockholm


Blog: 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…

 

Testing some changes to the 15-minute FOTO cue card

Subscribers to the 15-minute FOTO Dropbox may have noticed a new ‘ v12 BETA’ version of the cue card. 15-minute FOTO is our Clean Language-inspired coaching game, the name being short for “From Obstacles to Outcomes in just 15 minutes”. We’ll be testing this updated version – twice! – at the London workshop early next month (and while we’re here, note that early bird pricing expires tomorrow).

15-minute FOTO 2019 03 v12 BETA

Changes:

  1. Dropped the question “Is there a relationship between X and Y”. Quite simply, this question was more trouble than it was worth. That it needed health warnings was already a strong indication that it should go, and learning that this question seems to have few defenders among expert Clean Language users clinched it for me.
  2. Added “Where does X come from?” as an alternative to “What happens before X?”. I’m taking advantage of the space relinquished by the first change to add a question that I find useful. You can use it to follow system flows upstream (from Right to Left, so to speak), and also to explore abstract outcomes – “Where does that collaboration come from?”, for example (see also My favourite Clean Language question).
  3. The two questions “What would you like to have happen?” and “And when X, then what happens” are highlighted more clearly than before. In the game, when presented with (respectively) an obstacle or an outcome, these are the default questions to use, the former to ‘flip’ obstacles to outcomes and the latter to generate more outcomes, going deeper into outcome space.
  4. Additional visual cues: a boundary between the obstacle and outcome ‘spaces’, along with a reminder (the curved arrow) to use the WWYLTHH question in the event that the conversations lingers unproductively inside obstacle space.

For the time being, you can download a PDF here. For the source pptx file, the facilitator’s deck, and for continued updates, subscribe here. You’ll find a video there too.

Questions or ideas for improvements? #cleanlanguage in the Agendashift Slack. And see chapters 1 and 2 of the Agendashift book, where the exercise is described in depth and in context (twice).


Upcoming Agendashift workshops

See also the recent blog post: Agendashift workshops in Seattle, London, Boston, and Berlin, which includes a detailed description of the 2-day workshop. Workshops facilitated by Mike Burrows (yours truly) unless otherwise indicated:


Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
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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…

My favourite Clean Language question

We describe our coaching game 15-minute FOTO [1] as “Clean Language-inspired”, and as shown on the cue card (below) it makes use of a small subset of the Clean Language questions, a subset particularly suited to exploring or modelling (ie building a model of) a landscape of obstacles and (especially) outcomes.

The objective of the game and its function in Agendashift is to generate a good number of outcomes that can then be organised in various interesting ways. Through subsequent exercises we facilitate agreement on outcomes, thereby helping to co-create the basis for organisational change. Those goals aren’t quite the same as those of Clean Language, and through my favourite Clean Language question I hope to say a bit about the latter.

Here’s the 15-minute FOTO cue card, an essential piece of equipment for the game. Notice that the X‘s (and in one question a Y), placeholders which the coach replaces with the client’s own words (coach and client are roles in the game; participants take turns in different roles):

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

Given the game’s objectives, the two most important questions on the card are these:

  1. “What would you like to have happen?”, which tends to “flip” obstacles into outcomes, moving from the negative to the positive, quickly identifying the outcome that might be found hiding behind the obstacle (figuratively speaking).
  2. “And when X, then what happens?”, which when the X is an outcome, generates another, and sometimes several. Asked a few times, a surprisingly long chain of outcomes can be generated with the minimum of prompting from the coach.

However, my favourite question on the card is a different one, namely “What kind of X?”. Functionally, it’s a clarifying question, one we use in preference to questions such as “What do you mean by X?”, and “Can you be more specific?”. In the aspiring Lean-Agile context typical of an Agendashift workshop, examples might include:

  • “What kind of Agile?” (instead of “What do you mean by Agile?”)
  • “What kind of collaboration?” (instead of “Can you be more specific about the kind of collaboration you’re talking about?”)

(Aside: see [2] for my answer to the first of those)

Let me further illustrate the “What kind of X?” (WKO) question with an everyday scenario that I frequently find helpful as an example. You have just told me that you’ll be on holiday next week. How do I respond?

Some possible responses politely close the conversation before it gets started: “That’s nice!”, “I hope you have a lovely time!”, and so on.

I might show some interest with a question: “Where are you going?”. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned question is not entirely without risk. Suppose your answer is “I’m not going anywhere, I’m staying at home”.  Awkward! Have I embarrassed you?

To be clear, “Where are you going?” isn’t a terrible question. It is at least an open question, a question to which might be given a wide range of possible answers. This is in contrast with binary questions that expect mainly yes/no answers or leading questions which are mostly about the questioner’s own agenda (in the Agendashift book [3] I describe the latter as not genuine).

The possible flaw in the question “Where are you going?” is that it makes an assumption that might not be valid in this context, the assumption that you’re going somewhere. “What kind of holiday?” removes that assumption – in fact it is about as stripped of assumption as a question can get. As a result, it is much more likely to lead to an interesting answer, one that I can’t easily predict.

This is what Clean Language is all about. It’s not about the killer question, a trick that like the world’s funniest joke soon gets old. It’s about putting the coach’s assumptions to one side, because what’s in the mind of the client is far more valuable. As well as heightening curiosity it improves listening, because we can’t fill in those X‘s if we’re not paying attention. And although there is some skill in choosing the question (a skill that we begin to develop by playing the game), it’s not about leading the client on the strength of the coach’s domain knowledge – there’s a time and place for that, but not yet. Instead, it’s about facilitating a process, one that helps navigate what may be complex issues, often helping the client arrive at some real insights.

15-minute FOTO is carefully framed as a game: it works within clear constraints and with clear goals. It’s not therapy, and never pretends to be. But for some it has been the gateway to the Clean Language body of knowledge with its generous community and has kindled interest in a deeper kind of coaching. And that’s wonderful!

References

[1] 15-minute FOTO
[2] My kind of Agile
[3] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation; Clean Language is introduced with 15-minute FOTO in chapters 1 and 2. See also its recommended reading page, in particular (these Clean Language-related books):

  • The Five Minute Coach: Improve Performance Rapidly
    Lynne Cooper & Mariette Castellino (2012, Crown House Publishing)
  • Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds
    Wendy Sullivan & Judy Rees (2008, Crown House Publishing)
  • From Contempt to Curiosity: Creating the Conditions for Groups to Collaborate Using Clean Language and Systemic Modelling
    Caitlin Walker (2014, Clean Publishing)

Acknowledgements: I’m grateful to Johan Nordin, Steve Williams, and Mike Haber for feedback on earlier drafts of this post.


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Upcoming public Agendashift workshops (India, US*2, UK, Netherlands, Germany):

Also: Channel #agendashift-studio in the Agendashift Slack if interested in a cozy workshop with me at Agendashift HQ (Derbyshire, England).


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…