Leading with Outcomes: a cheat sheet

To whet the appetite, a cheat sheet for:

Yes, you read that right: March 2021. Publication imminent!

Go to agendashift.com/leading-with-outcomes-cheat-sheet or click on the image below for download information, references, etc. It’s Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA); by subscribing you’ll get not just the PDF but the original .pptx file too – translations and other adaptations welcome. Enjoy!

leading-with-outcomes-cheat-sheet-2021-03-14-v1

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Revisiting ‘wholehearted’

agendashift-banner-2019-12-17

Agendashift’s strapline is “the wholehearted engagement model”, and I’ve been reflecting again on just what we mean by wholeheartedness. That in turns leads me to revisit how I introduce Agendashift – what it is, what differentiates it, and why we do what we do.

Wholehearted

Starting with my reflections on that word, I’m drawn to two clusters of qualities:

  1. Engagement, commitment, and purposefulness
  2. Alignment, integration, integrity, and wholeness

For an organisation to be wholehearted, both sets of qualities must apply. Crucial to developing and sustaining them are participation and outcomes:

  • Participation, because 1) people disengage when they’re denied the meaningful opportunity to influence on how their working environment operates, and 2) you can’t have integrity and wholeness – or for that matter self-organisation and other hallmarks of the modern organisation – when the organisation’s parts don’t relate both between and within themselves frequently and richly enough.
  • Outcomes, for the simple reason that they’re what people align on, and for the more subtle reason that it’s easy to destroy engagement when solutions are put ahead of outcomes. Keep outcomes in the foreground (and not a rationalisation or afterthought) and you create the opportunity for acceptable, effective, and often innovative solutions to emerge at the right time, no imposition needed.

With all of that in mind, Agendashift is best introduced as the wholehearted, outcome-oriented engagement model. Unpacking that backwards:

  • The term engagement model is our preferred shorthand for the kind of thing that Agendashift is, a framework for agents of participatory change and transformation. The framing there is deliberate; we find it necessary to keep a certain distance from the failed solution-driven change management models of the last century and don’t wish to be numbered among them! Neither is Agendashift a model only for continuous improvement, a process that while necessary is not a substitute for strategy.
  • Agendashift is outcome-oriented to such an extent that this is its defining feature. It’s “outcomes all the way down”, dealing coherently, humanely, and strategically with everything from the most aspirational of goals to the impact of the smallest experiment. With outcomes generated, organised, and developed through participation, agreement on outcomes follows naturally; solutions come as they should on a just-in-time basis, lightly held as hypotheses to be tested until some other approach is understood to be safe.
  • We – Agendashift’s founders, partners, and supporters – are wholehearted in our commitments to participation, to outcomes, and beyond those to the wholeheartedness of the organisations with which we work. We strive to develop all the qualities of wholeheartedness, building organisations that create meaning continuously, through both their discourse and their ability to anticipate and meet needs.

We’re in the business of building wholehearted organisations. Are you?

Related


Upcoming workshops

With yours truly unless otherwise indicated:

For some brief commentary:

And for the latest, check the Agendashift events calendar.


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Phases 1 & 2 of the agendashift-open project

I’ve finished moving the source files for two sets of pages on agendashift.com to a public git repo, asplake/agendashift-open. In the process I’ve reformatted them from HTML to CommonMark – slightly limited but very much easier to maintain, a worthwhile tradeoff in this case.

The two sets of pages concerned are these:

  1. Agendashift as framework – principles, patterns, and activities
  2. Agendashift Workshops

Look around in either of those areas and you’ll see that each page links to its respective source file just below its license notice.

All 29 pages of this content were already Creative Commons, specifically CC-BY-SA. This change just makes it easier for others to reuse, comment on, or contribute fixes to these pages, and potentially to fork them and create create derivative works under the terms of that same license.

Let’s be clear what that means: Just about all the workshops and consulting services I offer are defined by this content and I accept the commitment to curate it carefully; others are free (within the quite generous license terms) to use it. It attracts some to join the community; some collaborate actively (see for example the Wholehearted:OKR page, very much a collaborative effort); some become Agendashift partners, gaining access to other tools and materials on a commercial basis; some corporate clients arrive via this route too.

Phase 3 will involve doing the same for the all CC-BY-SA content in the Resources area. Some of the pages are quite substantial and the conversion will require a little bit of effort, but worth it I’m sure. Making (for example) the page for Featureban page more community-maintainable must surely be a win.

Thank you John Grant for the nudge. Channel #open in the Agendashift Slack.


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With yours truly unless otherwise indicated:

For the latest workshop and speaking events check the Agendashift events calendar.


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Agendashift roundup, April 2020

In this edition: Agendashift as Framework; Online first; Assessment updates; Featureban online; Upcoming; Top posts

[And apologies if you were hoping for an announcement about the audiobook edition of Right to Left; ACX (Audible) are quoting 30 business days (6 weeks plus) for their review stage]

Agendashift as Framework

There were multiple contenders for the biggest thing in Agendashift-land in April but I must go with this one:

It has been well received and it’s an important step in my preparations for a 2nd edition of Agendashift, the book.

Agendashift overview 16x10 2020-04

Online first

Another big bit of work was reorganising the Agendashift workshop portfolio to accommodate some new short training workshops to complement the existing Learning the Language of Outcomes workshop. Also, public online workshops are now specifically timed to suit different parts of the world – Europe, APAC, and the Americas. For me in the UK this means mid-morning, early morning, and late afternoon/early evening respectively. Even since this change we’ve had people from all three timezones and from north and south of the equator in one workshop, so feel free, take your pick!

See the events calendar at the end of this post, and the details in this announcement below. This mentions workshops not (or not yet) in the calendar which may be of interest:

Assessment updates

Quite a bit happening with the online assessments too:

  • A simplified English (‘EN-simplified’) version of the mini assessment. A joint effort, but a special shout out to Alex Pukinskis who saved us all a ton of work
  • A Farsi language translation contributed by Asad Safari
  • To be deployed shortly, some updates by Kirill Klimov to the Russian translation

Non-partners can test these translations (and others) in two ways:

Those are limited to the mini (18-prompt) templates. For access to the full 42-prompt version, check the the partner programme:

Featureban online

As per the Featureban page on Agendashift.com:

Play Featureban online!

We’re thrilled that our friends at Kaiten have created a free online version of Featureban. Play it here:

Evgeniy Stepchenko has produced this guide:

Featureban is (and I quote): a simple, fun, and highly customisable kanban simulation game. Since its creation in 2014 it has been used by trainers and coaches in Lean, Agile and Kanban-related events the world over.

See also Changeban, the Lean Startup-flavoured version of Featureban. Of the two, I use Featureban when I need to teach certain Kanban-related practices (metrics in particular) to a mainly technical audience, which these days I mostly leave to others; otherwise,  Changeban is more fun.

Online versions, translations, adaptations all made possible by open sourcing these games (they’re both CC-BY-SA). One of my smarter moves!

Upcoming workshops

With yours truly unless otherwise stated:

For the latest workshop and speaking events check the Agendashift events calendar.

Top posts

 


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Devs not clear about strategy? It’s likely way worse than that

A quite common issue surfaced by the Agendashift Delivery Assessment is that so-called delivery teams (and I don’t just mean developers and other technologists) aren’t clear about things like vision, purpose, and strategy. Digging into what was apparently a source of real frustration at one client a few years ago, I asked a product manager what he and his colleagues in the product team were doing to keep these things at the forefront of minds and conversations in their technology team.

His answer?

“They never asked”

I was unable to stop my jaw from dropping! At my unguarded reaction he tried hastily to row back, but not very convincingly.

Show me a development team not involved in the strategy conversation and I’ll show you one that delivers code but not insights, features but not intelligence, and products that are mediocre at best, meeting the spec but failing to satisfy. You don’t want that. No strategist worth his salt wants that. No business can afford that kind of failure for long, but work in a strategy bubble and it’s what you get.

The systems theory around this issue is well known, developed since the middle of the last century. A key lesson is that if you neglect the necessary interplay between organisational processes such as strategy and delivery (to name but two), you put your independent existence – your viability – under real threat. Happily, much of the associated practice is now highly accessible to a 21st century audience – the startup community lives by it – so there’s little excuse not to be guided by the theory.

As for Agendashift, it’s built into our mission statement, right there in the middle:

wholehearted-16x10-2020-03-15

The practical side is reflected in the bottom half of the new framework overview (see the recent announcement Agendashift as framework):

Agendashift overview 16x10 2020-04

The pattern Just-in-time (JIT) strategy deployment is the second of two key generative patterns in Agendashift, and is itself several patterns for the price of one. It describes strategy as being (and I quote):

“developed and refined collaboratively (with varying degrees of participation) over time and in response to the feedback generated through its implementation, solutions emerging from the people closest to the problem”

Agendashift has always been about strategy – whether transformation strategy specifically or strategy more broadly – but it can’t (and doesn’t) ignore delivery. If you’re struggling to connect the two adequately, read that page and take (I hope) some inspiration. And for a whole book’s worth, start with the highly accessible Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile. If you’ve not read any of my books before, this one is almost certainly the one to pick first.


Upcoming online workshops

All online, and all with your truly (Mike Burrows) unless otherwise specified:

For the latest workshop and speaking events check the Agendashift events calendar.


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Agendashift as framework

So here it is, slowly revealing itself online over the past few weeks, and now ready for the formal announcement and some background. It’s the biggest update to Agendashift since the 2018 book and it prepares the ground for a second edition.

New &/or updated:

Previously announced, and updated again in line with the above:

The last of those is of course the basis of Agendashift’s recent rebranding:

Agendashift as framework

From the framework page:

These pages describe Agendashift – the wholehearted engagement model – as an open framework for continuous, outcome-oriented transformation.

Agendashift is primarily for use by agents of strategic change, with or without an explicit Lean-Agile agenda. It is not intended as a replacement for the likes of Scrum, Kanban, or SAFe; neither do we consider it a way to choose between them. Our clear opposition to the imposition of frameworks on the unwilling does not make us anti-framework; rather we’re pluralists, celebrating frameworks as exemplars and sources of patterns that combine in interesting ways.

We don’t however pretend to be neutral. Outcome-orientation is not a neutral stance. If these pages give you a fresh perspective on other frameworks and help you avoid yet another failed or mediocre implementation, that’s definitely for the better. Moreover, it’s not hard to see that whole system engagement and strategy deployment are useful models for delivery in complex environments.

In the past I’ve been a little reluctant to describe Agendashift as a framework, for reasons similar (I guess) to those of the Kanban community: compared to Scrum, SAFe etc, it’s not the same kind of thing at all! Then in Right to Left I made a point of always describing these as process frameworks, solving that problem. And from chapter 3, Frameworks and patterns:

 [The word ‘frameworks’] has multiple meanings. Some of them – Scrum and Lean Startup most especially – are frameworks in the sense that they provide some minimal structure into which specific practices can be introduced. Others – DevOps and Design Thinking for example – are frameworks in the different sense that they provide a particular perspective to an organisational problem and an array of techniques with which to approach it.

Within the context of change and transformation, both definitions apply to Agendashift. What makes the second one particularly interesting is that Agendashift’s needs-based and outcome-oriented perspective has an impact on how you think about and operate delivery too – certainly if you take it to the level of a resolute stance (which of course I do). You could say that this is how I went from Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (2018) to Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile (2019). Read that and you’ll never look at a process framework in quite the same way again.

Key changes

Principles

I’ve tweaked the wording of principles 1 & 5 (there’s a before & after comparison on the principles page):

principles-2020-04-04

This feels like a good place to start so I’ve made them a little more prominent.

Patterns

This is new. Agendashift can now be summarised as two generative patterns:

Understand those, how they relate to each other, and how they challenge the status quo, and you’re a long way towards understanding both how Agendashift works and why it exists.

I’m presenting the patterns ahead of the five core activities – Discovery, Exploration, Mapping, Elaboration, and Operation – a demotion for those if you like. Certainly I see this as a significant change. Although the patterns are an addition, it’s one that seems to crystallise and simplify; one of the reassuring things about Agendashift is that the more it develops, the easier it becomes.

You may have noticed that I sneaked IdOO into Monday’s post Doing Agendashift online (4 of n): Ideal, Obstacles, Outcomes (IdOO). Behind the scenes there was a flurry of activity making everything ready in time!

idoo-2020-03-25

No doubt I’ll be referencing the second pattern – Just-in-time Strategy Deployment – in a later installment of the Doing Agendashift online series and I’ll keep my powder dry for now. Give it a read meanwhile!

A new overview picture

Bringing it all together:

Agendashift overview 16x10 2020-04

Don’t worry: despite appearances my long-held caveats on the subject of cycles remain. I leave you with this post-workshop tweet from friend and workshop participant Allan Kelly:


Upcoming online workshops


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