It’s out! Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile

Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile is released out today in both print and Kindle editions, with other e-book formats to follow. Find it here:

  • Amazon UK (amazon.co.uk) and Amazon US (amazon.com), disregarding Amazon’s incorrect estimated shipping dates
  • Waterstones (waterstones.com)
  • Barnes & Noble (barnesandnoble.com)
  • Or search “Right to Left Mike Burrows” at your favourite online bookstore

And when you’ve read it, do please leave a review – it really helps.

Whoop – I was lucky enough to read Mike’s new book as it formed. It somehow manages to be a crisp, articulate read with depth and reflection. Mike has written an essential read for anyone interested in people-centric, pragmatic, outcome-based change. I’m very happy to recommend this and excited for Mike!

Angie Main (linkedin.com), Change & Organisational Development Lead, UK

A third book, and so soon after the last one! Why this one, and why should I read it?

Most people reading this announcement ve rcould easily describe themselves a digital leader of some kind, whether that’s understood in some corporate sense or perhaps as a practitioner of Agile, a movement whose co-evolution with the rise of digital technology is no accident. Whichever way you respond to the term, this book is for you.

Both audiences – and yes, there’s a challenge there – deserve a book that does all of these things:

  • Speaks with empathy and from experience to anyone who is called to digital leadership or might have it thrust upon them
  • Speaks respectfully, insightfully, and at times firmly to Lean, Agile, and its other key sources and communities – avoiding lazy dogma and tribalism, and not excusing failures and excesses either
  • Represents a clear departure from 20th century thinking, not falling into the trap of trying to explain Agile and Lean-Agile in the terms of past models

To give a sense of what makes this book different, let me present two representative elements: the Right to Left metaphor, and my kind of Agile. In place of a glossary, a selection of short and characteristic extracts such as the two below are collected in Appendix B, My kind of…

Right to Left:

A whole-process focus on needs and outcomes … Putting outcomes before process, ends before means, vision before detail, “why” before “what”, “what” before “how”, and so on. It can also mean considering outputs before inputs, but give me outcomes over outputs, every time.

Simultaneously visualising this and echoing Agile’s manifesto, what if Agile meant putting the things on the right (needs met, outcomes realised) ahead of everything to their left (process, tools, practices, and so on)? Happily, an explicitly outcome-oriented Agile is straightforward enough to describe, and it makes me wonder why it is not done more often. Perhaps Right to Left will change that!

Agile (short version):

People collaborating over the rapid evolution of working software that is already beginning to meet needs

Whether or not you get the references, if you get that definition, you will love this book. If you don’t get it, you need to read it.

Across chapters 1-4, Right to Left is both the metaphor by which the fundamentals are (re-)introduced and the fresh perspective from which the Lean-Agile landscape is surveyed. The last two chapters, 5. Outside in and 6. Upside down, take complementary perspectives on issues of organisation, change, governance, strategy, and leadership, drawing on Viable System Model (VSM), Servant Leadership, Sociocracy (aka Dynamic Governance), and of course Agendashift for inspiration. In case you’re wondering why I reference models from outside the Lean-Agile mainstream, let it be said for now that process frameworks, the Agile practitioner’s stock-in-trade, will never be enough. For a more considered treatment of frameworks than that, you’ll have to read the book!

Readers of my previous books will have some sense of Right to Left‘s humane and optimistic philosophy already. My first, Kanban from the Inside (2014), was organised around values and it’s only a short step from values to outcomes. Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (2018) describes a 21st century approach to change; for reasons of focus it leaves behind a Right to Left-shaped hole that I knew would be exciting to fill. If you’ve read neither of those, start instead with my latest and see where your interest takes you – I give full credit to my sources and provide an extensive recommended reading list.

For further book-related news and conversation, follow us on Twitter, join the #right-to-left channel in the Agendashift Slack, and check out blog posts tagged right-to-left. Via the Right to Left page on agendashift.com you can send book-related questions direct to my email inbox (or simply wish me luck!) and subscribe to the mailing list.

Enjoy!
Mike

cover-right-to-left-2019-04-26.001 border


August 15th 2019: Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile is released today in both print and Kindle editions, with other e-book formats to follow. Find it here:

Agendashift founder Mike Burrows is known to the Agile and Lean-Agile communities as the author of Kanban from the Inside (2014) and Agendashift (2018), the creator of the Featureban and Changeban simulation games, a keynote speaker at conferences around the world, and as a consultant, coach, and trainer. His new book Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile is published August 15th 2019.

Right to Left‘s foreword is by John Buck, Director at GovernanceAlive LLC (MD, USA), co-author with Sharon Villenes of We the people: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy (2nd Ed. 2019) and co-author with Jutta Eckstein of Company-wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space & Sociocracy: Survive & Thrive on Disruption (2018).

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: New Generation Publishing (15 Aug. 2019)
ISBN-10: 1789555310
ISBN-13: 978-1789555318

Agendashift in 12 icons

Ten days until the big one – Right to Left comes out on the 15th – but still time to squeeze in something Agendashift-related…

Count carefully! Agendashift in 12 icons:

discoveryexplorationmappingelaboration-operation

They have a new section on the Agendashift home page and a dedicated page at agendashift.com/icons, both with links to related resources.

To see them in a bit more context, check out these workshop-related pages:

Other opportunities to experience all of this for yourself this autumn: Stockholm (9-10 September), Athens (17-18 September), Istanbul (26th October), and Berlin (13-14 November).

*The early bird discount for the London workshop expires at the end of this month so grab it while you can!

Credits:

  • Idea: this was one of several ideas discussed at the last Berlin workshop (writeup here, though this particular idea isn’t mentioned)
  • Produced in collaboration with Steven Mackenzie with the encouragement of Mike Haber, whose Celebration-5W template design is reflected in its icon
  • I appreciate also Teddy Zetterlund‘s input on naming of items in the third and fourth rows – I’m pleased how options emerges more clearly as a theme, with Mapping (the fourth row) bringing about the shift in perspective
  • Inspiration: Liberating Structures (www.liberatingstructures.com) and The Noun Project (thenounproject.com)

And as you’d expect, Creative Commons. See the icons page for details.


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Agendashift roundup, July 2019

It’s the summer, so I’ll keep this short. In this edition: Right to Left comes out August 15th; Updates to open source (Creative Commons) resources; Autumn workshops – Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin, and online; Top posts

Right to Left comes out August 15th

This being my third time you’d think I’d know better by now, but getting a book out takes longer than expected! Anyway, I’m thrilled to announce that Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile comes out on August 15th.

The print edition is actually available for preorder on Amazon now, the Kindle edition soon. Naturally I’ll have more to say around launch date. Keep an eye out for interviews & stuff too.

Updates to open source (Creative Commons) resources

Some updates not quite big enough for separate announcements:

  • 15-minute FOTO has has some slides specific to online and in-room use
  • Aleksei Pimenov has translated both Featureban 3.0 and Changeban into Russian

    into

  • Massimo Sarti has translated Featureban 3.0 into Italian (having previously contributed a translation of an older version of Changeban)
  • Very minor tweaks to the Celebration-5W deck

Slack channels #cleanlanguage, #featureban, #changeban, and #workshops respectively. More resources here.

Autumn workshops
– Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin, and online

I’ll be adding a couple of online workshops also, likely the during the week of October 14th (two consecutive UK afternoons, two hours each) and the first week of December (UK mornings). If you have preference for days, let me know soon.

Top posts

  1. Visualising Agendashift: The why and how of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (June)
  2. What scales up should scale down (July)
  3. How Agendashift scales (July)
  4. At last! Featureban 3.0 and Changeban 1.2 (June)
  5. What kind of Organisational Development (OD)? (And a book recommendation) (May)

Most recently this month:


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Visualising Agendashift: The why and how of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation

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

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.27.19.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1: Bring the challenge close to home

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

Agendashift provides a number of these starting points:

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

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

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

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.27.40.png

Step 2: Identify obstacles

Again, a simple question:

  • “What obstacles are in the way?”

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.28.01.png

Step 3 (optional): Clarify

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

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

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.28.31.png

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

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

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

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.29.09.png

Moving deeper into ‘outcome space’:

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

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.29.24.png

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

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

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.29.37.png

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

Steps 5-9: Managing options

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

Step 5: Organise (Map)

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

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.32.21.png

Step 6: Prioritise, just in time

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

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.32.34.png

Step 7: Choose the right kind of approach

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

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

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

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.32.52.png

Step 8: Generate options

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

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.33.05.png

Step 9: Frame hypotheses, develop experiments

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

Keeping the show on the road

Step 10: Rinse and repeat

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

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

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

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

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.33.31.png

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

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

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

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

References

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


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


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

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At last! Featureban 3.0 and Changeban 1.2

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

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

Which to use?

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

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

Key changes:

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

Cards:

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

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

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

Open!

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

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

Subscribe! Collaborate!

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

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


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


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

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

workshop-2x1

Very pleased to confirm this autumn programme of public workshops:

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

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


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

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