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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The IdOO pattern meets ‘Good Obstacle, Bad Obstacle’

Finishing up the writing of the Agendashift 2nd edition (linkedin.com) I’ve made two updates to the IdOO pattern resource. The first is in the wording of this “definition”:

IdOO image

What’s different:

  1. “real, relevant, representative” – this is quoting Good Obstacle, Bad Obstacle [1], the name of a workshop exercise that like the IdOO pattern itself is new to the 2nd edition, also of a webinar recording and some associated resources
  2. “generated” – in case it needs to be said

Further to that second point, the IdOO deck (obtainable via the IdOO page) includes this version of the slide:

IdOO 2020 12

This is to emphasise that the generative process represented by the IdOO pattern needn’t be linear. If you’re at Outcomes, for example, “What stops that?” or “What obstacle might be in the way of that?” [2] takes you back to obstacles. From either Obstacles or Outcomes, the Challenge Mapping [3] question “Why is that important?” may take the conversation in the direction of the Ideal.

What the IdOO pattern gives you is a simple structure into which your favourite generative questions (and frameworks thereof) can be used, resulting in conversations that can be more strategic in nature than those coaching conversations whose main goal is to get to the next commitment. In the 2nd edition’s first two chapters you’ll see the Discovery and Exploration activities explained in those terms. But that’s not IdOO’s only use: it reappears as an ideation pattern too.

I can’t yet give a publication date, sorry! If you want to stay posted you can subscribe to the mailing list.

[1] Good Obstacle, Bad Obstacle (agendashift.com, video and associated resources)
[2] For a discussion on those two question forms, see The language of outcomes: 2. Framing obstacles (January 2020)
[3] See I’m really enjoying Challenge Mapping (June 2020), also some related links on the IdOO pattern page


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Deeper (but not too deep) into obstacles

[Update 2020-08-28: This exercise and the section of the 2nd edition that describes it is now called Obstacles: Keeping it real and relevant. I’ve kept the former title below – consider it an initial draft, which is what it is]

From the 2nd edition of Agendashift – no dates on that yet, I’m still on chapter 1! – a followup to a post from January, The language of outcomes: 2. Framing obstacles.

One topic for last week’s Lean Coffee-style #community Zoom (see the channel of that name in Slack) was how to deal with “Lack of quality”, an obstacle that never sat well with me. Which of our checks for poor framing are failed by this obstacle? Potentially several of them! Based on our very helpful discussion, I’ll be updating the workshop exercise Deeper (but not too deep) into obstacles and below is the relevant extract from the 2nd edition.

For context, We’ve done the Ideal and Obstacles parts of the True North exercise (see last week’s post) and will soon move into Outcomes, completing the IdOO pattern (or one realisation of it):idoo-2020-03-25

And for your opportunity to experience all of this, check out the two Leading with outcomes (aka IdOO!) workshops listed at the end of this post, both taking place in September.

Deeper (but not too deep) into obstacles

Not every obstacle represents a problem that needs to be solved. Assuming that its root cause is even identifiable, when it’s something like human nature or the market economy, you don’t need me to tell you that you won’t be finding a fix there anytime soon.

Even so, it’s worth reviewing obstacles carefully. This isn’t the time for deep and likely speculative analysis, but the opportunity to avoid some unproductive framing. Here are some common traps to watch out for:

  • Scarcity language – obstacles that identify a “lack of” this or that:
    • Language that suggests a particular kind of solution or relies on a particular theory, thereby excluding others
    • Language that could be perceived as judgemental
    • Language that identifies only one side of an imbalance
  • Tribal shorthand:
    • Jargon
    • Finger-pointing
    • Language that identifies in-groups and out-groups

Often, these are easy to recognise. For example:

  • “Lack of a knowledge management system”, which very obviously identifies a solution, not the obstacle it is supposed to overcome
  • “Lack of the X mindset” (for some X) – over-generalising a potential multitude of real obstacles, too theoretical to be universally received, and prone to failing the tests for judgemental and in-group/out-group language
  • “Lack of people/money/time”, which fails to acknowledge the demand/workload management side of the equation, often the easier side of the imbalance to address
  • “Management” (or some other group) – hardly a good place to start when their cooperation will likely be needed to address whatever the real obstacle is

Sometimes it’s more subtle. Consider another common obstacle, “Lack of quality”. Which of our traps apply? Is it judgemental? Finger pointing? Quite possibly! If it might be received that way, try looking at the issue as an imbalance. With the obstacle reworded as “Quality expectations exceeding our ability to deliver”, it’s now a problem with at least two sides – consumers, producers, and potentially other stakeholders. More concretely, and taking here the producer’s perspective:

  • Where do those quality expectations come from?
  • What stops us achieving the levels of quality to which we aspire?

Note that neither of these questions prejudge what a reasonable or optimal level might be. Approach it from both sides and you’re much more likely to find it!

If the imbalance trick doesn’t work, perhaps the obstacle in question is beyond help. Take “Wrong culture” (or if you like, “Lack of the right culture”). Depending on who’s listening, this either stating the obvious, an affront, or a restatement of the adaptive challenge in terms so bland that it’s completely valueless. I tend to the last of those, though all three can apply at the same time. Honestly, it’s best deleted.

This process of review and refinement has two important benefits. The first is that it encourages you to be specific. Specific obstacles are both easier to overcome than over-generalised ones and harder to dismiss. The second is that you increase both your range of possible solutions and their sources, removing unnecessary constraints and unhelpful barriers to agreement. In a nutshell:

  • Identify real and relevant obstacles, avoiding language that needlessly excludes people or possibility

For participants, that’s a memorable lesson in the language of outcomes. For the host organisation, it’s a lesson in authentic engagement. Expert practitioners must take special care also; with their particular ways of looking at things, they can be especially prone to falling into the traps!


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See also: Short workshops restart September 8th


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True North, tweaked

Just a single-word change, the insertion of the word “ideal”:

true-north-2020-08-12

Why? Not to change the meaning of anything, but simply to resonate with the IdOO pattern – Ideal, Obstacles, Outcomes. See below the Leading with Outcomes (aka IdOO!) workshops in September and October for your opportunity to have a play, two sessions of 2 hours each.

Related:


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Yes IdOO! Leading with Outcomes

Leading with Outcomes – aka the IdOO! workshop – is the new name for the short (2-session) training workshop Learning the Language of Outcomes.

Why Leading with Outcomes? It can be understood two ways, and both apply here:

  1. Putting outcomes before solutions, being outcome-oriented
  2. The language of outcomes as an essential leadership discipline

Any why IdOO!? That’s a reference to the IdOO pattern, so good we use it twice!

idoo-2020-03-25

Whatever your role, if you’re in the business of encouraging innovation, change, and transformation – helping people engage meaningfully in change-related work – then this workshop is for you.  Among its sources and inspirations are Clean Language, Solutions Focus, Challenge Mapping, Lean, and Agile. The Agendashift delivery assessment is included in the second session.

I’m giving this workshop twice in September:

But you don’t have to wait that long!  Julia Wester does it in August (whether that’s with the old branding or the new is to be confirmed):

The single-session Mapping and Probe! workshops complement the IdOO! workshop and each other:


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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:


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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:

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