Agendashift roundup, November 2021

In this edition: Leading with Outcomes: Foundation; 15-minute FOTO, version 11; New video on Agendashift assessments; Top posts

Leading with Outcomes: Foundation

As announced this morning to current and existing students, the “old” Leading with Outcomes will be retired soon, and its replacement will look and feel strikingly different.

Leading with Outcomes: Foundation goes into limited private beta this week, to be launched in full around the end of the year. We’re aiming for a much broader audience – all “leaders in transforming organisations” – and as the name suggests, it’s also the starting point for more. Henceforth, the name “Leading with Outcomes” covers a whole curriculum that reorganises the Agendashift Academy’s existing offerings (both self-paced and interactive) into three parallel tracks, for which the highly accessible Foundation module will be a prerequisite.

For more detail than that, you’ll have to wait for the announcements. Remember meanwhile our guiding principle: Agreement on outcomes before solutions – literally, leading with outcomes! If you share our desire to see more of that, up and down transforming organisations everywhere, then you understand the level of our ambition. We’re going to make it easier for more people to participate in the realisation of that vision, so if you’re with us, get ready.

15-minute FOTO, version 11

The latest version of our Clean Language-inspired coaching game 15-minute FOTO was announced this week, and the announcement drew a lot of interest. Read it here:

15-Minute-FOTO-cue-card-2020-09-v16

New video on Agendashift assessments

Added this month to our media page:

Top posts

  1. Announcing 15-minute FOTO version 11
  2. Get unstuck and get going: Starting small with 5% and 15% outcomes (August)
  3. The 1967 Manifesto for The Deliberately Adaptive Organisation (October)
  4. My favourite Clean Language question (January 2019)
  5. Up and Down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation (September)

What if we put authentic agreement on meaningful outcomes ahead of solutions?

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Announcing 15-minute FOTO version 11

The facilitation deck for our Clean Language-inspired coaching game 15-minute FOTO is now at version 11. Minor tweaks aside, the two main changes:

  1. The tip to “start small” with 5% and 15% outcomes
  2. The four roles of the Classic edition of the game have been reduced to three (the Lite edition doesn’t mention roles until the debrief)

You can read some background to the “start small” advice in the recent post Get unstuck and get going: Starting small with 5% and 15% outcomes. Thinking about it more tactically, if the objective of the game is to produce a quantity of outcomes, jumping straight to “world peace” leaves a lot of space unexplored! So start small, see where “Then what happens?” takes you, and in the process uncover not just meaningful objectives to pursue, but places to start, outcomes to organise around, outcomes that tell us when we’re winning, outcomes that (at the right time) will lead to solutions, and so on.

The change to the roles in the Classic edition takes us from the four of Client, Coach, Scribe, and Observer to the three of Client, Coach, and Host. The host’s job subsumes scribe and observer but goes further: it is to ensure that within the deliberate constraints of the game, everyone has an enjoyable and productive time. It covers things like:

  • Making sure the client and coach who they are and what they are meant to be doing
  • Making sure the client has chosen the obstacle that will be the focus of the next conversation
  • Making sure that outcomes get captured – whether or not that means performing the scribing task themselves
  • Safety officer (noting that whatever the coach might think, “I can’t answer that” is a valid answer)
  • Referee – keeping the conversation to the rules (it is a game after all)
  • Time-keeper – it takes some time discipline to ensure that everyone gets to play every role within the game’s 15 minutes
  • Intervening when a conversation hasn’t got started (distracted by meta conversations perhaps) or is running out of steam (perhaps it’s time to choose another obstacle)
  • Observer – from a perspective outside the conversation, noticing things that might be useful to recall later in the debrief

As per the 2014 book Host by Mark McKergow and Helen Bailey, hosting is a powerful metaphor for leadership. If ever you’ve struggled with the notion of servant leadership or feel that the leader’s responsibility to “create the environment” is never properly explained, then host leadership is for you. It’s worth noting also that Mark McKergow is also a co-author of one of the references / inspirations for 5% outcomes – see the abovementioned post for details.

As ever go to agendashift.com/15-minute-foto for tips, download instruction, and an ancient but still fun video.

15-Minute-FOTO-cue-card-2020-09-v16


What if we put authentic agreement on meaningful outcomes ahead of solutions?

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Up and Down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation

As mentioned in last week’s roundup, I was the guest speaker last night at a #bacommunity webinar hosted by Adrian Reed of Blackmetric Business Solutions. I am blown away by the response (still ongoing), and Adrian has kindly made the recording available already. You can watch it here (below, ad free), on YouTube, or on Adrian’s webinar page (blackmetric.com).

A modern take on a 70’s classic, we take some of the tools of modern product and organisation development and plug them into Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model, a model that (still) describes organisations of all sizes that have the drive to survive in a changing environment. The result of this exercise will feel remarkably familiar to Lean-Agile eyes, and yet it helps to reveal some of the serious dysfunctions too often experienced with current frameworks, both team-level and larger.

Mike Burrows

About the Speaker
Agendashift founder Mike Burrows is the author of Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (2nd edition March 2021), Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile (2019, audiobook 2020), and the Lean-Agile classic Kanban from the Inside (2104). Mike is recognised for his pioneering work in Lean, Agile, and Kanban and for his advocacy for participatory and outcome-oriented approaches to change, transformation, and strategy. Prior to his consulting career, he was global development manager and Executive Director at a top tier investment bank, CTO for an energy risk management startup, and interim delivery manager for two of the UK government’s digital ‘exemplar’ projects.

Links shared in the talk:

  • deliberately-adaptive.org
  • agendashift.com/changeban
  • agendashift.com/assessments
  • agendashift.com/a3-template
  • agendashift.com/book (the 2021 2nd edition of Agendashift) and its recommended reading page, looking out in particular for these authors:
    • Stafford Beer (VSM originator)
    • my friend Patrick Hoverstadt – for The Fractal Organisation, the second of two of his books I reference
    • Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey – here for An Everyone Culture.  Despite my oft-expressed aversion – alluded to in my talk – to staged development models, maturity models and the like, they impress hugely. The name ‘Deliberately Adaptive Organisation’ is totally inspired by their ‘Deliberately Developmental Organisation’, referenced towards the end of my talk. To integrate strategy, delivery, and development to the depth envisioned in Agendashift’s wholehearted mission, you need this stuff. Their Immunity to Change resonates too.
  • agendashift.com/subscribe – per the last slide, a ton of stuff still brewing and you don’t want to miss out 🙂

Enjoy!


What if we put authentic agreement on meaningful outcomes ahead of solutions?

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Celebration-5W version 6, “your next big breakthrough”

Agendashift is founded on one simple but radical idea: authentic agreement on meaningful outcomes as the basis for change. If there’s a stronger foundation for the kind of change where engagement, collaboration, and innovation are key – any interesting kind of change, in other words – I have yet to find it.

Accepting that authentic agreement is unlikely without some kind of conversation, where do those conversations start? One tried-and-tested place is Celebration-5W, our context-capturing workshop kickoff exercise. It’s not the only available starting point, but it is certainly a reliable one. It’s a time travel exercise with a simple premise: we use the journalistic Five Ws – Who, What, Where, When, and Why – to report on a celebration that will take place some time from now. The exercise is usually done in small groups, with outputs compared in a debrief afterwards.

In version 6 I’ve made a couple of small changes to align the materials with how I already introduce and facilitate it:

  1. Under What, “your next big breakthrough”. This is a deliberate nudge away from the thinking that we must wait for the end of a project. For a while in my patter I would say things like “your next big piece of learning” but that’s too abstract for this early stage in proceedings and not nearly as engaging.
  2. Under When, I inserted “business-relevant” to make a “significant and business-relevant challenge”.  An obvious enough tweak, but I have always stressed that it’s not good enough to celebrate something specific to (say) Agile practitioners without making its business relevance very clear. Better indeed to start with something recognisably business-related and work backwards from there. In fact, it’s perfectly possible to do an Agendashift workshop without mentioning the A word at all and I make no apologies for that.

Celebration-5W-slide-2021-08-v6

As per the tip highlighted middle right on the above slide, the two affected W’s together represent a good place to start the exercise. The trick is to iterate between the What (top right in Mike Haber’s nice template) and the When (bottom right) until you have a scope that seems to work. We recommend a timeframe measured in months, long enough for there to be some real challenge remaining but not so long that it risks becoming just an aspiration or someone else’s problem.

Your next big breakthrough

What if workshop exercises aren’t your thing or if now’s not the time? Fair enough! A little mental/paper exercise for you:

  • What is the next big (multi-month, significant, and business-relevant) breakthrough that you would like to be celebrating?
  • Where do you think that breakthrough will come from?
  • Were you to ask those questions of your colleagues, how do you think they would answer?
  • How would their Five Ws compare to each other’s and to yours?

Be honest now! Answers aren’t going to be identical, but you do want them to be coherent. If they are not, you have a problem, perhaps even the seeds of real crisis (I do not exaggerate – we’ve seen it firsthand). Of course it’s not normally as bad as that, but incoherence, misalignment, or complacency are hardly trivial issues either. One way or another, it’s time to get together and start creating some shared context.

Celebration-5W is one of the first exercises in our self-paced online training Leading with Outcomes. It represents just one of multiple opportunities for you to engage with questions of transformational leadership and with a range of tools specifically designed for productive conversations in the language of outcomes. Whether you’re a manager or a practitioner, we’re confident that it will help you be a better leader. Could it be where your next personal breakthrough comes from?

Related resources


What if we put authentic agreement on meaningful outcomes ahead of solutions?

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The IdOO pattern as leadership model

The IdOO pattern (below) is integral to the first two chapters of the Agendashift 2nd edition (March 2021) and also to our Leading with Outcomes and Coaching with Outcomes training (self-paced and interactive workshop respectively). It hardly seems possible that the pattern is only a year old, but this post from April last year really does seem to be my first mention of it.

agendashift-framework-overview-16x10-2020-12-07-idoo

So what is it? Well, it’s at least four things in one, demonstrating its considerable “stretchiness” in terms of the timescales involved:

  • It’s a leadership routine – three or four quick questions, some quick answers, taking just moments
  • It’s a coaching pattern – a higher-level structure to wrap around your favourite coaching tools to bring some strategic perspective – less emphasis on getting to the next commitment, more on the strategic landscape in which options will be developed
  • For facilitators, it’s the overall arc for a string of workshop exercises, whether that’s an hour’s worth or a day’s
  • For consultants, it’s a way to frame a client engagement – as helping them understand where they’d like to get to, what’s in the way of that, and what they might achieve along the way

When taken slowly enough it’s fractal: there may be obstacles in the way of any outcome, and there is always the opportunity to bootstrap the process and identify new ideals at different levels of detail.

This post relates most closely to the first of those uses, IdOO as leadership routine. Here is the IdOO mnemonic not as the structure of a conversation but as an easily-remembered leadership model:

  • Ideal – sustaining a sense of overall direction, connecting people to purpose, helping people find meaning in their work
  • Obstacles – building trust and empathy by recognising the obstacles that people face – their everyday frustrations, the “struggling moments” of actual and potential customers – everything that stands in the way of performance and success; real, relevant, and representative problems that better-designed organisations or products would alleviate
  • Outcomes – keeping at the forefront the goals around which work is organised and to which streams of work are aligned; remembering to celebrate their achievement and to focus the associated learning (both organisational and individual) to the maximum

It’s not a million miles away from my 3-point summary of Servant Leadership. Here in the last chapter of Right to Left I’m channeling Greenleaf, noting what I describe as his “masterful systems thinking”:

  1. The first responsibility of the Servant Leader is to help others to be successful – removing impediments, ensuring that basic needs are met
  2. For people to remain engaged, the Servant Leader must help others find autonomy and meaning in their work, together discovering, developing, and pursuing the organisation’s values, mission, and purpose in society
  3. For this process of transformation to be sustained indefinitely, Servant Leaders must help develop Servant Leadership in others

Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile, Mike Burrows (2019, audiobook 2020)

I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that IdOO supersedes any of that (IdOO only scratches the surface of point 3, for example), but it could be a good starting point if you find Servant Leadership hard to grapple with.

Sources

I’ve mentioned my Agendashift (2021) and Right to Left (2019) already; let me mention some other books I’ve referenced in one or both of those:

  • Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness, Robert K. Greenleaf (Paulist Press, 25th Anniversary edition, 2002) – decades ahead of its time and still an inspiration; I re-read it every few years
  • The Serving Leader: Five powerful actions to transform your team, business, and community, Kenneth R. Jennings & John Stahl-Wert (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2nd edition, 2016) – a recent take on servant leadership and a tweak on the language that some will welcome; I’m grateful to Agendashift partner and Servant Leadership champion Angie Main for finding that one
  • Host: Six new roles of engagement, Mark McKergow & Helen Bailey (Solutions Books, 2014) – a change of metaphor and one that brings new insights
  • Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, L. David Marquet (Portfolio, 2013) – another great book all round; helpful advice here with regard both to obstacles (when and when not to take them away, for example) and to the learning and development aspects of the model

Not referenced but worthy additions to that list:

  • Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything, Stephen M.R. Covey (Free Press, 2006)
  • Demand-side Sales 101: Stop Selling and Help Your Customers Make Progress, Bob Moesta (Lioncrest Publishing, 2020)

I’m currently listening to the audiobook of Covey’s Speed of Trust, good stuff so far. Bob Moesta’s book fits here better than you might guess from the title; it’s a great book on Jobs to be Done, and it’s my source for the the phrase “struggling moments”.

IdOO at the the conferences

Don’t forget the Agendashift 2021 conference on May 18th – not long now! The IdOO pattern will certainly get a mention in my opening introduction (not keynote – that honour goes to Pia-Mia Thorén). And I’m thrilled that Gervase Bushe will be speaking on leadership in the closing keynote. He is the author or co-author of two of the 2nd edition’s key references, The Dynamics of Generative Change and Dialogic Organisation Development.  

Possibly a mention of IdOO in one form or another in my LAG21 talk on the 25th, trust-building being a key element of the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation (see the last couple of chapters of the Agendashift 2nd edition). Agendashift Academy is proud to sponsor that conference too.


Upcoming

Listed now on the Agendashift Academy’s Store page are our scheduled workshops:

And always now the self-paced option:

Selected appearances by Agendashift partners, me where unspecified:


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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

Upcoming

Comment & reactions on this post appreciated: LinkedIn | Slack (join ours) | Twitter


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What’s new in the February Deep Dive workshop

February’s Agendashift Deep Dive isn’t just the first of the year, it’s the first since I delivered the manuscript for the 2nd edition (publication is due in March). The revision process has helped me identify a number of improvements to the workshop materials. More significantly – and as I mentioned in my previous post on strategy [1] – we have been digging some deep foundations in systems, organisation, and personal development over the past 18 months or so, work of a kind that takes its time to feed through.

There are two main elements coming now to the foreground. One is pre-existing, familiar to followers of this blog, and receiving an upgrade; the other is new. But before I introduce them, a reminder of what Agendashift is: it’s an engagement model. And what does an engagement model do? My definition [2] states that they have three jobs to do:

  1. To structure and support the work of those that would encourage innovation, change, and transformation
  2. To help the organisation engage its staff meaningfully in change-related work
  3. To keep the the organisation’s parts engaged with each other as they change

Visualised:

2021-01-18-engagment-model

The upgraded and new elements in Agendashift speak to the Organisation box in that picture:

  1. Wholehearted, our mission [3]
  2. The Deliberately Adaptive Organisation, a non-prescriptive but still powerfully diagnostic model of business agility

In the 2nd edition you will see Wholehearted reconciled to two foundational models, Bushe & Marshak’s Generative Change Model [4] and Stafford Beer’s classic Viable System Model (VSM) [5]. Out of that reconciliation come a number of base assumptions [6] that Deep Dive participants will have the opportunity to validate, reject, or reflect on. (I’ll share them here once the book’s out.)

Book-wise I nearly left it there, but after sketching out an appendix with more detail on how that reconciliation worked, I felt compelled to add a whole new final chapter, Up and down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation, a title inspired by Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey’s Deliberately Developmental Organisation [6]. My model plugs theirs, Agendashift, Sociocracy [7], and OKR [8] into VSM. Thanks to the way that VSM scales – fractally – the combination is able not only to describe team-level, organisational-level, and people-level agility in one self-similar model, it reveals some of the organisational issues that Agile delivery frameworks either ignore or exacerbate [9].

For the Deep Dive, the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation helps to put several of our tools into better perspective, including:

I may also add an exercise on those scaling issues.

Details of that February Deep Dive:

And before that:

For all three workshops, all the usual discounts apply: repeat visits (not uncommon), partners, gov, edu, non-profit, country, un- or under-employment, bulk orders. If you think that one might apply to you, do please ask. Many of those considerations apply to private workshops also.

For the Deep Dive especially, if you think that you might become an Agendashift partner, partner discounts make it well worthwhile to get on board before you sign up to the workshop.

References

[1] If you are not already engaging on strategy, the time to get serious is now (January)
[2] agendashift.com/about
[3] agendashift.com/wholehearted
[4] The Dynamics of Generative Change, Gervase Bushe, Gervase R. Bushe, (BMI Publishing, 2020)
[5] The Fractal Organization: Creating Sustainable Organizations with the Viable System Model, Patrick Hoverstadt, (John Wiley & Sons, 2008)
[6] Organizational Culture and Leadership, Edgar H. Schein, (Jossey Bass, 5th edition, 2016)
[7] An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey, (Harvard Business Review, 2016)
[8] We the people: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy, John Jr. Buck & Sharon Villenes, (Sociocracy.info Press, second edition, 2019)
[9] What the (Lean-)Agile scaling frameworks don’t give you (December)


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If you are not already engaging on strategy, the time to get serious is now

2021 promises to be a big year for Agendashift and I want to share a train of thought that crystallised over the closing weeks of 2020 as I finished the 2nd edition*.

Most Agile process is built around the autonomous team. The uncomfortable truth though is that many if not most of those teams get little meaningful opportunity to participate in strategy. Surely it is a funny kind of autonomy when strategy is something that happens to you!

The flip side of the same coin: business agility depends on rapid adaptation, but it’s a funny kind of adaptive strategy when it doesn’t know how to listen and learn.

Tackle those two problems together and you get loads more benefit for free. With authentic participation in strategy you get engagement. And with that, ways of working and broader aspects of culture become natural and integrated ingredients in the way forward, neither compartmentalised off (sterile when separated from mission), nor imposed (almost certainly self-defeating).

This is of course where Agendashift comes in. Not only do we know how to facilitate those conversations, we give you the tools to keep doing it yourself. And it’s not just the workshops; how to make the process of continuous transformation self-sustaining is a key focus of ours, to the extent that much of the past 18 months has been spent digging deep foundations in systems, organisation, and personal development.

As I write, the four nations of the UK each enter new levels of lockdown, a situation sure to be echoed in different ways around the world. Yes, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel this time, but there can be no doubt that the world of work has changed forever. If you’re a leader and your strategy process does not already invite meaningful engagement, the time to get serious is now. And we can help, whether that’s directly, working with your internal coaching team, or through one of our partners. Get in touch or check out our partner directory right away.

If you’re a practitioner in (Lean-)Agile, strategy, &/or organisation development – one of those is enough if you buy into our mission of building wholehearted organisations – you can be that help. From the start, Agendashift has been accessible and affordable. And there’s no time like the present: join the partner programme now and your discount on the February Deep Dive will cover your first year’s membership.

autonomy

*The 2nd edition gets delivered to the publishers tomorrow for publication this quarter

Upcoming

The workshops continue to evolve at quite a pace and watch out for some new developments this year. In the calendar so far:

All the usual discounts apply: repeat visits (not uncommon), partners, gov, edu, non-profit, country, un- or under-employment, bulk orders. If you think that one might apply to you, do please ask. Most of those considerations apply to private workshops also.

For the Deep Dive especially, if you think that you might become an Agendashift partner, partner discounts make it well worthwhile to get on board before you sign up to the workshop.


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The Outside-in Service Delivery Review (OI-SDR)

oi-sdr-slide-2020-11-07

It’s something of a work in progress but I have given the Outside-in Service Delivery Review (OI-SDR) its own page now, agendashift.com/oi-sdr, its content Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA). It’s long overdue – the OI-SDR was introduced in the 1st edition of Agendashift (2018), described more fully (with a case study) in chapter 5 of the  Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile (2019, audiobook 2020) and it will be revisited big time in the Agendashift 2nd edition due early 2021.

I don’t want to give too much away just yet but you can expect the second edition to be a lot stronger on questions of organisation, leadership, and (self-)governance than the first, and the OI-SDR is a key part of that (moreso than might be obvious at first glance). Meanwhile, there’s plenty in Right to Left if you haven’t already read that or listened to it, and the Deep Dive workshop – see Upcoming workshops below.

Related

Upcoming workshops

All the usual discounts apply: repeat visits (not uncommon), partners, gov, edu, non-profit, country, un- or under-employment, bulk orders. If you think that one might apply to you, do please ask. We have a quorum already but the more the merrier.


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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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