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


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Takeaways from Boston and Berlin

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.

Within days of each other, two 2-day Advanced Agendashift workshops in very different settings and the opportunity therefore for both experimentation and fast feedback. In no particular order:

  1. I was in Boston not just for the workshop but for the Open Leadership Symposium, and my biggest takeaway was that Agendashift and OpenSpace Agility (OSA) seem to be made for each other. The question is when we get try it! There seem to be multiple ways to do it: Agendashift as OSA’s Assessment phase, Agendashift as the way to generate an “in our own words” challenge for the first OpenSpace, Agendashift to formalise some of what happens between OpenSpaces, and so on.
  2. If you want constructive feedback, go to Germany! As a regular visitor (see below for the next Berlin workshop) I knew this one already; last week’s group didn’t fail me and I’m grateful to them for helping to identify both a facilitation risk and an easy mitigation. Long story short: participants should be given more help to avoid generating overly abstract obstacles, guided to start with more everyday frustrations, misalignments, and missed opportunities instead. Abstract concepts are a difficult starting point, and we can still trust 15-minute FOTO to reach them as a destination instead.
  3. In both workshops, we kept referring back to a new slide I added to the introduction. This summarises the diagnostic and dialogic approaches to organisation development outlined in my recent post What kind of Organisational Development (OD)?). Deliberately emphasising the dialogic side, the question “Are there things here that we could take back to the wider organisation?” seems to be a good one for facilitators to ask. Taking this further, it’s not hard to imagine an ‘expanded’, ‘bootstrapped’, or multi-level Agendashift that replaces or augments its provided content (mainly the True North and the assessment prompts) with user-generated content.

In both workshops, that awareness of the opportunity for wider dialogue remained with us in day 2. As described in Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley, the second day now opens with this ‘string’ of interconnected mapping exercises:

  1. The Cynefin 4 Points Contextualisation exercise, or ‘4 Points’ for short (it’s strongly advised not to mention Cynefin or its jargon until the end)
  2. ‘Option Orientation Mapping’, which is Karl Scotland’s proposed name for what I have been calling ‘Reverse Wardley’
  3. Story Mapping (not an accurate name; ‘Pathway Mapping’ might be better)

From Berlin, here’s a very nice 4 Points example:

2019-05-23 10.10.07

Marked with asterisks around the top left corner are outcomes that are likely suited to an iterative and hypothesis-based approach. Let’s now also visualise what the book calls ‘thematic outcomes’, around which plans might be organised or consultation exercises conducted. These are to be found towards the top (and often towards the left) of the Option Orientation (aka Reverse Wardley) Map, which is very quick to build if you have done 4 Points first:

2019-05-23 10.39.49-1

Zooming in, note the exclamation marks (the words used aren’t as important as the fact they’re seen by the group as important):

2019-05-23 10.47.25

Identifying these themes makes it much easier to let go of the provided story map headings (the larger orange stickies, based on the Reverse STATIK model) and consider replacing them with user-generated structure (positioned above those):

2019-05-23 12.25.30-1

The Boston example kept more of its original structure, but an interesting touch was to add themes from Discovery too, potentially a useful technique:

2019-05-17 12.19.45 cropped

(And no, I don’t see “RIMBAP” catching on in the way STATIK did!)

So… lots to feed back into the standard materials over the summer (for use not just by me but available to all partners), plenty of food for thought too, and a new Slack channel #future-developments in which ideas can be aired. All in all, those weeks of travel were very fruitful.


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


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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


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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…

 

Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley

Update (June 28th 2019): Over the months, the new exercise described here has served us incredibly well. With full credit to Liz and Karl, it’s a great addition to our workshops and I love it! The working title Reverse Wardley that I gave it is proving 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.

A few weeks ago in #workshops in the Agendashift SlackKarl Scotland posted this:

Liz and I have just figured out how to use Wardley Mapping to create the Transformation Map. Muwahahaha.

The basic idea is to take the FOTO outcomes that get used in 4-Points, and re-use them in a Wardley Map, so the Transformation Map is more of a Wardley Map than a Story Map.

Vertical axis is “distance” from the customer.

Horizontal axis is ambiguity of solution (which may or may not relate to the Cynefin domains)

As things turned out, I was the first to get the opportunity try an exercise that (for want of a better name) I’m calling Reverse Wardley. I’ve done it twice now, and it has gone down so well that not just this exercise but the string of exercises I’ll describe in a moment look set to be a fixture at future 2-day Agendashift workshops (and shorter ones, time permitting). If ever there’s a 2nd edition of the Agendashift book, expect to see it written up there!

First though, let me decode some of Karl’s shorthand:

  • Liz is Liz Keogh
  • Wardley Mapping is a strategy tool developed and open sourced by Simon Wardley. There’s a great description here.
  • Transformation Map refers to the output of Agendashift’s Mapping activity, which by default looks like a User Story Map, but only superficially, since the column names don’t really describe a user journey and the items in the columns are outcomes, not user stories
  • FOTO is short for 15-minute FOTO, our Clean Language-inspired coaching game; FOTO outcomes means the outcomes generated through the game
  • Taking care not to mention it by name until afterwards (it would rather ruin the experience), we use the Cynefin 4 Points Contextualisation exercise to do a preliminary organisation of outcomes and thereby identify those outcomes most suited to an iterative and hypothesis-based approach (as opposed more linear, plan-based or “just do it” approaches, say)

So, with full credit to Liz and Karl (and indirectly to Simon Wardley and Dave Snowden on whose work this all depends), here’s the string of exercises with photos from two recent workshops, one a public workshop in Gurugram, India (before Agile Gurugram 2019), the other a private workshop for delivery managers at the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Leeds.

First, the outcomes generated in 15-minute FOTO are transferred onto stickies and organised Cynefin-style (as described at some length in chapter 2 of the Agendashift book):

 

 

 

Stickies are then moved/projected onto an “x-axis of ambiguity” – “Ambiguous” outcomes with multiple and/or unknown solutions towards the left, “Clear” (obvious or best practice) outcomes towards the right:

 

 

 

Next, we introduce a y-axis, moving stickies upwards according to their visibility to the customer/user. We did this silently, noting that some stickies were the focus of some silent debate that we replayed out loud afterwards (it turns out that vertical placement can be surprisingly but interestingly controversial):

 

 

 

Without much in the way of prompting from me, it is apparent to everyone at this stage that:

  1. The topmost stickies are our headline or thematic outcomes
  2. Stickies lower down tend to support those headline items; had we been working on a whiteboard we might have drawn some dependency lines to make it look more like a real Wardley Map
  3. Any low-level stickies that don’t obviously support anything else might be culled

To be clear, this isn’t a Wardley Map. A Wardley Map is anchored at the top on a user need, the value chain drawn below it (dependencies below, value flowing upwards), and the x-axis segmented into zones corresponding to product life cycle stages that don’t quite apply here (or that at least would take an unnecessary amount of explaining). We could perhaps have abstracted a top level user need from the headline items (but didn’t), and in any case, the items below don’t really constitute a value chain. Process-wise, it’s in reverse with respect to Warley Mapping, because it’s done bottom-up instead of customer-first, and x-axis before y.

Finally, we move the stickies yet again onto a third map, this time the story map(ish) representation. The trick here builds on one blogged previously: stickies from the bottom and the right of the Reverse Wardley representation go onto the story map first, the quick wins most likely being here. The thematic, headline items get transferred last, and go “above the line” on the story map if they might replace the original column names (their own being preferable to anything facilitator-provided):

 

 

 

You might be wondering whether all this organising and re-organising of stickies is worth it, but here’s just a sample of the feedback, representative of both workshops:

 

 

 

Here’s why I will continue to use these exercises in combination, stringing them together:

  • The Cynefin 4 Points Contextualisation exercise helps participants interact thoughtfully with their outcomes (Dave Snowden describes it as a sensemaking exercise), makes the Reverse Wardley exercise super-easy to facilitate (the x-axis would be hard work otherwise), and is worth it for the debrief alone (each corner of the map identifies what to many people and many organisations could be described as a comfort zone of worryingly limited applicability). Also, 4 Points after FOTO brings Cynefin to life for people who have only previously encountered it as a theoretical model.
  • It’s much easier to identify themes with Reverse Wardley than it is with 4 Points. And as with 4 Points, the opportunity to introduce a very interesting model is not to be missed.
  • Especially after one or both of the previous exercises, the columnar organisation of the story map means that like items are compared with like when the columns are prioritised. (My first rule of prioritisation is never to compare unlike items.)

Much of Simon Wardley’s work is published under a CC-BY-SA license (as are several Agendashift-related resources) and it is highly appropriate that we do the same here. Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley, authored by Mike Burrows, based on an idea by Liz Keogh and Karl Scotland, and inspired by the work of Simon Wardley and Dave Snowden, is 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/.


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

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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…

Agendashift’s many extension points

I was going to do “Agendashift isn’t a maturity model” this week, but that can wait. In response to a question that came up in the run up to our last #leancoffee (there’s an alternate today at 4pm GMT, on a week where our time difference to the US is an hour less than usual, see Slack for joining details), here are Agendashift’s extension points, things that by design can be swapped for other things.

Nearly all of these extension points are mentioned in the book, Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Often they come with recommendations of other things to try and mentions of books and other resources on the Recommended reading page if suitable references exist. So by chapter:

1. Discovery

  • Use a different context-setting exercise / icebreaker to the described Celebration (5W). Recommended: Remember the future (Hohmann) and The Future, Backwards (Snowden). Note: a page on agendashift.com for the Celebration (5W) exercise is on my to-do list.
  • Use a different True North. At our next joint masterclass, Karl will probably have us create one.
  • Instead of the Clean Language-inspired 15-minute FOTO game to generate outcomes, use something based another coaching model, Solutions Focus (McKergow & Jackson), say

2. Exploration

  • Use an assessment other than the Agendashift delivery assessment. We’re rather proud of ours, but other good ones do exist. You want one that generates insights and helps uncover genuine opportunities, so avoid:
    • Assessments that are just checklists of practices (prone to generating more cynicism and resistance than insight)
    • Anything too vague or fluffy to pinpoint where the opportunities lie
  • See Discovery above re generating outcomes

3. Mapping

  • This remains an area ripe for innovation (and watch this space)
  • The book mentions X-Matrix / TASTE (Karl again) and Impact Mapping (Gojko Adjic). More recently I’ve become a fan of Wardley Mapping (Simon Wardley).
  • After mapping, reconcile with other models to help you spot the gaps. The book references my own 6+1 Strategies (although I cringe a little to see it described as the “Agendashift transformation strategy framework”, which would also describe Agendashift itself. I will fix that.)

4. Elaboration

  • Use your favourite hypothesis template
  • Use your favourite A3 template (here’s ours). I joke that there are as many A3 templates as there are Lean consultants.
  • Use, don’t use, or find an alternative to the Cynefin 4 points contextualisation exercise (it’s described as optional, though 15-minute FOTO does such a good job of providing its input ‘micro-narratives’ that I am usually loathe to skip it)

5. Operation

Beyond the book

  • Agendashift is about change, introducing/developing/deepening the use of Lean and Agile, not a delivery process or framework. So Agendashift + other frameworks? Agendashift + Kanban is already a thing (I don’t advertise it but I do get called upon to do it). I sometimes speculate out loud that Agendashift + DevOps ought to be thing. I also wonder aloud (and not entirely in jest) whether Agendashift could be “the safe way to introduce SAFe”. And why not Agendashift + Scrum?
  • Agendashift + Strategy very much a thing – I do strategy workshops privately and may find a way to do it in public workshops. Karl also majors in this area; X-Matrix / TASTE is a strategy deployment model.
  • Agendashift + OpenSpace Agility (OSA) looks like a natural partnership but I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet. I suspect that others will beat me to it (which is great of course).

Just counting top level bullet points, I make that 17. Not to mention that sometimes we sometimes change the sequence or run exercises standalone.

The standard exercises are all well described in the book. Become an Agendashift partner, and you get ready-made (and customisable) workshop materials as well as unfettered access to the assessment tools (there is a limited free trial also). But don’t feel like you must stick to the standard exercises – we don’t!


Upcoming public Agendashift workshops (Italy, Germany * 2):


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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…

A small departure from the book

Slightly technical, but if you’re interested in what we know to be a remarkably effective combination of Clean Language, Cynefin, and Story Mapping as practiced in most Agendashift workshops, read on…

One of the notable highlights of an Agendashift workshop comes when we take the list of outcomes generated by the 15-minute FOTO game [1], transcribe them onto stickies, and organise them 4-points style [2]:

cynefin-finished-2017-12-16

Through the experience of the ‘4 points contextualisation exercise’ (to give it almost its full name), participants are slowly introduced to the Cynefin framework [3], the facilitator trying all the while to avoid naming the model or using Cynefin terminology such as ‘obvious’, ‘complicated’, ‘complex’, or ‘chaos’ (trust me, it’s hard!). For participants familiar with the model, it’s always a funny moment when the penny finally drops and the realisation dawns that Cynefin can be so much more than just a conceptual model, especially when there’s a good supply of ‘narrative fragments’ – outcomes, in our case – to play with. For those that haven’t come across it before, it’s a great opportunity to explore why different kinds of outcomes need different kinds of approaches, a lesson that’s much more meaningful when it’s learned through interacting with your own data (‘sensemaking’) than it would be as a lecture.

Up to now – and as described in the book [4] – the translation from the Cynefin representation to one based on a story map has been a 2-stage process. First, a few minutes of organised chaos as stickies are moved to under their respective headings:

Second, as much time as we want to spend – anything from a few moments to an hour or more – prioritising stickies within columns, and through that process making sure that there is a shared understanding of what each of them means and their possible dependencies on other stickies. Anyone who has done story mapping before will recognise that this can provide an important opportunity for some valuable conversations; we’ve found this to be the case even in public workshops, with ‘teachable moments’ aplenty.

A refinement

Instead of the ‘organised chaos’ followed by prioritisation, work clockwise from bottom right, prioritising as we go:

  • Starting with the ‘obviously obvious’: Sticky by sticky, check that they really are obvious (ie we can all quickly agree what needs to be done and can be pretty sure of the likely outcome), put them in their correct columns, and prioritise. Prioritisation will be easy, as there’ll be at most a few per column, a mixture of quick wins and less important items.
  • The ‘borderline complicated’: For the items on the border between obvious and complicated, explore why they were placed there, and discuss what should be done about their non-obvious aspects (perhaps there’s some important detail that someone will need to get to grips with). Prioritise them relative to the already-prioritised ‘obviously obvious’ items in their respective columns (again, this should be easy)
  • The complicated, one sticky at a time: who might be delegated to run with this item? Should we get some external help? In its appropriate column, how does it prioritise relative to the items already there?

I could at this point say “and so on through the complex and chaos” but the facilitator will flag up here that anything in or bordering on complex is likely to be a good candidate for hypothesis-based change (a session later in the day, see also [5]), and so it’s a good idea to mark each item in some way so that they can be identified easily later. And for the borderline cases:

  • ‘Borderline complex’: Are the complicated and complex parts easily separable? How will we organise this, mainly linear with some room for refinement along the way, or mainly through iteration with some expert input or planned work at the appropriate time?
  • ‘Borderline chaos’: Is it urgent to address symptoms or or attempt some diagnosis now, or can we afford to wait until we see what’s thrown up in the course of other work?

I’ll be honest: it’s still early days for this change and there’s no slideware [6] for it yet – if any is needed we’ll learn that through practice and by partner demand. That’s usually the best way!

[1] 15-minute FOTO, our Clean Language-inspired coaching game
[2] Cynefin Review Part 7 – Finding Your Place on the Framework (adventureswithagile.com)
[3] The Cynefin framework (wikipedia.org)
[4] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation, Mike Burrows (New Generation Press, 2018), chapters 2 and 3 in particular
[5] The Agendashift A3 template (and chapter 4)
[6] The Agendashift partner programme

Finally, some opportunities to experience it for yourself:


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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…

Outputs from yesterday’s Agendashift workshop

With the permission of its participants, this post is a quick tour through yesterday’s public Agendashift workshop in Cape Town, seen through the key artifacts produced by our two table groups. Sessions 1-5 are covered in detail in chapters 1-5 of the Agendashift book (all five chapters); see also the poster and about pages for a quick overview.

Picked up from the local printers the day before: cue cards for the 15-minute FOTO game (A6 & A5 sizes – the larger A5 size being the more popular); ‘original’ & ‘pathway’ survey reports, A3s. See resources.

2017-11-07 12.58.29-1

Session 1: Discovery

Two exercises here. The first is a getting-to-know-you “Celebration” exercise, ostensibly about a company celebration that is to take place some time in the future (it’s one of those time travel games), but in practice a nice way to make sure the workshop is grounded in organisational context and needs. To structure the output, we use the classic journalistic 5W questions: Who, What, When, Where, and Why, with the How coming later:

 

The second Discovery exercise involves:

  • Reflecting on our True North statement as an approach to the challenges of the first exercise, thinking about what that’s like, what’s different, and what obstacles stand in our way
  • Using our recently-open sourced coaching game 15-minute FOTO to turn that list of obstacles into outcomes
  • Organising the resulting outcomes to produce the outputs shown below

 

Session 2: Exploration

A few days prior to the workshop, the participants each completed an Agendashift values-based delivery assessment. The Exploration session starts with a survey debrief, the structure of which is now so well practised that the unbenchmarking report leads us through it step by step.

Then – guess what! – we generate outcomes:

  • Prioritise the survey prompts
  • Identify their respective obstacles
  • Generate outcomes using the 15-minute FOTO coaching game again (a lot easier second time round – one conversation stood out as one I’d wished I’d recorded!)

We finish the session with the exercise whose first rule is not to mention its name (see the first part of this writeup which breaks this rule, or chapter 2 of the book). The joint output of both table groups:

2017-11-08 14.29.46

Moments after this picture was taken we destroyed it (reusing the stickies) but not before identifying stickies setting towards the top left corner as being likely candidates for some hypothesis-driven change (session 4). Look out for stickies marked with asterisks in the next pic (session 3).

Session 3: Mapping

Next, the transformation map, like a user story map but where the items are outcomes rather than user stories:

2017-11-08 15.32.40

After some discussion, we concluded that the first column (Refine existing systems) was empty because the many small improvements that might have gone there were deemed insufficiently interesting on the day. Fair enough! Column 5, Address sources of dissatisfaction (etc) seems rather full; a review of the stickies shows significant scope for consolidation however.

The two stickies “above the line” were the subject of some debate. Are “Increased stability” and “Increased quality” to be treated as long-term objectives to which other yet-to-be-identified work aligns, or are they to be tackled head on? No right answers here, so long as we’re honest. Either way, I stressed that consider them to be actionable (“unactionable” and “aspirational” being trigger words of mine).

For reasons of time, we didn’t bother to prioritise within columns. There was plenty of past experience of that process in the room already.

Session 4: Elaboration

For a selected outcome per table, another generative process, that of creating options. Then:

  • Prioritisation, selected the option considered most capable of significant (“fantastic”) outperformance
  • A hypothesis, Lean Startup style
  • Further development, using our open sourced A3 template (a 20th century tool with a 21st century flavour)

 

It is not a mistake that both A3s have their Insights section filled in. No, we haven’t run these experiments yet, but imagining the learning we hope to capture allows us then to review our experiment design. Both tables identified gaps in their plans as a result of this tip. Result!

Session 5: Operation

As a practitioner workshop rather than a client workshop (same materials for both but different goals), we deliberately sacrificed much of this session in return for more time for reflection and discussion in sessions 1 & 2. Consequently there are no outputs to show here. With more time available, we would have added more outcomes to the transformation map, driven by an adaptability review. This process both recaps our outcome-oriented process and gets us thinking about how the decisions of the workshop will be carried forward. Our mantra here: “Treat change as real work”.

To wrap up, the Full Circle exercise, capturing outcomes using the house style of the assessment prompts – inclusive, present tense, non-prescriptive:

2017-11-08 17.00.09

The top one could almost be an advert for Agendashift (it’s not mine, honest):

We treat change as a type of work – owned, driven, and co-created by the team/s impacted

You, the outcome-oriented facilitator

If you could use some Agendashift-style outcome orientation in your coaching or consulting work, check out our partner programme. And there’s another opportunity very soon to try it all out, this time in London:

Finally, a massive thank you to all of yesterday’s participants, and also to the organisers of the Regional Scrum Gathering in South Africa who kindly invited me over for this morning’s opening keynote. Opportunities permitting, I hope to return to South Africa again soon – 6 years is too long!


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