New online workshops added to a reorganised portfolio

Update 20/4: Make that three new workshops, with dates for the first two (the third is currently private-only):

There are additional dates for Learning the language of outcomes also.

Rather than post the next installment in the Doing Agendshift Online series this week, it seemed sensible to wait until after next week’s public workshop and after that share some of the new things we’re trying.

Meanwhile, far from using this enforced period online as an excuse to withdraw, we’ve been working hard to round out the overall offering. The result: twothree new short training workshops (both of them online-first of course), triggering a reorganisation of the portfolio.

One wholehearted engagement model, three workshop families:

  1. The transformation strategy workshops that we’re best known for
  2. The outside-in strategy workshops that take us deeper into strategy deployment  – still highly compatible with Lean and Agile but less about them
  3. A set of complementary short training workshops, more skills-focussed than organisation-focussed

With the twothree new short training workshops, Mapping with Outcomes, Stories, Hypotheses, and A3 and Implementing your OI-SDR (more on those in a moment), this structure doesn’t seem like overkill. Here’s the relevant bits of sitemap:

The workshops:

  1. Transformation strategy – Core, Applied, and Deep Dive:
  2. Outside-in strategy – OI-SR (the generic platform on which the other two are built), Impact!, and Wholehearted:OKR:
  3. Short training workshops – one to two online sessions of up to 2 hours each:

The twothree new short training workshops

We’ve been doing Learning the language of outcomes online since last summer (see the calendar below for dates, with more added recently). The first of the three new additions is a natural follow-on to that:

It covers the following:

  • A quick reprise of Plan on a Page, the simple visualisation used in Discovery
  • The “string” of exercises defined for the Mapping activity, each exercise valuable both in its own right and for making its successor easier:
    • The Cynefin Four Points Contextualisation exercise, introduced under the pseudonym Option Approach Mapping
    • Option Relationship Mapping, previously known as Reverse Wardley Mapping
    • Pathway Mapping (User Story Mapping meets Reverse STATIK)
  • An introduction to Changeban and its simple kanban system for managing a portfolio of experiments

Then comes Stories, Hypotheses, and A3. In framework-speak, this is Elaboration as standalone workshop. This covers:

  • Stories, authentic situations of need, and hypotheses “hard” and “soft”
  • Just-in-time option selection
  • Generating and selecting solution ideas
  • Framing solution ideas as hypotheses
  • Developing solution ideas with the Agendashift Experiment A3 Template
  • Portfolios of experiments

Its first public outing will also be in June:

The third addition, Implementing your Outside-in Service Delivery Review (OI-SDR) complements the strategy workshops. It’s about how you set yourself up for success, before or after the strategy workshop – ie groundwork or follow-through – or as a standalone exercise in organisation design. Its agenda will resonate with anyone who has read Right to Left:

  1. Thinking in circles:
    • Interlinked circles of responsibility
    • Concentric circles of alignment
  2. Metrics:
    • Performance measures
    • Health indicators
  3. Stories, hypotheses, and experiments:
    • Framing for maximum learning
    • Focussing for maximum leverage
  4. The nuts and bolts of the OI-SDR meeting:
    • Agenda:
      • Outside in (customer & environment first), then
      • Right to left (outcome first)
    • Protocols, participation, and preparation

Initially at least, we’ll be offering this workshop only privately before deciding whether (and how) to make it available publicly. Do this workshop with your colleagues and you will be well on your way to implementing your own OI-SDR successfully. With that, you will be building into your organisation design some powerful expectations: that experimentation will always be happening, that the strategy will be advancing, that service continues to improve, and that intelligence and insights will be shared – all of this in a structure specifically designed to create leadership opportunities and to cause misalignments to reveal themselves.

Finally, a reminder that we make all our workshop materials available to partners for use with their clients. It’s easy and inexpensive to join; details here.

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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The language of outcomes: 4. Organising outcomes

This is part 4 of a series looking at the language of outcomes and its lessons for leadership. If we’re keen to see collaboration, self-organisation, and innovation in our organisations, how should we conduct ourselves? What behaviours should we model?

The 5 posts of this series come roughly in the order that its leadership lessons arise in our workshops:

  1. Identifying the adaptive challenge
  2. Framing obstacles
  3. Generating outcomes 
  4. Organising outcomes (this post)
  5. Between ends and means

As ever:

  • Subscribe to our mailing list, and whilst you won’t get every post as an email, you will get our monthly roundups and you won’t miss a thing, I promise!
  • Scroll to the end of this post for news of upcoming public workshops in which you can experience what I describe for yourself

4. Organising outcomes

The generative conversations described in the previous instalment produce lots of great output, and when you have lots of great output, you need ways to organise it! From the simple 3-column Plan on a Page to the string of Mapping exercises, the different visual languages all help participants to see the wood from the trees and decide what’s important.

Ultimately, it’s about agreement on outcomes (Agendashift principle #2 – if there’s a more legitimate basis for change than that, I’ve yet to see it). The shared experience of making the agenda for change visible (Agendashift principle #3) is a big part of that, and how that agenda is organised matters quite a bit. Done well, it supports our next leadership lesson:

Maintain a clear line of sight between decisions on the ground and overall objectives

…if, that is, you want collaboration, self-organisation, and innovation, as per the introduction to every post in this series. And by way of a recap, if 1) those outcomes and their related obstacles are clearly related to meaningful needs, and 2) people are involved in their identification, articulation, organisation, so on, you get participation and engagement in the bargain! That’s our wholehearted mission [1], which describes both an end goal to aim for and something that you can experience right away.

When leaders support that “line of sight” maintenance process appropriately, it builds trust in people’s ability to make high leverage choices, preferring options that will deliver the most impact. And it scales very well! To put it another way, can you expect people or teams to give of their best in the absence either of shared objectives or that clear line of sight? Probably not, and it would be unreasonable in those circumstances to ask for it.

In our workshops, there are two sets of tools we use for organising outcomes:

  1. Template-based (or if you prefer, canvas-based)
  2. Sticky note based visual mapping exercises

They’re facilitated a little differently and I’ll describe them in turn.


Here are the Plan on a Page (PoaP) template and the Outside-in Strategy Review (OI-SR) template:

You can see that the second one is based in the first, adding some new columns to the left and introducing a new vertical axis. Both templates are Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA) and available via our resources page [2]. Chapter 5 of Right to Left [3] mentions them both in the context of the Outside-in Strategy Review workshop, which is the platform on which our new Impact! [4] and Wholehearted:OKR [5] workshops are built. Plan on a Page is introduced in the opening chapter of Agendashift [6].

I usually facilitate these with people working in table groups of about 4 people each, with a whole-room debrief afterwards. For a long time I brought blank A3 paper for groups to work with; now I bring printed templates (A3 printers are ridiculously cheap now and I have my own).

To fill in these templates, it helps to identify the obviously short term and obviously long term outcomes first, with fewer of the latter than the former. With enough of those chosen, the interesting “signs that you’re winning” outcomes will be the bulk of the remainder. And working backwards (right to left) from the longer term outcomes works really well; from the way the outcomes were constructed, a natural structure emerges quickly. That “line of sight” is established!

Visual mapping exercises

A highlight of day 2 of the Advanced Agendashift workshop [7] is the ‘string’ of mapping exercises represented by the icons below. Moving to sticky notes, we can deal with much greater numbers of outcomes than would be practical with the paper-based tools.

Screenshot 2020-02-02 14.08.35

Option Approach Mapping is a pseudonym for the Cynefin Four Points Contextualisation exercise . It’s described in the Agendashift book (from start to finish, post-exercise debrief included) and also here:

We use the pseudonym because the exercise goes much better if the underlying model isn’t revealed until the end. No spoilers!

Option Relationship Mapping is quite new – originated by Karl Scotland and Liz Keogh only a year or so ago – and it took a while for us to settle on a name. We tried “Reverse Wardley Mapping” (for which I can only apologise), “Option Approach Mapping”, and “Option Orientation Mapping”, but none of these names quite stuck. You’ll see these now discarded names in the following blog posts:

Vindicating the new choice of name, of the three exercises it’s Option Relationship Mapping that does the most to “Maintain a clear line of sight between decisions on the ground and overall objectives”. As exploited in the Wholehearted:OKR workshop, it visualises a key step of OKR / 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX), that of choosing key options that will have the most leverage.

However, if there’s time to do two or all three of the ‘string’ of exercises, I will! Option Approach Mapping (aka Cynefin Four Points) as well as creating some great talking points also sets up Option Relationship Mapping beautifully – this is described in the “Stringing it together” post I referenced above. Either/both of those exercises also ease the construction of the Transformation Map, a Story Map (kinda), with outcomes instead of user stories and a transformation “pathway” instead of a user journey for the map’s ‘spine’. The fun part is prioritising outcomes in their respective columns; the preceding exercises help to pre-sort the outcomes so that outcomes of similar levels of abstraction come together, making this part considerably easier.

Unlike the template-based exercises, I tend to facilitate these as whole-room exercises, combining each table group’s outcomes in the process. In Option Relationship Mapping this helps to build agreement on high level themes and objectives. Pathway Mapping does this too though a little less impactfully; also it identifies clearly where the work will start (prioritisation and then elaboration* being just-in-time activities).

*Elaboration (just in time): We often develop our chosen options for action in the form of a hypothesis that (among other things) describes its hoped-for impact as a list of outcomes. The techniques are well understood and I didn’t schedule a separate instalment in the series for this, but you can see that it’s outcomes all the way down!

Next: 4. Between ends and means (coming soon)

Notes & references

[1] Our mission: Wholehearted (, CC-BY-SA licence)
[2] Agendashift Resources (
[3] Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile, Mike Burrows (New Generation Publishing, 2019)
[4] Impact! Strategic outcome orientation for products and services (
[5] Wholehearted:OKR – Bringing OKR to life with Agendashift (
[6] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation, Mike Burrows (New Generation Publishing, 2018)
[7] Advanced Agendashift: Coaching and Leading Continuous Transformation (


I’m grateful for feedback on earlier drafts of this post from Teddy Zetterlund, Thorbjørn Sigberg, Richard Cornelius, and Kert Peterson.

Workshops upcoming in 2020 – Tampa, London (*2), Gurugram, Malmö, Tel Aviv, Oslo (*2), and online

For a 20% saving, use discount code LONDON2020 for the London workshops and NORDIC2020 for Oslo and Malmö.

See also our workshops and events pages – Switzerland and Australia to be added soon.

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From Reverse STATIK to a ‘Pathway’ for continuous transformation

It seems that my 2014 post Reinvigorating an existing Kanban implementation with STATIK is now gone. It is very likely the first mention of Reverse STATIK, and fortunately has saved it here, but 5 years on let me take the opportunity to revisit it.

We start with STATIK, the catchy acronym I coined for David J. Anderson’s Systems Thinking Approach To Introducing Kanban, which is quite a mouthful. STATIK looks like this (or at least it did in 2014):

  1. Understand sources of dissatisfaction
  2. Analyze demand and capability
  3. Model the knowledge discovery process
  4. Discover classes of service
  5. Design kanban systems
  6. Roll out

You may recognise those steps as the chapters of Part III of my first book Kanban from the Inside (hereafter referred to as KFTI); otherwise it was day 2 of the standard 2-day Kanban training. I don’t do much Kanban training these days (I don’t advertise it and for reasons of strategy rather than any falling out I’m no longer affiliated with the certification body), but when I do, I don’t use STATIK.

My main issues with STATIK aren’t the individual steps (there’s value in them all), but these:

  1. Even avoiding the middlebrow dismissal of “It’s too linear” (often thrown around rather unfairly), it’s much more likely to be understood and used as a discrete intervention (albeit a participatory one if it’s done the right way), not as a model for a continuous process.
  2. Even if I grant that you could in theory bail out of the process at any stage, it does rather assume that Kanban is the answer, so if we are to avoid the accusation of being solution-driven, something else has to come before it.

Aside (further to that second point, a bit of detail that doesn’t invalidate it): KFTI describes a step 0, ‘Understand the purpose of the system’, a phrase I borrowed (with full credit) from Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints (TOC). That has morphed into ‘Understand fitness for purpose’ (for the service you are applying STATIK to). This is OK as far as it goes, but the faster it turns (as seems to be its intent) into a conversation about metrics, the less time anyone spends actually exploring purpose. If I’m honest, this part leaves me a little cold, though in the interests of balance, it should be pointed out that Kanban still does far more than any other framework I know to encourage its introduction in ways consistent with its principles. If only the others were as careful; if they were, perhaps Agendashift would never have been so necessary!

My original idea with Reverse STATIK was to retrace one’s steps, working backwards through the STATIK process looking for improvement opportunities. Today, I see it as more than that, and find it useful in two ways, both of which may seem surprising:

  1. Reverse STATIK turns out to be a great way to introduce/teach Kanban too. You can start with the simplest to-do/doing/done kanban board design (not yet a WIP-limited kanban system) and at each step introduce multiple options for improving not just its detailed design, but much of the surrounding organisation design that makes it work. No longer a one-shot intervention, but a rich model for improvement
  2. You can strip out all the kanban-specific techniques, replace them with their corresponding outcomes (outcomes that might be achieved in myriad other ways), and revise for breadth of coverage. A few iterations later (much of it done in collaboration with Dragan Jojic) we arrived at the genuinely framework-agnostic assessment that in the early days was Agendashift’s most important tool (it’s still important today but there are newer parts that are more exciting).

Aside: I glossed over one important detail there: In most people’s first experience of the assessment tool, its ‘prompts’ are organised under headings of Transparency, Balance, Leadership, Customer Focus, Flow, and Leadership. These 6 values are the titles of KFTI’s first 6 chapters; moreover Leadership incorporates Understanding, Agreement, and Respect, the so-called ‘leadership disciplines’ of chapters 7, 8, and 9.  I make no apologies for retaining these; most people would recognise these values as having relevance in any Lean-Agile context.

Fast forward to 2019, Reverse STATIK (mostly under the framework-neutral name of ‘Pathway’) looks like this:

  1. Refine existing systems
  2. Improve the service experience
  3. Manage the knowledge discovery process
  4. Balance demand and capability
  5. Address sources of dissatisfaction and other motivations for change
  6. Pursue fitness for purpose

These headings appear in my aforementioned teaching materials, as an option in the assessment tool, and the spine of the ‘Pathway map’, a visualisation inspired by User Story Mapping (see chapter 3 of the Agendashift book, which also introduces the Reverse STATIK model).

Instead of (and I say this tongue-in-cheek) doing a bunch of analysis exercises before (tada!) a kanban system is designed, an improvement process that identifies opportunities at a wide range of challenge and sophistication, with kanban or without. The spine starts small, grows in sophistication, and ends on high with purpose, leadership behaviours, and other similarly challenging, bigger-picture issues of organisation design; what detail gets prioritised under whatever heading at any given time is a matter for participatory decision making.

Relentless commitments to 1) participation and 2) agreement on outcomes as the basis for change are what took me from Reverse STATIK to Agendashift. The former wasn’t quite the 21st century engagement model I was striving for but a decent first attempt, and it lives on, even if quite well hidden.


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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!


[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 (
[4] Gervase Bushe: Generative Images (
[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.

Upcoming workshops – Stockholm, Berlin, and online

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.


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,

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 (November 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 we have settled on Option Relationship Mapping. 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

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Upcoming public Agendashift workshops

USA * 2, Germany; with Mike Burrows unless otherwise stated:

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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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 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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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]:


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 (
[3] The Cynefin framework (
[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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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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): 22-23 Nov, London, UK