Inside-out or outside-in? A strategy warmup

In case you have been wondering why it has been quieter than usual here, we had four night’s worth of respite break last week (long story but it was great, the longest break we’ve had since the pandemic started). Refreshed and energised, by the power of Zoom I was in New Zealand early in the morning of my first day back for a Limited WIP Society meetup and I thought it would be fun to try an experiment.

As per most of my meetup appearances we did a IdOO (“I do”) pattern exercise, three breakouts discussing the Ideal, Obstacles, and Outcomes for a given challenge. Composed for the event, here’s the challenge we used:

Imagine…

…reaching the right customers, meeting their strategic needs*, achieving results in the way to which we aspire

*strategic needs: their needs, our strategy 

(And here is that challenge plugged into the IdOO Breakout Generator announced last month)

There are several things going on that challenge, and I was careful not to steer people towards any particular element. In the debrief afterwards:

To which part did you most respond? Right customers and their strategic needs, or how we achieve them? If right customers and their strategic needs, chat “outside-in”. If you responded mainly to the how part, “inside-out.

Interestingly, the split was roughly 50:50.

Inside-out and outside-in describe two important and complementary approaches to strategy. If you start with developing capability, performance, or culture, it’s inside-out. Whether or not it qualifies as effective strategy depends on a few things: if you identify one or more meaningful objectives (not too many of those – you need focus), some measures of success (how to know that you’re winning), the most important obstacles you’ll likely need to overcome (no point focussing on the wrong obstacles or obstacles that don’t really exist), and other sources of uncertainty (be honest now), you’ve made a good start, but still you’re set up for failure if you can’t back that up with the necessary commitments.

You can get all of that right and still waste a lot of time finding out that it’s all completely irrelevant from the customer’s perspective – a potentially catastrophic problem if left unaddressed. The alternative? Outside-in means starting from the customer and other actors in the changing business environment, and working inwards. In the process, it creates meaning and context for what happens inside, a powerful exercise in alignment when done right.

Don’t get me wrong, organisations absolutely need to balance both perspectives, and it’s good to be skilled in facilitating both approaches. It’s good also to know which one you’re doing, and to recognise when the other is what’s needed or is happening anyway (trust me, it happens, and it can be a good thing).

If you know you have an urgent need to look at things from both ends, my firm advice is to start outside-in. With the right kind of structure you’ll get quickly to a point where you can bounce back out again, and the whole exercise will make so much more sense. Agreeing instead on a load of improvement work that later turns out to be irrelevant is at best wasteful, and at worst, demoralising.

Back from my break I have started recording Outside-in Strategy with Outcomes, the outside-in complement to the self-paced training Leading with Outcomes with which we launched the Agendashift Academy last month. Together with our signature interactive workshops – see Upcoming below for dates – we’re building a comprehensive training programme, all designed to help organisations, their leaders, and their expert practitioners thrive together in a changing environment. For us that means some motivating objectives for the year consistent with our mission, and some new capabilities to develop. And don’t worry, no shortage of commitment!

Related posts:

Resources (agendashift.com/resources)


Upcoming

Always and at your convenience:

Further self-paced training modules in the pipeline:

  • Outside-in Strategy with Outcomes – due summer 2021
  • Transforming with Outcomes – due autumn/winter 2021

Scheduled:


Upcoming

Always and at your convenience:

Further self-paced training modules in the pipeline:

  • Outside-in Strategy with Outcomes – due summer 2021
  • Transforming with Outcomes – due autumn/winter 2021

Scheduled:


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

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Leading with Outcomes: a cheat sheet

To whet the appetite, a cheat sheet for:

Yes, you read that right: March 2021. Publication imminent!

Go to agendashift.com/leading-with-outcomes-cheat-sheet or click on the image below for download information, references, etc. It’s Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA); by subscribing you’ll get not just the PDF but the original .pptx file too – translations and other adaptations welcome. Enjoy!

leading-with-outcomes-cheat-sheet-2021-03-14-v1

Upcoming

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


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Eating our own dog food (3/n): Harvesting

This is the third post in what has become a series:

  1. Eating our own dog food (1/n): Our outside-in strategy review (OI-SR):
  2. Eating our own dog food (2/n): The strategy review’s assumptions
  3. Eating our own dog food (3/n): Harvesting (this post)

From the first of those posts:

What it would be like if the Agendashift partner network was making a point of eating its own dog food (so to speak), in the powerful sense that it models a lot of what it’s like to be a wholehearteddeliberately adaptive organisation, its work happening in self-organising, self-governing circles, reviewing its strategy outside in, conducting outside-in service delivery reviews, and so on.

Yesterday we started an outside-in strategy review (OI-SR). As suspected, we didn’t get through all five questions in the limited time available, just one hour. And in my haste to get started we glossed over something important: In the question (below) for layer 1. Customer, who is there “we” here?

1. Customer: What’s happening when we’re reaching the right customers, meeting their strategic needs?

If from the preceding posts you’ve seen me explore some of the assumptions behind that question, you’ll have an idea of why I’m kicking myself! The one time I didn’t kick off with the Celebration-5W exercise was the time I most needed it…

Despite that little hiccup, some great stuff was captured for the first two layers, customer and organisation. That work was done in breakout groups (5 of them); we then had a brief whole-room discussion for Product and Platform before we ran out of time.

1. Customer

Who are those “right customers”?

  • Organisations that have the need and desire for change but not the know-how
  • Organisations that are stuck, needing clarity about their situation (framing their obstacles in ways that will help them get past them), wider perspectives, more options
  • Organisations that want to create shared awareness and from that define a way forward
  • Organisations that have suffered a bad experience of change and are looking for a better way
  • Organisations that want to adapt and innovate faster
  • Pioneers or those who have gone full circle – ready to get past the the “doing Agile” vs “being Agile” thing
  • Leaders willing to engage, organisations committed to supporting that
  • Leaders with skin in the game, taking responsibility

Their struggles:

  • Repeated attempts at change that don’t stick
  • The feeling that they have plateaued
  • Feelings of overwhelm and helplessness, no longer owners of their own destiny

Wrong customers:

  • Those unable to think beyond the linear project (not meant judgmentally – paradigm shifts are hard) 
  • Those unwilling to experiment (ditto – risk appetites differ, sometimes with good reason)
  • Those who want it all done for them (and again – old habits die hard)

Over-investing in these “wrong customers” in the short term would  waste of not just our time but theirs. However, we’re not writing them off. Their struggles are real enough, and the long game here is to inform the passive and (later) active seekers of help.

2. Organisation

When that customer part is working at its ideal best, what must be happening on our side? Answers below organised by circle (this was a two-part exercise):

  • Learning & other self-help:
    • Helping each other by sharing experiences of what did and didn’t work
    • Case studies (valuable also for marketing), “Agendashift from the Trenches” (see footnote later under Product)
    • Building the confidence of partners with less experience
    • How-to’s for engagement proposals and other commercial aspects
  • Content development & curation
    • Tools, exercises, models, etc
  • Marketing
    • Events
    • Other launches
    • Promotion generally
  • Domain-specific, for example:
    • SMEs
    • DevOps
    • Role-specific, eg senior leadership

3. Product

We really only had the time to discuss stuff that’s already in the pipeline or beyond:

  • The 2nd edition of Agendashift – very close to being able to announce a publication date
  • A conference (our first) to celebrate that
  • Self-paced learning options
  • The assessment tools:
    • Continuing some great work done on the language of the mini assessment and extending it to the full version
    • Two new assessment tools for the 1) wholehearted and 2) deliberately adaptive organisation
    • Doing a better job of promoting something we’re rightly proud of!

And a footnote on “Agendashift from the Trenches” (see 2. Organisation above): I wasn’t part of this breakout conversation but I have shared with the 2nd edition’s review team an idea for a collaborative book project. I’m thinking Wholehearted: Up and down the deliberately adaptive organisation, two key models from the 2nd edition brought to life through experience reports.

4. Platform

Some discussion (not completely conclusive) on technologies to support the work of those circles.

Despite my initial oversight, that’s a good haul for just one hour’s discussion – the outside-in structure delivers again! And let me repeat: If this kind of strategy review could work for you, do get in touch.


Upcoming

Tomorrow’s workshop below is nearly sold out but I’ve added another for early May. Keeping April free for book-related stuff!

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

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


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Eating our own dog food (2/n): The strategy review’s assumptions

Update: This has become a series:

  1. Eating our own dog food (1/n) Our outside-in strategy review
  2. Eating our own dog food (2/n): The strategy review’s assumptions (this post)
  3. Eating our own dog food (3/n): Harvesting

Graham Hill asks in response to Monday’s Eating our own dog food (1/n): Our outside-in strategy review (OI-SR):

Competitors? (source – linkedin.com)

Great question! 

The five main questions of our outside-in strategy review (OI-SR) are worded to be non-prescriptive – to the point of generative – but that doesn’t mean they don’t hide some assumptions. Some were called out in that initial post but there are others. Moreover, identifying assumptions like this is a really helpful facilitation technique; through them the question can be unpacked and the conversation encouraged to unfold productively.

Here in full is the relevant passage from the forthcoming 2nd edition:

Assumption 1 (the first of three) is that “reaching the right customers, meeting their strategic needs” is actually worth talking about. It usually is, but it doesn’t hurt to check! And this key phrase begs three further questions:

  1. Who are those “right customers” ?
  2. What does “reaching” mean for us here?
  3. And to those “strategic needs”(their needs, our strategy – the needs that help define our mission): What are they, and how will we know that we’re meeting them?

Assumption 2 is that there is a meaningful “when”. Is there a timeframe in which those customers and their strategic needs will coincide with our ability to reach and meet them?

Assumption 3 lies in the “we” of that sentence. Why us? Why not a competitor? And for an internal strategy review, why not another organisational unit, outsource even?

Bringing those back together, it should be clear that this single question combines a stimulating and potentially provocative generative image with concepts of positioning, timing, and competition. Not the last word on mission-oriented and multi-agent competitive strategy[i], but a start!

[i] Or in other words, manoeuvre strategy, although that term is a little militaristic for some tastes. An excellent book on the corporate form is written by friends of mine: Patterns of Strategy, Patrick Hoverstadt & Lucy Loh, (Routledge, 2017)

To Graham’s question, let me address assumption 3 in the context of tomorrow’s review. Why us? Why not a competitor?

I see two main competitors to Agendashift:

  1. Other engagement models
  2. Old-school change management

Two quite distinct categories, the former representing a paradigm shift with respect to the latter. OpenSpace Agility is our most notable competition in the engagement model space, and we complement each other far more than we compete. Our respective communities overlap significantly, and there is real innovation happening right now in that intersection.

Our challenge with old-school change management is helping people understand its limitations. It is so entrenched that people still regard as “doing it properly” a model that fails repeatedly when applied to adaptive rather than technical challenges – change that’s about culture, leadership, innovation, and yes, engagement. You don’t upgrade your organisation like your upgrading your email server!

This is well understood by the workshop’s participants – Agendashift partners – for whom an important motivation for joining is the contrast between the two paradigms. Much of the challenge for the rest of tomorrow’s review lies in making sure that not just our products and services but also how we organise ourselves best amplifies that message.

Next: Eating our own dog food (3/n): Harvesting


Upcoming

Tomorrow’s workshop below is nearly sold out but I’ve added another for early May. Keeping April free for book-related stuff!

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

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


Agendashift™, the wholehearted engagement model
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Eating our own dog food (1/n): Our outside-in strategy review (OI-SR)

Update: This has become a series:

  1. Eating our own dog food (1/n) Our outside-in strategy review (this post)
  2. Eating our own dog food (2/n): The strategy review’s assumptions 
  3. Eating our own dog food (3/n): Harvesting

Last Thursday we held the first of two partner meetings over Zoom, the second happening this coming Thursday. The overall plan: a discovery session (facilitated last week by Kert Peterson) and a second session that’s more about ideas for the coming months.

At last week’s session I wondered out loud what it would be like if the Agendashift partner network was making a point of eating its own dog food (so to speak), in the powerful sense that it models a lot of what it’s like to be a wholehearted and deliberately adaptive organisation, its work happening in self-organising, self-governing circles, reviewing its strategy outside in, conducting outside-in service delivery reviews, and so on.

I suggested that we were months away, but why wait? Why not make this coming session an outside-in strategy review? Why not indeed!

So… with more here than probably we’ll have time for, an outline. It’s pretty much the standard questions as per the template and our workshop materials, contextualised just a bit. Not shown here, by Thursday I will line up some breakout exercises to support each of the 5 layers and their corresponding questions.

1. Customer: What’s happening when we’re reaching2 the right customers1, meeting their strategic needs3?

1Who are those “right customers”?

2What does “reaching” mean for us here?

3To those “strategic needs” (their needs, our strategy – the needs that help define our mission): What are they, and how will we know that we’re meeting them? When we’re meeting them, what new stories could they tell? What is their struggle? How do we help them make progress? [1] 

A bit of a steer: The “right customers” question can be surprisingly tricky sometimes, and it certainly is for us here. Who are they? Client organisations? Their staff? Members of the partner network? Current? Prospective? Yes, all of those and perhaps more!

2. Organisation: When we’re meeting those strategic needs, what kind of organisation are we?

This one is effectively answered by this review’s context (see my preamble above), so we’ll dig down a bit. Let’s turn that “What kind of…?” question into something that’s more like a “What’s happening…?” question:

  • With that customer part happening as we’d wish, identify what activities must be happening on our side

And then:

  • What set of circles would best be responsible for those activities? (Give names to them)

For the purposes of this exercise, a circle is defined only loosely, as a self-governing group of people responsible for a domain, business, technical, functional, geographical, or whatever. For stronger definitions, see Right to Left [2], We the People [3], and the Wikipedia page for Sociocracy [4]. Right to Left remains by the way the best source for our outside-in strategy review (OR-SR); the forthcoming Agendashift 2nd edition [5] covers it too but not in the same depth.

3. Product: Through what product and services are we meeting those strategic needs?

An opportunity both to mention some things that are in the pipeline (to be announced here at the appropriate time) and to ask if we’re missing anything important.

4. Platform: When we’re that kind of organisation, meeting those strategic needs, delivering those products and services, what are the defining/critical capabilities that make it all possible?

In support of all we have discussed so far, what are we currently lacking in terms of infrastructure (technical or otherwise), intellectual property, and so on?

5. Team(s): When we’re achieving all of the above, what kind(s) of team(s) are we?

Time for another strong steer. What if part of being a wholehearted and (especially) deliberately adaptive organisation was developmental [6] at the level of individual partners and prospective partners? More widely? How do we:

  1. Help each other grow where each of us currently is?
  2. Help each other identify and grow into new opportunities?
  3. Help each other step far enough back to look with some objectivity at our relationship with the system as it is and could be?

In other words, development that’s simultaneously personal, collaborative, and systemic. Can we organise ourselves to encourage this? I think we can.

I don’t know that we’ll get through all of that – certainly not the Ideal, Obstacles, Outcomes (IdOO) bit – but it will be fun to try! And if this kind of strategy review could work for you, do get in touch.

[1] “What is their struggle? How do we help them make progress?”: This new wording is inspired by connections I’m seeing connections between our outside-in strategy review (OI-SR) and Jobs to Be Done (JTBD). See Demand-side Sales 101: Stop selling and help your customers make progress, Bob Moesta (2020, Lioncrest Publishing)
[2] Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile by yours truly (2019, audiobook 2020)
[3] We the people: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy, John Jr. Buck & Sharon Villenes (Sociocracy.info Press, second edition, 2019)
[4] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociocracy
[5] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (2nd edition due March 2021)
[6] An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey (Harvard Business Review, 2016)

Next: Eating our own dog food (2/n): The strategy review’s assumptions


Upcoming

Tomorrow’s workshop below is nearly sold out but I’ve added another for early May. Keeping April free for book-related stuff!

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

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


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Dealing with internal contradictions – if they can’t both be true at the same time, then what?

From my post Towards the wholehearted organisation, outside in (May 2018):

It got me thinking that I would love to be known for being in the business of helping organisations to be more wholehearted – less at war with themselves, their contradictions identified and owned so that they can be resolved in some pleasing way. If squeezing out excess work-in-progress is a key strategy for improving our delivery processes, perhaps squeezing out the contradictions is the way to improve our organisations for the mutual benefit of all concerned.

In the draft of the Outside In chapter of Right to Left (2019) I’ve included a version of the above paragraph together with the Christopher Alexander quote that inspired it. However, it seems wrong for the book to raise the prospect of bringing contradictions out into the open without also suggesting some constructive ways of looking at them.

The key question in a nutshell: If X and Y can’t both be true at the same time, then what?

On the premise that it can often be helpful to make explicit the thought processes that lead to our decisions, (perhaps as an aid to creating an agreed precedent or policy for next time), I offer a breakdown of the main ways in which contradictions get resolved. If I’ve missed any important combinations or references, do please let me know!

X and not Y

  • X achieves our goals better (in some defined way) than Y
  • Y does not align with strategic objective, mission, or core purpose X
  • Y is incompatible with core value X

Caution: Whilst it may be good to exclude Y, it’s possible that this decision says little about the merits of X, which may not be better than other alternatives (including doing nothing).

X and not yet Y

  • X naturally precedes Y / Y depends on X
  • X is more urgent than Y / X has a higher opportunity cost than Y (see also Cost of Delay)
  • X has higher priority than Y (because reasons)
  • We choose X to precede Y (because reasons)

Similar cautions apply. Y’s deferral may not justify X starting. And might Y be deferred for so long that it ought to be taken off the table entirely?

An important variation on the first one that an outside-in review might generate: Not Y because we don’t have capability X, the X not previously identified. Begs the obvious question: should we make it a priority to build capability X?

Neither X nor Y, but Z

  • Some higher objective Z either delivers X and Y or renders them unimportant
  • Some prerequisite objective Z comes first, or in other words, Z and not yet X and Y
  • Z as an alternative to X and Y – superior in some way, a better use of our time

X and Y

  • Creative tension: contradiction as a motivation for innovation (see TRIZ)
  • Perhaps, after challenging the assumptions of the apparent contradiction, we can demonstrate that X and Y aren’t necessarily in conflict (see Evaporating Cloud, one of the six Thinking Processes in the Theory of Constraints)
  • Conflict felt at a personal level, needing mediation perhaps

Caution: Beware the cop out, dodging the difficult decision…


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…

 

An outside-in strategy review, Agendashift style

I’ve just about finished an initial draft of the second chapter of Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean-Agile (which now has a landing page). Its three-part structure is firming up nicely as follows:

  1. Right to left (four chapters): Lean; Agile; Fundamental Lean-Agile patterns and how they combine; Scaling frameworks
  2. Outside in (one to three chapters): Strategy reviews (and related tools); Capability reviews; Feedback loops and other organisational patterns
  3. Upside down (one  to two chapters): Designing for leadership and change: Servant leadership, Leader-Leader, the inverted pyramid, engagement models (of which Agendashift is an example) and so on

The shape works, and I’m thrilled with how the well the right-to-left thing is working out – see for example last week’s post #RightToLeft works for Scrum too which is already a top 5 post for the year and is helping me find collaborators interested in giving the scaling frameworks a similar treatment.

I’ve not just been writing. Let me share four questions I posed (one at a time) at a outside-in strategy review (a private workshop):

  1. Customer: What’s happening when we’re reaching the right customers, meeting their strategic needs? (‘Strategic needs’ being the customer needs that best define our mission)
  2. Organisation: When we’re meeting those strategic needs, what kind of organisation are we?
  3. Product: Through what products and services are we meeting those strategic needs?
  4. Platform: When we’re that kind of organisation, meeting those strategic needs, delivering those products and services, what are the defining/critical capabilities that make it all possible?

(Admission: I got two of these the wrong way round in my prep last week, which changes the wording slightly. This exercise still worked great though!)

If you’re familiar with the model, you may be wondering what happened to the fifth and innermost layer, Team. This we covered not by a question, but via the Agendashift True North, focussing not on the work that teams are doing but on ways of working.

As we considered each layer, we captured some vision, then obstacles. After exploring the five layers individually, 15-minute FOTO to turn obstacles into outcomes.

15-minute-foto-cue-card-2018-01-29 The 15-minute FOTO cue card

Precede all of that with some forward-looking context-setting and segue into hypothesis driven change and A3 (all of which are standard features of our transformation strategy workshops) and you have an outcome-oriented strategy review, done Agendashift style.

Want to explore these and other complementary strategy-related tools with us? Join myself and Karl Scotland at our Agendashift + X-Matrix Masterclass9th-11th October, Brighton, UK. Or drop us a line about private workshops. You might even facilitate one yourself – the tools and materials aren’t expensive!


Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter

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…

Towards the wholehearted organisation, outside in

It’s one of those often-cited, non-enough-read books, Christopher Alexander’s The Timeless Way of Building, the classic book on architecture and the built environment that inspired the patterns movement in software (think Gang of Four Design Patterns, PLoP, etc).

It’s a rewarding read – philosophical in a way that is both surprising and delightful, and (whether intended by the author or not) full of ideas that are just asking to be carried over to other domains. I read it with organisation design in mind.

This favourite quote isn’t specific to building but it is loaded with metaphor:

Screenshot 2018-05-26 11.52.59

It got me thinking that I would love to be known for being in the business of helping organisations to be more wholehearted – less at war with themselves, their contradictions identified and owned so that they can be resolved in some pleasing way. If squeezing out excess work-in-progress is a key strategy for improving our delivery processes, perhaps squeezing out the contradictions is the way to improve our organisations for the mutual benefit of all concerned.

In my keynote talk Inverting the pyramid, I use this quote to introduce a section on outside-in reviews – for example the strategy reviews and service delivery reviews that follow the kind of outside-in agenda as described in chapter 5 of the Agendashift book:

  1. Customer
  2. Organisation
  3. Platform
  4. Product
  5. Team

Juxtaposing these different perspectives – each one presented by the people who are best equipped represent them – increases our chances of not only bringing our inner contradictions and misalignments to the surface, but of finding better ways to meet external needs too. Within each agenda item, a right-to-left [1] structure: what we’ve recently learned about how things are, what we’re beginning to learn through experimentation, and what experiments we plan to conduct as capacity permits.

Some context and an invitation: As mentioned a few days ago, I have just begun work on my third book: a no-nonsense, leader’s guide to Lean-Agile, organised around the three themes of right to leftoutside in, and upside down. Join us in the #right-to-left channel in the Agendashift Slack to monitor progress and to discuss any of these three themes.

Related posts:

[1] Understanding Lean-Agile, right to left


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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…

Inverting the pyramid, start-with-what-you-do-now style

The theory:

classic-inverted-pyramid

That’s right, the entire organisation supporting its customer-facing staff, the CEO at the bottom of the inverted pyramid. Intriguing!

Here’s my version, which you’ll find in chapter 5 of the latest revision of the Agendashift book (the last announced Leanpub revision before we go to print):

inverted-pyramid
The inverted pyramid, Agendashift-style

Key differences:

  1. Instead of the CEO and senior managers we have processes. No need to promote power hierarchies!
  2. It’s opinionated: each process begins with Discovery and ends with Validation. It’s both humbling and powerful – transformative, even – to acknowledge both that we don’t know everything, not least the eventual impact of our work.
  3. Review meetings of various unspecified kinds – service delivery reviews, capability reviews, strategy reviews, and risk reviews, even standup meetings and planning meetings
  4. Mutual accountabilities, horizontally and vertically

The lack of specificity in point 3 is deliberate: in Agile terms, we’re scaling, but we’re inviting a start with what you do now approach rather than insisting on a particular process framework. So how, exactly?

Here are three ways for you to look at your existing review meetings, three dimensions in which most such meetings can be improved:

  1. How might they be more outside-in (customer before organisation, platform, product, team, etc)? Who best represents each agenda item? In what order? Sharing what metrics (and implying what values)? What contradictions are we likely to find between these different perspectives, and are we prepared to deal with them?
  2. How might they be more right-to-left (recently-completed work first, then working backwards)? Do participants feel mutually accountable for an end-to-end process that focusses on outcomes and finishes with validation? What keeps those outcomes connected to authentic needs, and how are needs discovered and prioritised? What keeps workloads at appropriate levels?
  3. Horizontally and vertically, do your meetings together cover the organisation (or at least the part thereof that is the focus of your interest)? Horizontally, does each contributing part feel sufficiently connected, with overlapping participation across meetings? Vertically, is the organisation adequately represented so that delivery work, capability-related work, and mission can be kept in alignment?

The trick is to recognise that you don’t have to turn everything upside-down in one giant upheaval – the reorientation can start locally, and at any level. Locally doesn’t mean “timidly” though – in fact the way these strategies encourage accountability horizontally and vertically across organisational boundaries makes them both silo-busting and bubble-busting. Scary perhaps, but if you want to influence the rest of the organisation, then maybe you must be prepared to be influenced back…

More on this in my talk at London Lean Kanban Days 2018 (23-24 April) – see you there!


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Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter

We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based evolution 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…