15-minute FOTO, version 12

The facilitation deck for our Clean Language-inspired coaching game 15-minute FOTO is now at version 12. Just one change: for the Lite format of the game, what previously were announced under a heading of “Tips:” are now announced as follows:

Help your colleagues enjoy a productive time:

  • Start small: 5% and 15% outcomes, bullet point answers
  • Be generous in the outcomes you accept (and write down)
  • If a minute passes without an outcome being captured, something is wrong

A renamed heading might seem a trivial change, but in the debrief after the game we will introduce (retrospectively) the three roles of Client, Coach, and Host, which in the Lite format any player can adopt at any time. Client and Coach correspond very obviously to the tasks of answering and asking the questions from the cue card, but until this version, it didn’t seem that we had done enough to set up the Host role.

Bonus

Emphasising the “leading” in “Leading with Outcomes” (our core curriculum), this discussion question comes from the Agendashift Academy version of the 15-minute FOTO debrief:

Reflecting some more on the Client, Coach, and Host roles, which one is the leader?

There it’s pre-recorded; I have tested it “live” also.

For some background on prior changes that led up to this one:

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


What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions?

Agendashift™: Serving the transforming organisation
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Celebration-5W version 7

Spot the difference:

The v7 deck of our context-capturing kickoff exercise Celebration-5W now has two sets of slides, one (left) with the What as “Key accomplishments, objectives, goals, your next breakthrough”, the other (right) with the newer “Your next big breakthrough and all that it makes possible”.

OK, if there are two variants, why not more?

Celebration-5W is actually pretty easy to change, even while you’re doing it! And it’s Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA); with appropriate attribution and under the same licence, you can even publish your version.

Some possible tweaks:

  • What: You’re celebrating the end of the project (not a variation I ever plan to try, but it’s easily done)
  • When: The earliest you dare celebrate the breakthrough upon which this upcoming period most depends (a good one for January, and I have done this one twice already this month)
  • Where: At which Prime Ministerial residence are you celebrating? Kidding, though I do say “have some fun with this one” – practicality isn’t the point here

What’s with the breakthough thing?

See Celebration-5W version 6, “your next big breakthrough” (September 2021).

Beyond that, I am actively exploring this kind of progression, which works as an extended kickoff or even a whole discovery workshop:

  1. Breakthrough – from Celebration-5W
  2. Adaptive challenge – the adaptive challenge that makes the breakthrough important
  3. Purpose – the purpose that makes the challenge meaningful and worth pursuing
  4. Ideal, Obstacles, Outcomes – ie the IdOO (“I do”) pattern:
    1. envisioning a compelling future
    2. identifying what gets in the way of what we want
    3. looking beyond those to what’s better
  5. Organise the strategy* – from the preceding conversations, representing impactfully our understanding/expectation/theory of:
    1. what impacts what, and
    2. where to focus our efforts first

*Language not from the book but familiar if you’re participating in the private beta of Leading with Outcomes: Foundation. Think Mapping, OKR, Theory of Change, etc.

Compared to a typical Agendashift discovery workshop, stages 2 and 3 above replace Agendashift’s True North or similar generative image, minimising the amount of foreign material introduced and any biases that they may bring. True North is great – cathartic even – when you’re about to do something that’s mainly about internal experience and capability, but when you’re about to do some kind of outside-in strategy (say), it may set up the wrong expectations.

Inspiration: Gervase Bushe’s Generative Change Model, as featured in his book (highly recommended) The Dynamics of Generative Change (2020). You may remember that I reconciled this model with Agendashift in the 2nd edition of Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (2021). Not only did I find a remarkable correspondence between the two, the thinking didn’t stop there.

Bottom line: Celebration-5W is a fun and highly reliable kickoff exercise. I never regret using it, and when I didn’t use it but could have done, that was usually a mistake. To make it even better, consider it as more than just a standalone exercise.


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

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Announcing 15-minute FOTO version 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Get unstuck and get going: Starting small with 5% and 15% outcomes

In chapter 1 of Agendashift (2nd edition 2021) you’ll find a crucial but awkwardly-named exercise, Practice Outcomes. It’s there because the main event, the Clean Language-inspired coaching game 15-minute FOTO, goes so much better if players have been primed to start small. If your first outcome is a small one, the chain of consequences that follows – “Then what happens? Then what happens?” – is so much more productive.

5% outcomes, getting unstuck

I’ve been working on making not just the exercise of Practice Outcomes but its outputs and its rationale easier to reference. Hence “5% outcomes”, the kind of teeny-tiny outcomes you get from the miracle question (source: Solutions-focused brief therapy, via the 2006 Jackson and McKergow book The Solutions Focus). The version of the miracle question we use in Practice Outcomes isn’t exactly canonical but it’s close enough:

  • If that obstacle disappeared overnight (it doesn’t matter how), what would be the first thing you would notice? (something positive)

The rationale? Make your outcomes small enough, and perhaps they’re there already if only you knew where to look. And if they’re there, so are what causes them – solutions! A great way to get unstuck.

If you find yourself not wanting to explain the miracle question, something simpler:

  • What first, tiniest signs of success might we see?
  • And before that, even tinier?

Context for those questions might be a some kind of obstacle, an outcome (a larger one, obviously), or even our overall objective. Here I’ve visualised it in terms of the IdOO (“I do”) pattern:

5-percent-outcomes

15% outcomes, getting going

If we get unstuck with 5% outcomes and their corresponding 5% solutions, then 15% outcomes and their corresponding 15% solutions are how we make faster progress. I’m riffing on the Liberating Structures pattern 15% Solutions, whose rationale speaks to the stuckness issue but invites us to think a little bigger. If our attitude is that “15% is always there for the taking”, then we’re primed to iterate towards our goals. Faced with an adaptive challenge, the sooner we embrace that kind of approach, the better. Here, 100% solution are worse than unlikely, they’re a route to failure.

15% is always there for the taking

15% Solutions: Discover and Focus on What Each Person Has the Freedom and Resources to Do Now (liberatingstructures.com)

The questions here:

  • “How will we know that we’ve made a small but significant step in the right direction?”
  • “And then what happens?”

Anticipating one of the three most important questions in 15-minute FOTO, the “And then what happens?” is already getting us to think more iteratively. Visualised:

15-percent-outcomes

5% and 15% outcomes, yes outcomes

You might be wondering why I start with Solutions Focus and 15% Solutions and invite participants to capture not solutions but outcomes. Is this some strange insult to my sources? Not a bit of it!

Think of Agendashift as a two-pronged approach to adaptive strategy:

  1. its formation through an ongoing process of meaningful participation
  2. integrated with innovation and learning processes

In the context of an adaptive challenge in a changing environment (one we’re actively changing, no less), if we take the attitude that solutions are always there for the taking – a core premise of both our sources –  the right time for solutions is just in time. To solutionise sooner is to invite solutions that may be beyond their shelf life by the time they’re really needed. Worse, having them designed only by the people who happen to be in the room at the time is another recipe for failure.

We are not merely counting on but institutionalising the emergence of solutions “from the people closest to the problem”, to quote my friend Karl Scotland. Keeping that innovation process well fed, appropriately oriented, and with room to breathe, strategy is developed in the language of outcomes.

Going as far as mostly as avoiding the term change management for fear of being associated with it, this is the very antithesis of 1990’s-style managed change. Great for upgrading your email server, but completely the wrong paradigm for anything transformational. Catch yourself thinking that a preconceived solution – worse, a borrowed one – should be your main response to your adaptive challenge? Tempting, but think again. You’d be making a category error, already a terrible place to start. Rolling it out, overcoming resistance to change and all that? Well that would be doubling down, compounding the mistake, and the consequences will be yours to own.

So solutions come well after outcomes, not before. But if you hear a solution prematurely – even a 5% or 15% solution – don’t worry. They’re easy to deal with:

  • Then what happens?

Get unstuck and get going with 5% and 15% outcomes. Small – tiny even – but powerful!


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

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Agendashift roundup, September 2021

In this edition: Academy update; Up and down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation; Celebration-5W version 6; Upcoming events; Top posts

Academy update

Time to come clean: our next public workshops (there are still private workshops taking place) won’t happen until the new year. Honestly, the desire was there, but with all the behind-the-scenes work we’re currently doing, it just got too complicated.

For a taste of things to come, Coaching with Outcomes will return in the format of four 2-hour online sessions over four weeks. Although (like the current one) you will be able to take it standalone, it will also:

  1. bring together cohorts of students taking Leading with Outcomes, and
  2. form part of a modular replacement for what was the Deep Dive workshop (actually we’re up to something more ambitious than that, but more than that I can’t say at this stage)

Outside-in Strategy with Outcomes (originally planned to be out by now) and the advanced modules based on the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation (more on that below) are similarly postponed. We’re confident though that the delay will be well worth it.

Up and down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation

This month’s big event was the webinar Up and Down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation. Read about it and watch the video!

Meanwhile, the Deliberately Adaptive assessment pilots are going strong – three have their debrief workshops scheduled for October.deliberately-adaptive-image

Celebration-5W version 6

Also this month, an update to our context-creating workshop kickoff exercise Celebration-5W. Read about that here:

I am also testing some changes to 15-minute FOTO, our Clean Language-inspired coaching game. More on that next month I hope, and in the #cleanlanguage channel in the Agendashift Slack meanwhile.

Upcoming events

Top posts

Predictably perhaps:

  1. Up and Down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation
  2. Celebration-5W version 6, “your next big breakthrough”
  3. My favourite Clean Language question (January 2019)
  4. From Reverse STATIK to a ‘Pathway’ for continuous transformation (October 2019)
  5. ‘Right to Left’ works for Scrum too (July 2018)

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

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Up and Down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation

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

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

Mike Burrows

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

Links shared in the talk:

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

Enjoy!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your next big breakthrough

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

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

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

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

Related resources


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

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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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My kind of…

Two years ago almost to the day,  I was among a group invited by Pierre Neis to answer this question:

What kind of Agile is your Agile?

I was writing Right to Left at the time, and “my kind of Agile” was already a feature of chapter 2. Here it is (the short version at least):

People collaborating over working software that is already beginning to meet needs

That’s just a starting point. To put it into practice, we work backwards from there, keeping needs and outcomes always in the foreground as we go. Understand how that “right to left”, outcomes-first kind of Agile differs both philosophically and practically from a “left to right”, backlog-driven kind of Agile – a kind that too often involves imposing process on people for the sake of mediocre results (at best) – and you’ll understand why the book needed to be written.

If you appreciate that essential difference already, you’ll enjoy the book’s singular perspective. If you don’t, you’ll find it a highly accessible introduction to the Lean-Agile landscape, one that avoids the mistake of explaining Agile in the terms of the models it seeks to replace, a mistake that undermines it every time it is made.

I opened this post with Pierre’s question of 2 years ago because I was delighted this week to speak at his invitation on “My kind of Agile” at an online meetup he hosts. In preparation I put up a new page:

In the print and e-book editions, My kind of… is Right to Left’s Appendix B. It’s a glossary of sorts, a gathering together of some informal definitions that are especially characteristic of the book. It starts with two versions (shorter and longer) of “My kind of Agile” and continues in that same vein.

If you’re listening to the new audiobook edition – out just a few days ago – the appendices aren’t included, so here you go!

cover right to left audiobook.001

Upcoming workshops (all online of course)

With yours truly unless otherwise indicated:

For the latest workshop and speaking events check the Agendashift events calendar.


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Phases 1 & 2 of the agendashift-open project

I’ve finished moving the source files for two sets of pages on agendashift.com to a public git repo, asplake/agendashift-open. In the process I’ve reformatted them from HTML to CommonMark – slightly limited but very much easier to maintain, a worthwhile tradeoff in this case.

The two sets of pages concerned are these:

  1. Agendashift as framework – principles, patterns, and activities
  2. Agendashift Workshops

Look around in either of those areas and you’ll see that each page links to its respective source file just below its license notice.

All 29 pages of this content were already Creative Commons, specifically CC-BY-SA. This change just makes it easier for others to reuse, comment on, or contribute fixes to these pages, and potentially to fork them and create create derivative works under the terms of that same license.

Let’s be clear what that means: Just about all the workshops and consulting services I offer are defined by this content and I accept the commitment to curate it carefully; others are free (within the quite generous license terms) to use it. It attracts some to join the community; some collaborate actively (see for example the Wholehearted:OKR page, very much a collaborative effort); some become Agendashift partners, gaining access to other tools and materials on a commercial basis; some corporate clients arrive via this route too.

Phase 3 will involve doing the same for the all CC-BY-SA content in the Resources area. Some of the pages are quite substantial and the conversion will require a little bit of effort, but worth it I’m sure. Making (for example) the page for Featureban page more community-maintainable must surely be a win.

Thank you John Grant for the nudge. Channel #open in the Agendashift Slack.


Upcoming workshops (all online of course)

With yours truly unless otherwise indicated:

For the latest workshop and speaking events check the Agendashift events calendar.


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