Agendashift roundup, April 2019

In this edition: Right to Left; London workshop; Open Leadership Symposium (Boston) & online workshops; Top posts; Upcoming workshops – Boston, Berlin, Oslo, and Stockholm

Right to Left

I’m thrilled to announce that the completed manuscript for Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile is now with the publishers. Fingers crossed it will be available for preorder early-mid June and for purchase by the end of that month. This one was 11 months in the making, and work started immediately after Agendashift; I have to say that it feels a little weird not to have a big writing project on the go any more!

As you can see from the updated cover image below, Right to Left has a foreword by John Buck, the co-author of two of the books I reference:

John describes my book as “emerging on his [ie my] focus on the needs of actual and aspiring leaders”, who should “be prepared to have some of their favourite mental models delightfully upended”. Thank you John! I predict that this “updending” will be experienced by more than a few practitioners too 🙂

cover-right-to-left-2019-04-26.001 border

London workshop

Lots of positives from the London workshop earlier this month! Highlights:

  • Mike Haber’s template for Celebration-5W is a keeper
  • The updates to the 15-minute FOTO cue card are now official (in fact the Dropbox has a more polished version contributed by Agendashift partner Steven Mackenzie)
  • Also by Steven, we’ll be announcing a video for the Changeban game shortly

Open Leadership Symposium (Boston) & online workshops

A final reminder that I’ll be in Boston for the Open Leadership Symposium and a 2-day post-conference masterclass in a couple of weeks. I would love to see you there, and not just for the first opportunity to hold a 2-day Agendashift workshop in the US! I’m not exaggerating when I say that Open Leadership and Open in general could turn out to be important themes in the coming months. I certainly hope so.

As a spinoff from Boston, I’ll be doing my first online workshops in June and July. More details here: More ‘Open’, and my first online workshops. If you’re on the mailing list you’ll already have a discount code for these.

The week after Boston I’m off to Berlin for another 2-day workshop; then in June it’s Stockholm and Oslo in quick succession. Check out the calendar of upcoming workshops below for details.

Top posts

  1. Notes from the April 2019 Advanced Agendashift workshop, London
  2. More ‘Open’, and my first online workshops
  3. How the Leader-Leader model turns Commander’s Intent upside down (June 2018, a prototype for a passage in the forthcoming Right to Left)
  4. Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley (February)
  5. Right to Left: a transcript of my Lean Agile Brighton talk (October 2018)

Upcoming workshops – Boston, Berlin, Oslo, and Stockholm

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


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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

Thursday and Friday last week was the 2-day Advanced Agendashift workshop in London. The quick version of my takeaways (all confirmed by the retro stickies):

  1. Mike Haber’s Celebration-5W template is a keeper
  2. The beta version of the 15-minute FOTO cue card passes muster
  3. My “Rule of Three” seems to resonate
  4. Some rejigging
  5. Excitement around “wholehearted

Also, details of the next four of these workshops – Boston, Berlin, Oslo, and Stockholm.

Mike Haber’s Celebration-5W template is a keeper

Announced only a couple of weeks ago, I would definitely recommend using Mike Haber’s template – it makes the exercise easier for everyone involved, and the output vastly more presentable. I’ve updated the Celebration-5W page to make it more prominent.

Celebration-5W-template-2019-03-v1

The beta version of the 15-minute FOTO cue card passes muster

Also announced recently but previously untested, a beta version of the 15-minute FOTO cue card is now made official:

No-one missed the old “Is there a relationship between X and Y?” question (a question that comes with health warnings) and according to the retro sticky, the new question “Where does X come from?” rocks!

My “Rule of Three” seems to resonate

I mentioned my “Rule of Three” in answer to an important question about who should be invited to internal workshops. I had already written it up for my forthcoming book Right to Left but I was encouraged to put together a page for it with an easy-to-remember url, agendashift.com/rule-of-three.

After a few iterations on the text (helped by feedback in the #right-to-left channel in Slack), here’s the key quote:

Clicking on the image or the link above you’ll find a condensed, bullet point version, and some notes that hint at what’s to come in the book.

Some rejigging

Consolidating experiments described in Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley, The Cynefin Four Points exercise moves from day 1 to day 2, the launchpad for Mapping rather than the conclusion to Exploration. It allowed me to run “my slowest ever Discovery” on day 1, and nobody minded one bit.

Update: The name “Reverse Wardley” is (as we say in the UK) “a bit Marmite”, meaning that some loved it and others hated it. Is it “way too geeky”? This was already suspected, but I still don’t have a better alternative.

Excitement around “wholehearted

Remember Towards the wholehearted organisation, outside in (May 2018)? For the evening of day 1, Steven Mackenzie (one of Right to Left‘s reviewers) suggested we held a “Lean Curry” around the topic. Here he is with his heart-shaped picture:

Before Right to Left is even published, perhaps a spinoff! Definitely one to watch.

Upcoming workshops – Boston, Berlin, Oslo, and Stockholm


Blog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

 

A new template for Celebration-5W

Nicely following on from my post a few days ago on ‘Open‘, here’s a community-driven enhancement to our Creative Commons-licensed workshop kickoff exercise, Celebration-5W, in which participants capture the ‘Who, What, When, Where, and Why’ (the journalistic 5Ws) of a celebration that will take place some months from now. I use it to capture or create some shared context not just for classic Agendashift workshops, but also for my ‘outside-in’ strategy workshops (more on those coming soon in Right to Left), where a sense of timescale is very helpful.

Mike Haber took my “Clean sheet of A3, portrait mode, big bold headings down the page” and came up with something significantly better:

This is great, and not just because it looks good – it’s really clever!

The original guidance as described in the deck and in chapter 1 of the book suggests that you start with ‘When’ (How long will we need to achieve something meaningful?) and work backwards through the ‘What’ and the ‘Who’ before finishing up with the ‘Where’ (a venue that makes some kind of statement) and the ‘Why’ (the importance of not just the celebration but the whole endeavour). With Mike’s layout, this translates to “Start with the When (bottom right) and work anticlockwise” – much more elegant! For presentation purposes, it’s natural to start either top left with the ‘Who’ and work clockwise or left-right, or in the visually impactful middle with the ‘Why’.

The Celebration-5W Dropbox now includes an updated facilitation deck with instructions for both old and new layouts, also a printable template (I just bought myself an A3 printer with very much this kind of thing in mind). Request access here.

I will of course be using this new template in my upcoming workshops; Julia might too. Check out details of events in Seattle, London, Boston, Berlin, Stockholm, and Oslo below.


Upcoming Agendashift workshops

See also the recent blog post: Agendashift workshops in Seattle, London, Boston, and Berlin, which includes a detailed description of the 2-day workshop. Workshops facilitated by Mike Burrows (yours truly) unless otherwise indicated:


Blog: 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…

 

On the quality and nature of backlogs

From the Agendashift and Agile and Lean Software Development LinkedIn groups (the second by request):

If you’re building systems for use by humans, ploughing through backlogs of requirements  – however well they might be written – rarely delivers anything better than mediocrity. Conversely, in a high feedback environment (where ideas get tested very quickly), even apparently low-quality inputs can deliver great results, if the inputs do at least focus collaboration and innovation on the right challenges.

Not that the “upstream” folks get a free ride from me – it’s their job to ensure a ready supply of those right challenges to work on, options developed to an appropriate level of detail just-in-time. What’s “appropriate” here is highly contextual, depending as it does on the degree of uncertainty involved and the skillset of the team. Focussing on the quality of the backlog as a whole would be a mistake and not a metric I would want anyone to take seriously.

That’s taken a little out of context and there is no doubt a risk that I’ll be misunderstood, but the comment stands alone well enough I think. One thing is for sure: I completely stand by the idea that ploughing through backlogs is a recipe for mediocrity, particularly when the system under construction is mainly for use by real people. I said it before in Agendashift and I’ll be saying it again (albeit for a different audience) it in Right to Left.

As to the idea that focussing too much on the quality of the backlog can be a trap for the unwary, let me quote from the draft of Right to Left. Here we’re describing close collaboration between development and its ‘upstream’ process in a digital context where this kind of working is now very well proven:

[They] learned to stop thinking of [their ‘upstream’ process] as a phase broken down into stages with gates in between; now they understand it as managing a portfolio of options for the best possible return. The best ideas will be released quickly, perhaps even before they are fully formed – the opportunity being great enough that more eyes and hands should be involved sooner. Some ideas take longer to mature, the cost/benefit equation being sufficiently marginal that a few rounds of prototyping and user testing might save the team some wasted effort later. The least promising ideas will languish for a while before a positive decision is made to reject them. No-one mourns a rejected option; each one is a bullet dodged, waste avoided.

Focus less on the backlog itself and more on the job that it has to do!


Upcoming Agendashift workshops

See recent blog post: Agendashift workshops in Seattle, London, Boston, and Berlin

Facilitated by Mike Burrows unless otherwise indicated:

open_leadership_symposium_speaker_burrows


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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

Agendashift roundup, January 2019

A shorter and less structured roundup this month – there are a number of additions and changes to the events calendar in the pipeline and I’ll begin to announce these separately in the coming weeks. Watch out for details of 2-day Advanced workshops in the UK, the Netherlands, in Germany, Scandinavia, Greece, and the US. The last of those will be announced as a masterclass linked to an exciting new event, The Open Leadership Symposium, which takes place in Boston in May.

Right to Left

Before things get crazy again I have a quietish February in prospect and there’s every chance that I’ll have a decent draft of Right to Left done by the end of the month. I’ve been aiming for early summer for publication; dare I say late spring now? We’ll see!

To whet your appetite, the first few paragraphs of the introduction now appear on the Right to Left landing page. If you’d like to read the whole introduction, drop me a line or visit channel #right-to-left in Slack.

Changeban and Featureban

My recent trip to India plus a private workshop back in the UK has given me three more opportunities to run Changeban sessions, two of them for 50+ people at a time. Based on the experience of those larger sessions (both of which were recorded; fingers crossed we’ll be able to share at least one of them) I’ve switched around some of the introductory slides – in the ‘endgame’ part, if you’re familiar with it. If you’ve signed up to the Changeban Dropbox, look for a version 1.1 deck. Nothing fundamental, it just flows better.

I’ve still not had the chance to test Featureban with Changeban-style rules and it seems likely that others will beat me to it. When that does finally happen (and I’ll be grateful), watch out for Featureban 3.0. Until then it remains at version 2.3.

Questions? #changeban and #featureban in Slack.

Top posts

  1. My favourite Clean Language question
  2. A Grand Unification Theory for Lean-Agile?
  3. How the Leader-Leader model turns Commander’s Intent upside down (June)
  4. Right to Left: a transcript of my Lean Agile Brighton talk (October)
  5. My kind of Agile (November)

Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

 

A Grand Unification Theory for Lean-Agile?

The job of chapter 3 of the forthcoming book Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile is to introduce a number of important Agile, Lean-Agile, and associated frameworks. I have taken care to describe them not as alternative solutions that must be chosen between, but as patterns to be combined in interesting ways. That’s not a new idea, but what does seem remarkable is how helpful a right-to-left perspective is in explaining how they work together and complement each other. When I say right-to-left, we’re talking not just collaborative, continuous, pull-based, and so on (concepts conventionally associated with Lean-Agile) but something very explicitly outcome-oriented.

Almost verbatim from the manuscript:

  1. Scrum (and Scrum-based scaling frameworks, if that’s your bag): continuously iterating on and self-organising around goals (short term outcomes) in the pursuit of longer term outcomes – product vision, the team’s mission, broader organisational objectives, and so on
  2. Kanban, making progress on outcomes visible, concentrating effort on the ones that matter most, fostering a focus on completion
  3. XP and DevOps, right across development and production, providing the infrastructure of process, practice, and technology necessary to accelerate feedback on the delivery of outcomes
  4. Service Design Thinking (along with user research, user experience and so on), continuously discovering which outcomes are important
  5. Lean Startup, pursuing business viability through continuous deliberate experimentation, managing for impact (outcomes again), finding and continuously refining a business model that enables customer outcomes to be sustained

Here it really is outcomes that holds everything together, not (as you might expect) flow, collaboration, or some other shared value or technical principle. This way, we avoid saying “if you dig deep enough, they’re the same” (which I hear from time to time and strongly reject, believing that it does each framework’s creators and communities a huge disservice).

Neither are we saying “don’t use frameworks”, if (and it’s quite a big if) this means that you must always start from first principles. A sensible way to start is again outcome-oriented and has a measured and pragmatic attitude towards frameworks (quoting this time from chapter 4, Viable scaling):

  • Identify needs – looking at what kind of organisation you’re trying to be and at what you’re trying to achieve  – and the obstacles that currently prevent those needs from being met
  • Agree on outcomes, not just goals plucked out of the air, but the kind of outcomes that might be achieved when these obstacles are removed, overcome, or bypassed
  • On a just-in-time basis, prioritise outcomes and generate a range of options to realise them, using your favourite frameworks as sources of ideas (not excluding other sources, but valuing coherence nevertheless)
  • In manageably small chunks of change and through a combination of direct action and experimentation (choosing between those approaches on a case-by-case basis according to the level of uncertainty and risk involved), begin to treat change as real work: tracking it, validating its impact, and reflecting on it just as we would for product work

In a nutshell, I’ve described Agendashift, which is of course a right-to-left approach to change and transformation. Other engagement models exist – see OpenSpace Agility (OSA) for another excellent, well-documented, and highly complementary example. Whichever approach you choose, take care to choose one that models Lean and Agile values, lest the dissonance proves too great and you fatally undermine your work, a very real risk. To sow disengagement would be a truly bad outcome!

Related:


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Upcoming public Agendashift workshops (India*2, US*2, UK, Netherlands):

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


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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

 

Rejection, insight, and learning

Two questions:

  • When did you last reject an idea as a result of deliberate testing?
  • What did you learn in the process?

And a followup question:

  • How does your process encourage that kind of rejection and learning to happen?

If your process doesn’t keep asking the right questions, you can be pretty sure you’re over-investing either in stuff no-one needs, or in changes that won’t deliver the organisational benefits you expect. But if you program in the time to reflect on your rejected ideas (however sporadically they’re currently happening), the rest might just follow.

Here’s how at the end of the Changeban [1, 2] game we model that reflection and introduce two key concepts: the hypothesis and double-loop learning [2] (notice the two levels of learning identified by the red callouts):

changeban-retrospect-on-experiments-2018-12-03

In theory, if you have an organisational design that encourages double-loop learning, the rest of your process will soon catch up. In my experience however, it’s rare to see it outside of those organisations that haven’t already chosen to pursue a hypothesis-driven, outcome-oriented, ‘right-to-left’ kind of delivery process.

For example, heavily ‘projectised’ organisations typically learn painfully slowly. This is only partly explained by the fact that they do everything in large batches that take a very long time to process. There are deeper issues:

  • Once the scope of a project has been decided, the mere thought that there might be more needs to discover and respond to is often actively discouraged. If discovery happens at all, it is done by people outside the delivery team in preparation for future projects, greatly limiting the opportunity to integrate new learning into current work.
  • Similarly, when the ironically-named ‘lessons learned’ meeting finally arrives, it is already too late for the project in question to test any proposed process changes, and it’s unlikely that other projects will be ready to do much with the insights generated either.

Not that Agile has this stuff completely sorted either:

  • Backlog-driven Agile projects (four words that will never gladden my heart) remain susceptible to the scope problem, and typically they don’t make a habit of framing individual pieces of work in ways designed to invite challenge
  • Even where the delivery process is a good generator of insights, team-centric Agile tends to limit the organisational scope of any learning

In Right to Left [4] (due summer 2019) I will describe a style of delivery organisation that has i) managed to let go of that old left-to-right kind of thinking, and ii) explicitly created not just opportunities for organisational learning to happen but the clear expectation that it will will be happening all of the time, a natural part of the process, and ‘real work’.

Fortunately, there are enough real-world examples of right-to-left thinking out there that I know that it is no idealistic fantasy. Neither is it a doomed attempt to shoehorn diverse experiences into a single and over-complicated delivery framework or to extrapolate from the experiences of just a few. Rather, the right-to-left concept represents a concentrated essence of Lean, Agile, and Lean-Agile working at their best, a helpful metaphor, and a unifying theme, one that allows me to celebrate a wide range of models, tools, and examples. Each of those is unique and special, but a commitment to learning connects all of them.

In the meantime, don’t forget Agendashift [5, 6]! This is no stopgap, but rather an approach to change and transformation through which that same right-to-left philosophy runs very deep. If you’re in the business of change in what could broadly be described as the Lean-Agile space and are hungry for alternatives to 20th century change management, the book and the tools it describes could be just what you’re looking for.

[1] Changeban (www.agendashift.com)
[2] Changeban has reached version 1.0 (blog.agendashift,com)
[3] Double-loop learning (en.wikipedia.org)
[4] Right to Left (www.agendashift.com)
[5] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (www.agendashift.com)
[6] Agendashift (www.agendashift.com)


Subscribe here for monthly roundups and very occasional mid-month announcements

Upcoming public Agendashift workshops (India*2, Netherlands):


Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
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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…