What I really think about Scrum

[Comments on this post on LinkedIn]

Let’s look at Scrum through the lens of last week’s inverse square law of framework scaling, its power as a framework being the product of:

  1. The incisiveness of its point of view – its core paradigms, principles, values, and so on
  2. The ease with which its key patterns combine – both with each other and with those from outside the framework

Being small, Scrum should do well on both counts; I’ll take them in reverse before returning to how it scales.

The ease with which its key patterns combine

Scrum scores really well here.

Look at Scrum merely as composition of smaller patterns (dangerous, but bear with me just for a moment) and you have to give it significant credit for normalising the practices of daily standup meetings, small-scale planning meetings, retrospectives and so on. Not for everyone an unalloyed good (“too many meetings” is an easy complaint to make if for whatever reason it’s not working), but certainly a mark of Scrum’s success.

And it gets better: Scrum as a whole is small enough that it combines easily with other things. Scrum+XP has been a thing for a long time. I’ve worked with Scrum and Lean Startup in combination (in the government sector, no less). Scrum+Kanban (Scrumban) isn’t just one thing, but several; in Right to Left I describe four common combinations and elsewhere I have counted more (it’s not hard: just consider the different ways in which their respective scopes might or might not overlap).

The incisiveness of its point of view

Here’s where it gets awkward. Scrum isn’t one thing, but two:

  1. Left-to-Right Scrum: the team working its way through a backlog that is determined for it, mostly in advance
  2. Right-to-Left Scrum: the team iterating goal by goal in the direction of its overall objectives

Left-to-Right Scrum is a process that’s mediocre (or worse) to experience, and doomed to deliver mediocre results at best. And it’s easy to see how it happens:

  • Little room in the project for learning about the customer’s real needs or for exploring different ways of meeting them
  • Thinking that the job of Sprint planning is to fill the Sprint to the maximum, a misconception amplified by story points and velocity (the problem not being that they’re nonsense metrics that cause otherwise intelligent people to bestow mystical properties on Fibonacci numbers, but that they reinforce a dysfunction)
  • Reviews not of what’s being learned about the team’s customers, its product, and the team itself, but of progress against the plan
  • Retrospectives that lack the authority to address strategic issues, and that fail to follow through even on the issues over which it does have influence

I’m convinced that Scrum would be considerably less prone to these failure modes if only it would maintain a clearer point of view. Scrum’s tragedy is that it’s presented as a backlog-driven process so often that its core paradigm as an iterative, outcome-oriented process gets lost in the noise. And from that failure, disengagement. All that hating on Agile? You don’t need to look far for causes.

Scaling it up

For the most part, disappointingly predictable and predictably disappointing:

  • Take Scrum and layer on hierarchies of organisation structure &/or work breakdown structure
  • Plug it into a project/programme structure that almost inevitably works in left-to-right terms and is given no reason to think otherwise
  • Compounding it all, the rollout project – failure after failure, but still we do it!

Again, the tragedy is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of layering on so much process that you disconnect teams from strategy and organisation development, invite them in! Instead of losing faith with self-organisation, invest in it! Instead of solution-driven imposition, outcome-oriented engagement! Honestly, it’s not that hard.

We’re in the business of building wholehearted organisations. Need help reorienting your Scrum implementation so that it can work as it’s meant to? Want to put authentic engagement at the heart of your transformation? Get in touch – we’d love to help!

Further reading:

cover right to left audiobook.001

My thanks to Teddy Zetterlund and Steve Williams for feedback on this post, and to Agendashift’s Friday #community Zoom group (details in Slack) for the conversations that preceded it.


Upcoming workshops


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My inverse square law of framework scaling

A framework’s power is the product of:

  1. The incisiveness of its point of view – its core paradigms, principles, values, and so on
  2. The ease with which its key patterns combine – both with each other and with those from outside the framework

Both tend to decline with scale.

Corollary 1: As a framework’s scale increases, confidence that your context’s particular challenges will be addressed speedily and proportionately relative to the cost and pain of implementation declines

Corollary 2 (the human impact of corollary 1): In the absence of a coherent strategy to mitigate and reverse it, the risk of significant staff disengagement increases with scale.

If you enjoyed that, check these out:

cover right to left audiobook.001

My thanks to the Friday #community Zoom group (details in Slack) for feedback on the initial draft of this post.


Upcoming workshops


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#2MBM: After strategy and ideation, operation

Excellent response to last week’s #2MBM: Meaning before Metric, Measure before Method! Before the main business of this post, a couple of updates:

  1. In the interests of referenceability (if that’s a word) I’ve since given it a url: agendashift.com/2mbm (as shown in the image below) redirects to agendashift.com/frameworks/patterns/2mbm
  2. In the patterns pages, I’ve incorporated 2MBM into the definition of Right to Left:

    Right to Left: Ends before means, outcomes before solutions, and the two MBMs – meaning before metric and measure before method (2MBM)

agendashift-framework-overview-16x10-2020-07-07-2mbm

Last week’s post was about keeping metrics in their proper place with respect to strategy and ideation. This one is about the use of metrics as the strategy swings into action, the ideas continue to flow, and so on.

I’ve hinted already that you probably want a multiplicity of metrics. Chapter 5 of Right to Left gives some suggestions, and they’re organised by the layers of the outside-in strategy review, or OI-SR (as practiced in the Wholehearted:OKR workshop and as supported by the free OI-SR template):

  1. Customer: Customer satisfaction; helpdesk calls and hours spent on them; customer complaints, endorsements, and reviews; user growth and retention
  2. Organisation: Financial metrics, progress against relevant organisational objectives, and so on
  3. Product: Usage analytics; funnel metrics; market comparisons
  4. Platform: System performance and capacity metrics (along with plans to keep capacity ahead of anticipated demand – another good reason for the outside-in review); new capabilities and capabilities under development
  5. Team: Lead time distribution, throughput, and work in progress; quality metrics (defects escaped to production, for example); data on blockers and their impact; staffing levels; skill distribution and development

That’s quite a long list, beyond the capacity of most people to maintain on their own, and to be clear, they’re only suggestions. Both to make it practical and to help avoid the oppressive imposition of metrics:

  • Each layer is represented by one or two people (two being preferable, creating mentoring opportunities and making it easier to broaden the range of seniorities involved in the meeting overall), each closely identified with their respective layer(s)
  • The choice of which metrics will be presented is theirs (and by extension, their respective team’s¹); the meeting’s facilitator can coordinate across layers to help ensure good coverage

In the outside-in service delivery review (OI-SDR), those layers define the top-level agenda. The sequence helps to expose any misalignment between what we’re trying to achieve and the work we’re actually doing – not just within each layer but with respect to what’s been heard already. Within each layer, we go right to left:

  • A narrative update that includes an affirmation of we’re trying to achieve
  • What this layer’s metrics seem to be telling us
  • What has been learned from our experiments completed since last time
  • What experiments we currently have up and running and what we hope to learn
  • What’s in the pipeline

I was asked in a meetup last night what I would do if I could implement only one thing. Five years ago, I might have answered with “Validation”; today, my answer is the OI-SDR. It’s a piece of deliberate organisation design, building in the strong organisational expectation that learning will be happening – learning about our customers and learning about ourselves. An opportunity for double loop learning. And to do it justice, you’ll soon be practicing validation anyway!

Find out more

The OI-SR and OI-SDR are described in chapter 5 of Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile. Available in the usual places and (since May) as an audiobook.

Check out the workshops pages also – not just for Wholehearted:OKR and other strategy workshops but also for Implementing your OI-SDR among the short training workshops.

¹ ‘Circle‘ might be a better word than ‘team’ here. I’m alluding to Sociocracy, and that’s  covered in Right to Left chapter 6.

Related posts:


Upcoming public workshops

July:

August, Julia Wester stepping in:

Autumn:

The Agendashift events calendar always has the latest public workshops – watch this space for another (and updated) Wholehearted:OKR – and visit the workshops page if you’re considering doing something privately – chances are we have something of interest.


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#2MBM: Meaning before Metric, Measure before Method

In the models-sources-inspirations picture shared in the  June roundup earlier this week you may have noticed one or more less-than famous acronyms upper right. I did leave a breadcrumb or two, but as was my plan all along, let me spell them out.

agendashift-inspiration-map-2020-06-29

The newest acronym – just days old – is 2MBM. From the patterns page (the Right to Left link points to my book/audiobook of that name):

Right to Left: ends before means, outcomes before solutions, and the two MBMs – meaning before metric and measure before method (2MBM)

MBM 1: Meaning before metric

I’ve been using this one for a while. Some clues here in From Reverse STATIK to a ‘Pathway’ for continuous transformation (October 2019):

This [understanding fitness for purpose] is OK as far as it goes, but the faster it turns … into a conversation about metrics, the less time anyone spends actually exploring purpose. If I’m honest, this part leaves me a little cold … .

My real concern here is with a common behaviour: consultants and other practitioners leading too hard with a favourite metric. My advice: whether they’re pushing lead time, velocity, or NPS, if they’re not also demonstrating an interest in connecting deeply with your purpose, politely show them the door.

More reason to trust your instincts when you feel yourself go cold at the mention of metrics is when they’re imposed as targets. It’s when OKR (Objectives and Key Results) turns into MBO (Management by Objectives), and there’s a reason why the latter is discredited, disowned by its creator (Drucker). Particularly when they’re tied to compensation and advancement, imposed targets inspire creativity of the wrong kind, too-clever ways to meet the goal. In a word: dysfunction.

MBM 2: Measure before method

So…  metrics are bad? No! As we’ll see in a moment they can be a source of healthy creativity if explored at the right time. If the first MBM translates to “not too early”, then the second translates to “not too late”. In fact, there’s “too late”, and then there’s “way too late”:

  • “Too late”: having a solution idea and then coming up with the metrics that it is likely to impact, justifying it on that basis
  • “Way too late”: implementing a solution idea and looking for benefits afterwards

Not so much alignment as post hoc rationalisation, severely limiting the likelihood of any real learning taking place, and missing some vital input into the ideation process.

To illustrate that last point, here’s how we now teach it in Agendashift:

  1. Reacquaint ourselves with the outcome we’ve chosen to work on (remember that with us it’s “outcomes all the way down” and we haven’t even got to the bottom of that stack yet) with Challenge Mapping
  2. Having explored around it, identify a list of success indicators for that outcome
  3. With the conversations of steps 1 and 2 still in the air, generate solution ideas
  4. Select the fantastic option, the one most likely to significantly outperform – relative to the others and disproportionately (non-linearly) relative to its cost and risk

TASTE and ODIM

And finally to two more of the acronyms on my picture (plus a bonus).

Karl Scotland‘s TASTE stands for True north, Aspirations, Strategies, Tactics, and Evidence. What we’ve known for a while – in the Agendashift material we have deliberately made this a two-part exercise to emphasise this point – is to leave Tactics until last. Cross-referencing them in an X-Matrix, we’re asking this question:

  • Inspired by and aligning to our True north, what Tactics (collectively) will support our Strategies and deliver the Evidence of success we hope for? (Aspirations are already correlated with Strategies and Evidence at this point)

Larry Maccherone‘s ODIM stands for Objectives, Decisions, Insights, and Metrics. One creative way to think of it is in behavioural terms:

  • For this objective to be achieved, what will people need to do differently? If that involves them making different decisions, what in their immediate environment will guide those? What then do we need to measure?

In the latest iteration of the Wholehearted:OKR workshop we use TASTE when we’re exploring alignment between levels, a way to build coherence at scale. ODIM is introduced near ideation time (previously it came too early, reducing its impact – no pun intended).

One last credit: I took “Measure” and “Method” come from Salesforce’s management process V2MOM:

  1. Vision— what do you want to achieve?
  2. Values — what’s important to you?
  3. Methods — how do you get it?
  4. Obstacles — what is preventing you from being successful?
  5. Measures — how do you know you have it?

Type 1 MBM but not (as presented here) type 2. Still, it starts in the right kind of place, and for that I’m glad. Thank you Steve Pereira and Tom Kerwin for an interesting Twitter conversation.

Followup post:

Related posts:


Upcoming workshops

July:

August, Julia Wester stepping in:

Autumn:

The Agendashift events calendar always has the latest public workshops – watch this space for another (and updated) Wholehearted:OKR – and visit the workshops page if you’re considering doing something privately – chances are we have something of interest.


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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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The audiobook is out! Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile

I’m thrilled to announce that my 2019 book Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile is now available as an audiobook, read by yours truly. It has been a long time coming and I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little relieved too!

Find it here:

Or search “Right to Left Mike Burrows” in the iTunes store.

Enjoy!

PS Please like, re-share, retweet, etc! LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook

cover right to left audiobook.001

Right to Left is the third book by Agendashift founder Mike Burrows, doing for Lean and Agile in digital delivery what his 2018 book Agendashift did for change and transformation.

Do you see in digital technology the opportunity to meet customer needs more effectively? Do you recognise that this may have profound implications for how your organisation should work? Do you want to help bring that about?

Regardless of whether you consider yourself a technologist, if your answer to those questions is “yes”, you are what we refer to in this book as a digital leader. If you are a digital leader, aspire to be one, or think that sometime soon you might need to become one, then this book is for you. Whatever your current level of knowledge of Lean and Agile, you will find here both an accessible guide to the Lean-Agile landscape and a helpfully challenging perspective on it.

The book is organised into six chapters. The first four have a strong right-to-left theme, which means consistently, deliberately, and even provocatively starting with outcomes – with needs being met – and working backwards from there, keeping outcomes always in the foreground:

  1. Right to left in the material world – introducing Lean, the strategic pursuit of flow
  2. Right to left in the digital space – introducing Agile and Lean-Agile
  3. Patterns and frameworks – popular Lean, Agile, and Lean-Agile frameworks and how they combine and complement each other
  4. Viable scaling – the Agile scaling frameworks, organisational viability, and the challenges of change

The last two chapters approach questions of organisational design and leadership from angles complementary to that core theme:

  1. Outside in – strategy and governance in the wholehearted organisation
  2. Upside down – Servant Leadership and the supportive, ‘intentful’, customer-focused organisation

©2019 Mike Burrows (P)2020 Mike Burrows

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.


agendashift-banner-2019-12-17
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Agendashift roundup, January 2020

In this edition: January; And then it all kicks off…; Lean Agile London 2020; Mirror Mirror; Top posts

January

It has been a travel-free January, but still a busy one! There was the rebranding of Agendashift as the wholehearted engagement model, and then the first three installments of the promised (and already popular) blog series on the language of outcomes. As if that weren’t enough, I have also been recording the audiobook of Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile! Here’s a sneak preview (joke):

Right to Left, the audiobook
Right to Left, the audiobook

And then it all kicks off…

With January out of the way, the travel starts – in fact I fly out to Tampa tomorrow! Before the usual list of upcoming workshops, some discount codes: LONDON2020 for both of my London workshops (Agendashift partners and key collaborators Karl Scotland, Steven Mackenzie joining me for the second one, and – fingers crossed –  Teddy Zetterlund too), and NORDIC2020 for Malmö and Oslo with partners Julia Wester and Kjell Tore Guttormsen respectively.

For the London workshops, ping me for a bigger discount if you’re in government or non-profit, if you’re a partner, or if you’ve been to an Agendashift workshop before. And yes, attending multiple times really is a thing :slightly_smiling_face:

Lean Agile London 2020

What we knew and loved as London Lean Kanban Days is now Lean Agile London. I was LLKD’s first ever keynote speaker (or if you prefer, Dave Snowden’s warm up act) and I’m proud that Agendashift is a sponsor. Use code AGENDASHIFT for 10% off. Respecting what has become almost a tradition for me at this event, I’ll be bringing a brand new new talk, “Cleanish Strategy”. Many congrats to Agendashift partner Jose Casal for starting and continuing this great conference! It’s on April 27-28.

Mirror Mirror

If you’ve been following Agendashift for any length of time, you’ll know that I like a good mashup! With that in mind, I’m glad to support the Mirror Mirror team in two 90-minute online events put on especially for the Agendashift community. They’re free, and you can choose between these two dates:

  • 21 Feb – 12.00 – 13.30 UK time
  • 13 Mar – 15.00 – 16.30 UK time

Book your place here, and see you there! Your host: Lindsay Uittenbogaard

Top posts

  1. Making it official: Agendashift, the wholehearted engagement model
  2. The language of outcomes: 2. Framing obstacles
  3. The language of outcomes: 1. Identifying the adaptive challenge
  4. The language of outcomes: 3. Generating outcomes
  5. Wholehearted:OKR

From the exciting intersection of Lean-Agile, Strategy, and Organisation Development, Agendashift: The wholehearted engagement model
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The language of outcomes: 1. Identifying the adaptive challenge

Yes, I’m making good on a promise made in last week’s post, Making it official: Agendashift, the wholehearted engagement model, expanding on the language of outcomes and its lessons for leadership. For context, here’s the crucial bit of text in question:

The language of outcomes inviting leadership at every level: New conversations and new kinds of conversations – renewing the organisation’s discourse and thereby the organisation itself

As both the destination and the fuel for our journeys of change and transformation,  outcomes are absolutely fundamental to Agendashift. If there’s a basis for change more legitimate and motivating than authentic agreement on outcomes, we’d like to see it!

We have used that initial phrase – “the language of outcomes” – for much of the time that Agendashift has existed. However, our understanding of what it actually means continues to evolve. A couple of recent developments have brought it into sharper focus:

  1. With community participation and the willing support of workshop participants, we’ve conducted some deliberate experiments with wording and framing in our existing workshop material, noting not just the immediate impact, but the impact on later exercises downstream – how people respond to the exercises and the quality of the work they produce
  2. The design of two new workshops – Impact! (Tampa and London very soon) and Wholehearted:OKR (Oslo and London) – interesting as much for the material they exclude as for what they contain, challenging and perhaps redefining what should be regarded as core

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

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

Early drafts of this post with content for all 5 headings got rather long, so I’ll be releasing it as a series over the next few weeks. 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! I’ll link to the later posts as they’re released.

As ever, scroll to the end of this post for news of upcoming public workshops in which you can experience what I describe.

1. Identifying the adaptive challenge

You won’t find the term adaptive challenge in the Agendashift book [1] but a 2nd edition would certainly change that! Informally, the Organisation Development (OD) literature – see for example Bushe [2] – describes adaptive challenges as those for which it’s hard even to define what the problem is, require involvement from a wide range of stakeholders, tend to throw up new problems of their own, and so on. Most of us will have seen them: the kind of challenge which requires at least the level of sponsor commitment and financial backing of a high profile project, but for which linear project approaches soon reveal themselves to be spectacularly ill-suited.

Stakeholder agreement on the detail of the challenge may be hard to impossible to obtain, but broad-brush identification of shared objectives needn’t be. You can just ask; the trick is to ask in such a way that the shared destination is articulated without fixating prematurely on solutions (remember: a rollout project isn’t going to work here).

Agendashift’s time travelling kickoff / context-setting exercise Celebration-5W [3] does this laterally, asking for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of a future celebration (of meeting the challenge spectacularly well), deliberately avoiding the How.

Another approach is to provide, harvest, or construct something that’s desirable enough to be worth pursuing even if it might never be fully attained – see for example Agendashift’s Lean-Agile-inspired True North statement [4]. Interestingly, the new workshops don’t use the provided True North. In its place, more time travel, with a series of outside-in strategy review questions [5] as described in chapter 5 of Right to Left [6]. Each question is designed to help identify an ideal (or “ideal best”) [7]; they begin with this one, the first of five:

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

That question is open to some serious unpacking (I sometimes joke that this question is a workshop in its own right), but again, you can just ask, taking care to ask in a perspective-shifting way that invites meaningful customer-relevant, and business-relevant outcomes as the answer. As it happens, that turns out to be good facilitation advice for Celebration-5W too. If what you’re celebrating won’t be meaningful to customers and other business stakeholders, think again. For a roomful of Agile coaches (a not untypical group in my case), do not, and I repeat, DO NOT celebrate your Agile transformation! Celebrate the first customer successfully served, the millionth registration, the billionth pound in turnover – real examples all – something externally visible and truly challenging in its own right that your transformation will enable or accelerate.

Shortly we’ll have a more definitive test for what makes a good answer, but first let’s distill some advice about asking questions:

Without prescribing what the answer should be, ask questions that invite answers meaningful to the most stakeholders, exploring those answers just enough to be sure that everyone involved knows both whose needs they’ll be meeting and how they’ll be able to confirm that they’re being met [8, 9]. If the How can be deferred, don’t ask for it!

This isn’t just workshop facilitation advice, but advice to coaches and leaders. And that is of course what this language of outcomes thing is all about. If we’re keen to see collaboration, self-organisation, and innovation (three hallmarks of the modern organisation that I bundle together like this frequently), how should we conduct ourselves? What behaviours should we model?

Next: 2. Framing obstacles

References

[1] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation, Mike Burrows (New Generation Publishing, 2018)
[2] The Dynamics of Generative Change, Gervase Bushe (Independently published, 2019)
[3] Celebration-5W (agendashift.com, CC-BY-SA licence)
[4] True North (agendashift.com, CC-BY-SA licence)
[5] Outside-in Strategy Review (OI-SR) template (agendashift.com, CC-BY-SA licence)
[6] Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile, Mike Burrows (New Generation Publishing, 2019)
[7] It’s mashup time: Adaptive challenges accomplished at their ideal best (December 2019)
[8] Better user stories start with authentic situations of need (October 2016)
[9] My handy, referenceable Definition of Done (May 2018) and agendashift.com/done, the latter CC-BY-SA

Acknowledgements

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.


From the exciting intersection of Lean-Agile, Strategy, and Organisation Development, Agendashift: The wholehearted engagement model
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Agendashift roundup, October 2019

In this edition: Berlin; Working at the intersection / a monster post on SAFe; Right to Left; Changeban, Featureban, and 15-minute FOTO; Upcoming workshops – Berlin, Oslo, Malmö, and online; Top posts

Berlin

I have a free day in Berlin today, arriving a day early to avoid travelling on what threatened to be Brexit day before a private workshop tomorrow. That workshop is actually the first of three November engagements in Berlin, with a 2-day Advanced Agendashift workshop and (through happy coincidence) the Open Leadership Symposium:

I keep saying it and I will say it again:

  • The Berlin workshop consistently delivers – not just a full house and a great experience, but a reliable source of great feedback and new ideas. Thank you Leanovate not just for hosting but for participating
  • The inaugural Open Leadership Symposium in Boston last May was a key coming together of multiple communities and it launched a new one. I have high expectations of the Berlin event, which takes place on the 19th with a selection of masterclasses on the 18th & 20th. If you’re thinking of coming to the main event, ping me for a chunky discount code (big enough to make a real difference, so don’t miss out!).

Working at the intersection / a monster post on SAFe

This was just a quick picture posted to LinkedIn and Twitter, but it has struck a chord with many people and it has already established itself as a way to introduce both myself and the communities I participate in. You’ll see some of the language reflected on the Agendashift site, the partner programme page most especially.

Who/where we are on one slide: People working at the intersection of Lean-Agile, Strategy, and Organisation Development – bringing balance & perspective, focus on needs & outcomes, helping each other up their game in new areas

working at the intersection

That picture is a good scene-setter to a post that within 36 hours was my most-read post of the year:

Also doing well is a Kanban-related post:

And I can only apologise for this related tweet 😉:

Right to Left

Thank you Paul and Justyna! Two podcasts for the price of one, a book review and an interview:

After a long delay, Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile is at last available in EPUB format. That means you can download it as an ebook from more online booksellers, including Apple Books, Google Play Books, and Kobo – just search “Right to Left Mike Burrows”.

There were two more 5 star reviews on Amazon UK this month (thank you!), making eight so far. We’re still waiting for the first one on Amazon US though, so who will be first?

Changeban, Featureban, and 15-minute FOTO

Some news about three of our Creative Commons-licensed resources.

Changeban 1.3 is now the recommended version (it was in beta until properly tested). I’ll be making the equivalent changes to Featureban before making a separate announcement. Also, their respective Slack channels have merged into one, #featureban-changeban.

The updated 15-minute FOTO cue card is definitely an improvement and it too is out of beta. A new ‘Lite’ (gentle introduction) version of the game has been through a number of iterations and we’ll announce it soon. It’s available to try if you know where to look! Slack channel #cleanlanguage, and it’s enabling some new #workshops (we’ll announce those properly soon too).

Upcoming workshops – Berlin, Oslo, Malmö, and online

Top posts


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