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

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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.


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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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2 for the price of 1: Agile Book Club review and interview

Earlier this month my friends Paul Klipp (who I’ve known for nearly a decade) and Justyna Pindel (since the 2017 ACE! conference) released a thorough and thoughtful review of my latest book Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile on their podcast Agile Book Club. Last week they interviewed me, and released it today as a separate podcast episode.

Both episodes can be found here: “Right to Left” by Mike Burrows. You can also find Agile Book Club on Spotify (review | interview) and Apple (review | interview).

Let me also take the opportunity to mention that the epub format of Right to Left is available at last on Google Play and Kobo, both with some mangled blurb that I’m getting fixed!

While we’re here…

A reminder that we’re doing an Agendashift update and Lean Coffee tomorrow, Thursday 17th,  at 12:30 UK time. The original announcement and details here:

And if you can be in Berlin around November 19th, the Open Leadership Symposium is not to be missed! Details here:

I have a chunky discount code for the Symposium – ping me for it!

Note that as per the calendar below I’m doing a 2-day Advanced workshop in Berlin the week before, a prior (and regular) engagement. Symposium participants will however get a discount for the online workshop, for which the Open Leadership Network (the symposium’s organisers) are the certifying body.

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Upcoming workshops: Istanbul, Berlin, Oslo, and online


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Agendashift roundup, September 2019

In this edition: Right to Left; Announcing two new workshops; New versions of Changeban, Featureban, and 15-minute FOTO; Upcoming: London, Istanbul, Berlin, and online; Top posts

Right to Left

It is still only six weeks since Right to Left launched! This month, a series of five 5-minute interviews – thank you Matthias Tölken of the Xuviate community! Details here:

Also:

  • An epub version for Google Play, Apple, Kobo, etc is imminent
  • Yes, an audiobook is looking increasingly likely

Announcing two new workshops

By some margin, this month’s top post was about a topic of active discussion in the Agendashift Slack, namely Objectives and Key Results (OKR):

To quote that post (a thought echoed also in Helpfully subversive about frameworks):

… OKR has something in common with Agile process frameworks: how you approach the framework matters very much more than the choice of framework itself.

That places OKR very much in Agendashift territory, and I’m glad to announce a new workshop, the product of a collaboration with (among others) Agendashift partners Karl Scotland and Steven Mackenzie. It will be available for client work in the coming weeks, and there will be public workshops in the new year.

For the record, I’ve put a page up for it already, though it doesn’t say much more than I’ve said here already:

Alongside that, another new Agendashift workshop. In common with the OKR one, it doesn’t assume that the focus is necessarily on things Lean or Agile (though it is of course 100% compatible with those Lean-Agile sensibilities). This one focuses directly on products and services, not just their delivery:

I’m excited about both of these workshops. Compared to the practitioner-focussed transformation strategy workshops (excluding the Applied one, for clients), they make few assumptions about the participants and should be highly accessible. Outcome-orientation – and some strategic thinking – for everyone!

New versions of Changeban, Featureban, and 15-minute FOTO

This month I did two Advanced workshops in quick succession, Stockholm and Athens on consecutive weeks. Somehow this always seems to amplify the feedback and I’m taking the opportunity to make some changes, some impacting our open source resources.

Watch this space and the relevant Slack channels for further announcements, but in brief:

  • For Changeban and Featureban, a change to the order in which the rules are introduced, and switching the colours. I’ll be testing the first change at the Advanced workshop in London later this week and at a meetup beforehand. The second change necessitates updates to the printed cards if you’re using them (you can also use playing cards), so I’ll make two distinct releases.
  • For 15-minute FOTO, a new introductory playing mode, and some quick forays from outcome space back in to obstacle space (making it more fractal). Both changes will necessitate an update to the cue card but I’ll test it first without.

Upcoming: London, Istanbul, Berlin, and online

Top posts


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Right to Left in five 5-minute videos

[Update: Fixed link the main Xuviate site – initial version pointed to a staging site]

Diving into Right to Left in five tweets (published shortly after the book’s publication), five short videos, in which I’m interviewed by Matthias Tölken of the Xuviate community. Thumbnail sketches of the five:

  1. What makes Digital different? Success in digital means integrating delivery, development, and strategy – continuously identifying and addressing impediments to flow, alignment, and anticipation. This is clearly a learning process; a successful digital organisation is a learning organisation
  2. Why Lean-Agile? To Lean’s “strategic pursuit of flow” (after Modig & Åhlström), we bring from Agile a safe default assumption, that in knowledge work, most failures of flow are rooted in failures of collaboration.
  3. It is quite embarrassing that many Agile rollouts are done waterfall fashion… There’s good in frameworks, but blindly rolling out a process framework is more a recipe for pain than a guarantee of success, especially when done at scale.
  4. Left to right or right to left, that is the question… Starting “from the left” with solutions, frameworks, backlogs of work items, etc is a terrible way to explain or experience Agile. Always keep the things “on the right” – needs met and outcomes realised – ahead of all else.
  5. Leaders and managers often get a bit of a raw deal in Agile. Does it have to be that way? The need to clearly & strategically identify, articulate, & stand for outcomes will never grow old. Neither will removing organisational impediments, freeing people to pursue purpose, and developing the next generation of (servant-)leaders

You can watch (or just listen) to all five here:

Thank Mathias and Mark for putting this together!

In case you missed them, other book-related links:

Longer podcast interviews you may have missed:

Last but definitely not least, for this InfoQ article I am interviewed by Ben Linders:

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


Upcoming workshops – London, Istanbul, Berlin, and online

It’s not too late to join the London workshop, Thursday-Friday next week. For that and the online workshops I can offer deep discounts for government sector and non-profit employees and for anyone returning for a repeat visit (some people have done several!). Ping me for details.


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Helpfully subversive about frameworks

This is me being helpfully subversive (if that’s not already a thing, it should be): [1]

 

1. It’s helpful to see frameworks as mere exemplars of patterns

The ‘mere’ will rub a few people up the wrong way, but it’s true! If for example you can see Scrum as iterated self-organisation around goals [2], you’re capable of seeing the same not only for SAFe, but also for OKR, the subject of my previous post [3]. Could a Scrum or SAFe practitioner learn from OKR (or vice versa)? You bet!

2. How they combine is often more interesting than the patterns themselves

See the patterns and you see not only the similarities but the complementarity. Scrum and Kanban for example are a great combination [4]. But don’t stop there! In this same spirit of integration rather than differentiation and tribalism, Chapter 3 of Right to Left [5] covers some of the key landmarks of the Lean-Agile landscape as patterns: Scrum, Kanban, XP, DevOps, User Story Mapping, Jobs to be Done, BDD, Service Design Thinking, Theory of Constraints, and Lean Startup.

No, I’m not trying to define some huge new framework that solves every problem. That would be horrific! Just helping you make sense of what’s out there.

3. How they’re introduced matters way more than the framework itself

It’s well known that many if not most change initiatives fail. Why so many in the change industry and with it much of the Agile industry still cling to the linear, implementation-focussed, and resistance-obsessed change management frameworks of the past beats me. It’s embarrassing!

It’s why Agendashift [6, 7] exists, and with it other modern engagement models such as those mentioned in [8]. They too are exemplars of patterns and are simply begging to be combined! Towards that purpose and since that post was written, the Open Leadership Network [9] has come into being, and I’m proud to be an advisory board member. For all of us, this is not just a provocative statement, it’s a primary motivation that’s powerful enough to encourage us to collaborate. We’re walking the walk here!

If you remember me waxing lyrical about the network’s launch event, the Open Leadership Symposium in Boston last May, you’ll be glad to know that there’s another one in Berlin in November [10]. See you there!

[1]  3 subversive contentions about frameworks in 1 tweet (twitter.com)
[2] ‘Right to Left’ works for Scrum too (July 2018)
[3] There will be caveats: Warming cautiously to OKR
[4] Scrum and Kanban revisited (August 2017)
[5] Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile (agendashift.com)
[6] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (agendashift.com)
[7] Agendashift home (agendashift.com)
[8] Engagement: more than a two-way street (September 2018)
[9] Open Leadership Network (openleadershipnetwork.com)
[10] Open Leadership Symposium Berlin 2019 (openleadershipnetwork.com)


Upcoming Agendashift workshops – Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin, and online


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