From “What did you do yesterday?” to something better

Go for it! If the main purpose of your standup is to make sure that everyone is keeping themselves properly busy, then the questions “What did you do yesterday?” and “What will you do today?” are without doubt the basis of a great meeting format.

But be careful what you wish for. If your goals involve 1) the team meeting needs, and 2) learning from the process, those questions can hurt a lot more than they help. Honestly, I’m not a fan at all.

You could try these instead. Understand the pattern, and with practice, it runs itself:

  1. What are we learning from what we recently completed? And is it staying completed? Whose needs did we meet, and how do we know we met them?
  2. What can we get over the line?
  3. What is and isn’t making the expected progress? Are we clear about whose needs we’re meeting, what needs, how we’ll know, and what’s our approach?
  4. Do we have the capacity to look at what’s next, or is that enough until we next meet?

You probably won’t get to that overnight, so some things to try:

  • Instead of reviewing activities (what you did, what you’re doing, etc), try to focus the things that you as a team are trying to produce, in the context of the goals you’re pursuing
  • All else being equal (in bigger meetings, this pattern can work within other interesting ways to structure the work), try reviewing your work most-complete work first, not forgetting to start with celebrating and enquiring into work recently completed
  • Make a point of noticing how the conversations change as you work backwards, and develop your repertoire accordingly – by this stage you’ll likely be noticing not only a performance difference but a language change and changes to people’s expectations and behaviour, and you can build on that until they become habits
  • In all of the above, try keep in your mind and everyone else’s what you’re working backwards from: “someone’s need met” and “all the available learning fully accounted for” (my definitions of done and really done)

I’ve used this “right to left” technique in a range of settings, often supercharging something that really wasn’t working before – standup meetings, risk & issue review meetings, service delivery review meetings to name just three. Right to left is named after Kanban’s board review pattern (you start on the right-hand side of the board with work at or nearest completion) but it’s not hard to apply in other settings.

And it’s more than just a productivity hack. In my third book Right to Left (2019, audiobook 2020), I take that philosophy of working backwards from impact and learning and use it as a lens on the whole Lean-Agile landscape (and more). Further to it not being just a Kanban thing, the book shows how right to left fits very well with the best of Scrum. Contrast that with an all too prevalent left to right kind of Scrum that does the reputations of Scrum and Agile no favours at all, and that scales up in the worst possible way. Fortunately it’s fixable.

This post started out as a LinkedIn post, then a second:

  1. Go for it! (linkedin.com)
  2. Building on that last one… (linkedin.com)

And now a third:

Like, comment, share!

You can also take any questions you may have to one of the upcoming webinars – the first three (December 8th, January 12th, February 2nd) all finish with an AMA (Ask Mike Anything) session. Series link: The questions that drive us (eventbrite.co.uk).

Related:


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We help leaders and engaged team members at every level to gain fluency in the language of outcomes – developing and pursuing strategies together, innovating, learning, and adapting as the organisation renews and transforms itself from the inside.

All Agendashift assessments now available in Korean

With thanks to Seungbin Cho, all of the Agendashift assessments are now available in Korean. That includes:

The Delivery Assessment and its several variants have been translated into 12 languages but this is a first for the Right to Left and Deliberately Adaptive Organisation templates. Thank you Seungbin for breaking some new ground 🙂

Try the mini version of the Delivery assessment in any of the supported languages for free:

The full version of the Delivery assessment features in these training modules:

For the full set of templates (and more):


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

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Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation

Optimising for Significance

It has been a couple of years since I first read John Doerr’s OKR classic Measure what Matters. You may remember my blog post at the time: There will be caveats: Warming cautiously to OKR. What I might not have mentioned then was that I very nearly didn’t read the book – I found the title quite off-putting!

My discomfort with Doerr’s title – misplaced as it turns out – is explained by a catchphrase I later coined: Meaning Before Method, one of two MBM’s which as a pair actually map very well to OKR.  In recent weeks I’ve read (or rather listened to) the book once more and enjoyed it. As for the title, more accurate but less catchy would be Measure things predictive of success in your clear and audacious objectives, taking care to preserve meaning. No issue with that!

I took the trouble this time to follow up on one of Doerr’s few references, in particular Dov Seidman’s How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything (another being former Intel chief Andy Grove’s High Output Management, which I am still to read). This early quote grabbed me, emphasis mine:

Think of it as a shift from valuing size to valuing significance. Conversations about “how much” constantly echo throughout business, politics, and our personal lives: How much revenue can we squeeze into this quarter? How much debt can we tolerate? How much growth can we generate? How big should government be? But “How much?” and “How big?” aren’t the right questions. Instead we should be asking how we can create organizations and societies that mirror our deepest values.

The expanded edition did feel a little long but I was rewarded for holding on until the end (emphasis his this time):

Before we part company, I want to leave you with one more paradox, the paradox of success, and it’s a corollary to the paradox of happiness. You cannot do success; you cannot achieve it by pursuing it directly. Success is something you get when you pursue something greater than yourself, and the word I use to describe that something is significance. All measures of success share one commonality: They signify the value of your passage through life. You can go on a journey of significance—a journey to do, make, extend, create, and support value in the world; and I believe, in the spirit of the Johnson & Johnson Credo, it is this journey that should bring you success, however you measure it.

Pursuing significance, in the end, is the ultimate how.

I talk quite a bit about meaning in work and I am resolved now to do the same with significance. Noting that close colleagues can vary hugely on the meaning they draw from their work (for some the craft, for some the challenge, for others the meeting of needs, for example), I should say that I don’t believe that anyone has the right to dictate how others draw meaning from their work. Helping them find it though, that’s another matter – it’s one bullet of my three-bullet summary definition of Servant Leadership (see the last chapter of my book Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile). Moreover, if leaders aren’t articulating credibly the significance of the work and encouraging others to explore and even challenge it – well that’s definitely a problem.

If optimising for value is a dead end (I can’t be alone in finding much of what is said in Agile circles about value delivery to be empty or even dysfunctional), perhaps we should be optimising instead for significance, expecting meaning (and other good things) to follow. I have a hunch that it’s going to be fun finding out what that really means.


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

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Why the Agendashift 2nd edition? What happened?

In case you missed it:

What happened since 2018 and the 1st edition? Quite a lot actually!

Engagement models happened

It may seem a bit daft to say that one of the things that happened was the foreword to the 1st edition, but it’s true! Daniel Mezick’s use of the term engagement model (a term I hadn’t used) was a gift. It gives us a constructive and generative name for “change through means other than imposition”, it creates an identity for a category distinct from those linear models of change management, and I’ve come to appreciate the distance and differentiation that this affords. To quote from the book:

You can’t upgrade your organisation like you’re upgrading your email server!

The 2nd edition gains a foreword from Pia-Maria Thorén. So glad to make that connection with HR community! Time will tell where that will lead, somewhere good I’m sure.

Lots of small and not-so-small improvements happened

To name just a few:

Patterns happened

The “Agendashift as a river” poster is gone (hands up on that one, it was a mistake). In its place, the figure-of-8 framework picture, with Agendashift’s two main patterns for each loop and the Agenda for Change at their intersection:

Framework image

Chapters 1 & 2 each provide a demonstration of the Ideal, Obstacles, Outcomes (IdOO) pattern. The pattern is discussed in relation to other coaching models and leadership routines – GROW, Toyota Kata etc, and it creates the opportunity for the now much more developed Outside-in Strategy Review (OI-SR) to be introduced much earlier in the book.

By chapter 3 (the Mapping chapter), the Agenda for Change is already well established and much better defined than it was in the 1st edition. It is one of the most-changed chapters, now describing the well-tested string of three mapping exercises practiced since early 2019:

  1. Option Approach Mapping – Cynefin Four Points with outcomes and under a pseudonym (it’s better that way)
  2. Option Relationship Mapping – Karl Scotland and Liz Keogh’s Cynefin-inspired brilliant reworking of Wardley Mapping designed to work with outcomes
  3. Pathway Mapping – ‘Transformation Mapping’ in the 1st edition, Story Mapping with outcomes

I wouldn’t describe either Mapping or the Agenda for Change as patterns but certainly there are patterns in that chapter – describing the three exercises together really helped me see those and I think they will be helpful to facilitators of these and similar exercises.

Chapter 3 is also the launchpad for the Right to Left Strategy Deployment pattern, making it the pivotal chapter. It changes the perspective of chapter 4 (Elaboration) quite noticeably, and chapter 5 (Operation) is completely rewritten. Before that, a smaller pattern, Meaning before Metric, Measure before Method (2MBM), which goes with improvements to the ideation part of chapter 4 (Elaboration).

Covid-19 happened

Let me just quote the Introduction (like chapter 5 this was rewritten from scratch):

Finally, Covid-19 happened. I have a vulnerable family member, and by the time lockdown was formalised in the UK I was already in self-imposed quarantine after a trip abroad. I realised very quickly that my globetrotting days were done and that I had to make a strategic shift online. I found that the change of platform helped me see the material through fresh eyes, and I have been glad of the opportunity to collaborate and experiment rapidly with others. We’re determined to deliver the best possible online experience and this new 2nd edition benefits significantly from what we’ve learned through this extraordinary time.

Stepping back from those technical improvements and personal challenges, it has never been clearer that strategy and ways of working are matters of urgency, and that they need to be tackled in an integrated and, dare I say, wholehearted, way. As the world shifts online, so customer relationships change (and as I observed in Right to Left, so increases the opportunity to learn from them). Meanwhile, the need for individuals and teams to connect both to purpose and to each other becomes critical. The alternative – irrelevance, fragmentation, and alienation – hardly bears thinking about. If instead I could bottle some of the best experiences in our progress since the 1st edition – special moments in workshops, client engagements, community and cross-community events, and smaller, purposeful collaborations – well I’d be a happy man indeed.

Right to Left happened, and Dialogic/Generative OD happened

Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile, my 2019 book and 2020 audiobook gave rise to the 1-liner for our mission, “We’re in the business of building wholehearted organisations”.

Right from the earliest days of wholehearted I’ve taken great care not to spoil the generative quality of the word by over-defining it. Nevertheless, chapter 5 does give some shape to the wholehearted organisation via Bushe & Marshak’s Dialogic Organisation Development (2015) (see this 2019 post on my initial encounter with it), the Generative Change Model as described in Bushe’s The Dynamics of Generative Change (2019), and – continuing a journey started in Right to Left –  Stafford Beer’s classic Viable System Model (VSM). Two strikingly different bodies of knowledge there but they work wonderfully well together in a vision of the organisation in which strategy, organisation development, and delivery are integrated through participation. Key quote:

It’s a funny kind of autonomy when strategy is something that happens to you

Right to Left is the also the source of two key elements of chapter 5, the Outside-in Service Delivery Review (OI-SDR) and the Outside-in Strategy Review (OI-SR), the latter introduced in chapter 2 as previously mentioned. In the 1st edition they were only hinted at; I developed them properly in Right to Left. For the 2nd edition I didn’t want to just rehash that material though and so it extracts from them a number of lessons of organisation design and leadership. Clue: the Who’s invited? question is asked three times in chapter 5 alone.

And so to the new chapter 6, Up and down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation. This was very nearly just an appendix – a reconciliation between Agendashift and VSM – but it grew! Its name is inspired by Kegan & Lahey’s Deliberately Developmental Organisation (see An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, 2016), which despite my sometimes outspoken aversion to staged development models, maturity models, etc integrates really nicely.

This has been a very rewarding process. We’ve established some deep foundations, learned a lot, tweaked the language a bit, and found that we could say something both challenging and constructive about scale. And nothing broke!

And out of it, something new that might be substantial enough to enjoy a life of its own:

deliberately-adaptive-image

The lines between Agendashift and the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation are perhaps a little blurry but I don’t mind that. If now we’re in the business of building wholehearted and deliberately adaptive organisations, Agendashift is how that happens, ‘wholehearted and deliberately adaptive’ describes what we’re aiming for, and any blurriness is a function of that mission’s internal consistency. I find that rather satisfying.

So yes, quite a lot happened since 2018. Be in no doubt, the 2nd edition of Agendashift: outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation is a big update. It’s available here:

An ePub edition is imminent also – expect to find it very soon on Apple Books, Google Play, Kobo, and elsewhere.

agendashift-2nd-ed-sharing-1200x628-2021-02-10


Upcoming workshops

The long-promised Deep Dive for the Americas is in the calendar at last and we’ve added a shorter Leading with Outcomes for APAC also:


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Happening (or just happened)

Update: The webinar recording is now live – see here

Happening: Good Obstacle, Bad Obstacle; Agendashift Deep Dive. Just happened: Agile Uprising podcast; Cutter Consortium paper

Tomorrow’s free webinar is sailing close to the 100 participant limit (to the point that I’ve asked anyone who can’t attend to cancel) but there are at the time of writing a single-digit number of tickets available. Get yours here:

After that, the next big event is the November Deep Dive:

Re that one, don’t hesitate to ask for a discount if you think you might qualify on grounds of country, non-profit, government, educational, etc. Also if you’d be a repeat participant, of which there have been a good number!

Meanwhile, Jay Hrcsko interviewed me the other day for the Agile Uprising podcast and you can listen to the recording at the link below. Thanks Jay, that was a lot of fun!

Also in the “just happened” category, Cutter Consortium has just published an article of mine in the form of an Executive Update. It’s a little dense compared to my books but it was fun rehearsing that particular chain of thought for the Agendashift 2nd edition. Grab it here:

And thank you Andrea Chiou, Jonathan Sibley, and Jon Cashmore for your help – very gratefully received!


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From: Good Obstacle, Bad Obstacle

The quality that now has a name

The term quality without a name comes from a favourite book of mine, Christopher Alexander’s The Timeless Way of Building [1]. I discovered only today in my research for this article that 20 years after writing that wonderful book he did in fact give this intriguing thing a name: wholeness [2].

My ignorance aside, that’s almost spooky! Wholehearted is the concept in my book Right to Left [3] that was directly inspired by Alexander. It was quickly embraced by the Agendashift community, and later it gave its name to our mission statement [4].

What prompted today’s post was the realisation that repeatedly, people have cited wholehearted as the thing that attracted them to Agendashift. Fascinatingly, many of them were members of the community even before wholehearted was a thing! In other words, it seems to give a name to something that people somehow perceived already.

I’m working now on the 2nd edition of the Agendashift book [5] and it affords me a valuable opportunity say more about wholehearted than I could at the time of Right to Left. I am determined however not to over-specify it. Much of its power comes from the way that it resonates with different people in different ways, and while that’s happening, it’s a source of both creativity and energy. I make a point therefore of starting not with a definition, but with the word itself and what it tends to evoke.

As written here previously [6], it evokes two clusters of qualities:

  1. Engagement, commitment, and purposefulness
  2. Alignment, integration, integrity, and wholeness

(And yes, that’s Alexander’s wholeness again.)

Beyond that almost gut reaction, it’s fair to ask what it means to me personally, and in more concrete and perhaps practical terms. Inevitably, I relate it to things that interest, influence, and motivate me:

  1. Generativity – generative conversations [7], generative patterns [8] and so on, energisers of emergent and adaptive thinking and the focus of much that is exciting in modern organisation development
  2. Viability – the science of how organisations (at every level) maintain their independence and integrity, explaining much about their vulnerabilities and dysfunctions also
  3. Outcome-orientation ­– ends before means, outcomes before solutions – both as a deliberate stance, and as demonstrated in Right to Left, a way to understand and integrate – a way to approach Lean, Agile, and Lean-Agile for example

Across all three of those: purpose, participation, and pluralism, making it all very human when done well.

The later chapters of the significantly updated Agendashift will put a little flesh on those bones, enough to make it practical in a non-prescriptive way, prescription bringing only contradiction in a book that describes an engagement model [9]. Wholehearted meanwhile is not a process or a framework. It’s barely even a model, and I’m happy to keep it that way!

References

[1] The Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander, (OUP USA, 1980)
[2] Quality Without a Name (wiki.c2.com)
[3] Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile, Mike Burrows  (New Generation Publishing, 2019; audiobook 2020)
[4] Our mission: Wholehearted (agendashift.com)
[5] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation, Mike Burrows  (New Generation Publishing, 2018)
[6] Revisiting ‘wholehearted’ (blog.agendashift.com)
[7] See for example our Clean Language-inspired coaching game, 15-minute FOTO (agendashift.com)
[8] Agendashift’s Generative Patterns (agendashift.com)
[9] Engagement model (agendashift.com)

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Wholehearted

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.


What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions?

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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.


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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:


What if we put agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions?

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