How Agendashift scales

Last week’s post Visualising Agendashift: The why and how of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation is already in the top 3 for 2019. Clearly it resonates! I will build on that post now by enumerating some the ways in which Agendashift scales – not by becoming bigger, heavier, more layered, or more bureaucratic, but by fitting its context.

The bottom line: Agendashift scales because it is scale-free (not an oxymoron, but using the technical term), evidenced by a fractal quality inside it, similar patterns occurring naturally at different scales.

First, there are some initial high level decisions to be made about scale:

  • The initial organisational scope of the exercise (we find that it is well worth making this explicit)
  • Who is invited to participate in workshops (and how that invitation should be given)
  • Who is invited to participate in the pre-workshop assessment (at a minimum, this is the workshop participants for whom it is set as prework, but it is often widened)
  • Any specific organisational themes that should mentioned in either invitation

Often, the exercise is centred on a leadership team of some kind, making the above decisions quite easy to make. However, I do make two recommendations:

  • At least three levels of seniority should participate – not to make a virtue of hierarchy but allowing it to be bypassed for the sake of interesting and authentic conversations
  • It’s good to get wide coverage in the assessment; potentially the whole business function and beyond, or some representative sample thereof

There are more choices about workshop design that we could make here, but usually they’re better left until later exercises and we’ll put them to one side for a moment.

In the workshop itself, scale is everywhere:

  • In the warm-up exercise Celebration-5W, different table groups might generate anything from an internal technical achievement for a small team to things like “One billion pounds in turnover” or “Our millionth registration” (both of these are actual examples). I recall one team coming up with a new product idea!
  • After True North (in Discovery) and the assessment debrief (in Exploration), obstacles can range from everyday niggles to fundamental misalignments and dysfunctions.
  • For any given obstacle, the outcomes generated in 15-minute FOTO can range from short-term quick wins beyond even long-term goals through to enduring values. Surprisingly often, the entire range is covered in the course of a conversation that lasts only a few minutes.
  • The Mapping exercises expose different kinds of structure in the naturally coherent (by construction) but still fragmentary output of the preceding exercises.
  • In Elaboration, we bring focus where the range of options is high, looking up for the big payoff and down for opportunities for rapid learning and early value.
  • In Operation, we raise awareness of the connection between everyday choices and bigger-picture organisation design

Discovery and Exploration both feature our Clean Language-inspired coaching game 15-minute FOTO. At first glance it might seem redundant but the repetition of the same tool in different settings demonstrates the utility, repeatability, and scale-independence and of the pattern (for that is what it is). Regardless of scale, you can:

  • Reflect on the promise of the challenge in question
  • Identify and (briefly) clarify the obstacles currently in the way of a successful conclusion to that challenge
  • Rapidly explore the landscape of outcomes to be found when those obstacles are overcome, bypassed, or ignored

Screenshot 2019-06-24 14.29.37That might sound obvious, but for people used to the experience of conversations that start with solutions already decided, it’s both liberating and highly illuminating.

The workshop designer seeds this process with challenges that have some compelling promise, made all the more compelling by their avoidance of prescription. The off-the-shelf workshop design provides these in the form of the True North and the assessment prompts. These have been tested and refined through repeated use and I would recommend sticking to them initially (advice that may evolve as we gain more customisation experience). However, subsequent events may make use of harvested content, with the potential to make any broader ‘scale out’ excitingly fractal.

There’s a balance to be struck between focussing on new kinds of conversation (clean, outcome-oriented), and on new conversations (the follow-through on specific, newly-articulated outcomes). There’s win on both sides so perhaps I worry too much about whether I get the balance right, but why not have it both ways? Those new kinds of conversations re-seeded by those harvested outcomes. Now we’re talking!

___________

While we’re here, check out these opportunities to experience this for yourself in a public setting (for private settings reach out to me or your friendly neighbourhood partner). One of them is less than two weeks away:


Leading change in the 21st century? You need a 21st century engagement model:

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Five public Agendashift workshops this autumn: Stockholm, Athens, London, Istanbul, Berlin

workshop-2x1

Very pleased to confirm this autumn programme of public workshops:

As well as to partners Kjell Tore, Nikos, and Leanovate (my repeat hosts in Berlin), I’m grateful to the organisers of these conferences, without whom two of these workshops wouldn’t be happening:

Can’t wait that long? Can’t travel? Check out these online workshops:


Leading change in the 21st century? You need a 21st century engagement model:

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Agendashift roundup, May 2019

In this edition: Martin, this one’s for you; Two kinds of organisation development (OD); Featureban and Changeban; Upcoming workshops – Stockholm, Berlin, and online; Top posts

Martin, this one’s for you

This month the Lean-Agile community mourned the sudden and tragic loss of Martin Burns, a friend to many. My tribute, with links to several others – all of which well worth reading – is here:

Right to Left

Everything crossed, Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile comes out next month (sorry, I can’t give an exact date yet). Watch out for a Q&A with Ben Linders on InfoQ soon, always a pleasure!

Two kinds of organisation development (OD)

“So many books, so little time” (Pliny the Younger or Frank Zappa – take your pick). I began the month with a book I wish I had known about soon enough to reference in Agendashift, Bushe & Marshak’s Dialogic Organization Development: The Theory and Practice of Transformational Change. In a highly encouraging way it had a profound effect on me and continues to do so; read my initial thoughts and then some practical follow-through in these two posts:

Featureban and Changeban

For months I’ve been promising a big update to Featureban, a Kanban simulation game that is used around the world and remains one of my most popular downloads. Not only do I now have a 3.0 beta version that I’ll be playing next week and releasing soon, we’ve tested some improvements too in Changeban (see below a photo from Berlin last week) that benefit both games. So watch out for an announcement, both here on the blog and in your inbox if you’re a registered user of either game.

2019-05-23 13.28.28-1.jpg

Meanwhile, we have at last a video for Changeban (thank you Steven Mackenzie for producing it), announcement here:

Upcoming workshops – Stockholm, Berlin, and online

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

Top posts

Recent:

  1. Martin, this one’s for you
  2. What kind of Organisational Development (OD)? (And a book recommendation)
  3. A video for Changeban (and related: what’s in store for Featureban)
  4. Takeaways from Boston and Berlin
  5. Needs-based, outcome-oriented, continuous, open

Older:

  1. ‘Right to Left’ works for Scrum too (July 2018)
  2. How the Leader-Leader model turns Commander’s Intent upside down(June 2018)
  3. Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley (February 2019)

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

 

Takeaways from Boston and Berlin

Update (June 28th 2019): Over the months, the exercise referred to here by my working title Reverse Wardley has served us incredibly well. With full credit to Liz and Karl, it’s a great addition to our workshops and I love it! My name for it has proved way too nerdy for some tastes though, and after several iterations in the Agendashift Slack we may be settling on Option Visibility Mapping. If that changes, I’ll update this update! I’ve also added a new tag ‘mapping‘ to this and related posts.

Within days of each other, two 2-day Advanced Agendashift workshops in very different settings and the opportunity therefore for both experimentation and fast feedback. In no particular order:

  1. I was in Boston not just for the workshop but for the Open Leadership Symposium, and my biggest takeaway was that Agendashift and OpenSpace Agility (OSA) seem to be made for each other. The question is when we get try it! There seem to be multiple ways to do it: Agendashift as OSA’s Assessment phase, Agendashift as the way to generate an “in our own words” challenge for the first OpenSpace, Agendashift to formalise some of what happens between OpenSpaces, and so on.
  2. If you want constructive feedback, go to Germany! As a regular visitor (see below for the next Berlin workshop) I knew this one already; last week’s group didn’t fail me and I’m grateful to them for helping to identify both a facilitation risk and an easy mitigation. Long story short: participants should be given more help to avoid generating overly abstract obstacles, guided to start with more everyday frustrations, misalignments, and missed opportunities instead. Abstract concepts are a difficult starting point, and we can still trust 15-minute FOTO to reach them as a destination instead.
  3. In both workshops, we kept referring back to a new slide I added to the introduction. This summarises the diagnostic and dialogic approaches to organisation development outlined in my recent post What kind of Organisational Development (OD)?). Deliberately emphasising the dialogic side, the question “Are there things here that we could take back to the wider organisation?” seems to be a good one for facilitators to ask. Taking this further, it’s not hard to imagine an ‘expanded’, ‘bootstrapped’, or multi-level Agendashift that replaces or augments its provided content (mainly the True North and the assessment prompts) with user-generated content.

In both workshops, that awareness of the opportunity for wider dialogue remained with us in day 2. As described in Stringing it together with Reverse Wardley, the second day now opens with this ‘string’ of interconnected mapping exercises:

  1. The Cynefin 4 Points Contextualisation exercise, or ‘4 Points’ for short (it’s strongly advised not to mention Cynefin or its jargon until the end)
  2. ‘Option Orientation Mapping’, which is Karl Scotland’s proposed name for what I have been calling ‘Reverse Wardley’
  3. Story Mapping (not an accurate name; ‘Pathway Mapping’ might be better)

From Berlin, here’s a very nice 4 Points example:

2019-05-23 10.10.07

Marked with asterisks around the top left corner are outcomes that are likely suited to an iterative and hypothesis-based approach. Let’s now also visualise what the book calls ‘thematic outcomes’, around which plans might be organised or consultation exercises conducted. These are to be found towards the top (and often towards the left) of the Option Orientation (aka Reverse Wardley) Map, which is very quick to build if you have done 4 Points first:

2019-05-23 10.39.49-1

Zooming in, note the exclamation marks (the words used aren’t as important as the fact they’re seen by the group as important):

2019-05-23 10.47.25

Identifying these themes makes it much easier to let go of the provided story map headings (the larger orange stickies, based on the Reverse STATIK model) and consider replacing them with user-generated structure (positioned above those):

2019-05-23 12.25.30-1

The Boston example kept more of its original structure, but an interesting touch was to add themes from Discovery too, potentially a useful technique:

2019-05-17 12.19.45 cropped

(And no, I don’t see “RIMBAP” catching on in the way STATIK did!)

So… lots to feed back into the standard materials over the summer (for use not just by me but available to all partners), plenty of food for thought too, and a new Slack channel #future-developments in which ideas can be aired. All in all, those weeks of travel were very fruitful.


Upcoming workshops – Stockholm, Berlin, and online

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


Blog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter

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

 

 

What kind of Organisational Development (OD)? (And a book recommendation)

both-kinds.png

Mind slightly blown, I discover that organisation development (OD) divides into two schools of thought. Or more accurately, that a crucial aspect of organisation development may have been hiding in plain sight for decades. The two ‘schools’ (if for the moment I can refer to them that way) are diagnostic OD and dialogic ODThey are not in fact mutually exclusive – it’s this that allowed one to hide with the other – but for the purposes of explanation let me begin by describing two ends of an OD spectrum.

Diagnostic OD

At the “extreme diagnostic” end of the spectrum, the OD practitioner (here very much playing the role of the expert consultant) thinks and works like this:

  • According to the practitioner and in all likelihood the sponsor (the latter chooses the former after all), your organisation is best understood by some dominant metaphor: as a machine, an organism, an ecosystem, or a system of autonomous agents (the ‘agents’ being ‘people’ and groups thereof)
  • Accordingly, the task is to diagnose a problem and to prescribe (and perhaps implement) a fix, a cure, a conservation measure, or some reprogramming

Only a short distance beyond that extreme lies dysfunction:

  • Ivory tower diagnosis – lacking in empathy and respect, characterised by dismissiveness and judgementalism – or fake diagnosis whose main purpose is to establish the absence of some fashionable solution (see also snake oil merchants) and perhaps induce an inauthentic sense of urgency (burning platforms and the like)
  • Inviting failure by approaching adaptive challenges as though they are mere technical problems, fixable through linear, step-by-step processes (hey, 20th century change management frameworks, I’m looking at you)

Drawing a safe distance back from that precipitous edge, we have whole systems approaches, in which the diagnosis part and increasingly the implementation part involve meaningful levels of staff participation. As much facilitator as consultant, the practitioner consciously dials down their judgemental side and dials up their curious and conversational sides instead.

What if this begins to describe what successful OD has looked like all along? Would an alternative to the diagnostic model be helpful? Enter dialogic OD.

Dialogic OD

Again for the sake of explanation, let’s put those organisational metaphors to one side and start with something more philosophical:

  • The organisation is socially constructed and the creator of meaning – brought to life, sustaining itself, and continuing to evolve through its discourse, both with itself and with the outside world
  • Change is an ongoing (ever-present) process that is never entirely under anyone’s control; the practitioner’s job is to spark and facilitate new conversations, uncover fresh expressions of meaning, and help set loose new kinds of dialogue

The idea that culture is the product of a process that no-one fully controls is an important one. No wonder that change management is hard! I first saw it spelt out that way by Edgar H. Schein [1], and referenced it in Agendashift [2]. Schein is without doubt one on the greats of OD and it seems to me a little ironic that he is so strongly identified with the diagnostic model. In fairness to him, social constructionism [3] is younger than OD; moreover he contributes a superb foreword to Bushe & Marshak’s Dialogic Organization Development [4] – an excellent book that might easily have escaped my notice without his endorsement.

Before reading Bushe & Marhak’s book and as I began to read Schein’s foreword, I couldn’t help imagining for myself what diagnostic and dialogic OD might mean. Quite naturally I wondered what Agendashift would look like in the light of those two imagined models. I jumped to the conclusion that Agendashift had elements of both: diagnostic wherever it is concerned with the present (in particular the assessment and anything concerned with current obstacles), and dialogic wherever it is concerned with the future (which it does most of the rest of the time).

My instincts weren’t completely wrong, but nevertheless as I read the book I was surprised just how strongly the dialogic model resonated with me. It turns out that Agendashift is much further along the spectrum towards fully dialogic than I anticipated. Some of the more obvious parallels:

  1. Even Agendashift’s more diagnostic tools are there not to measure or judge but to stimulate conversations whose destinations – outcomes – the facilitator can’t even guess at (certainly I don’t try). As the Solutions Focus [5] guys will tell you, the point of scaling  – which they mean in the sense of giving something a numeric score – isn’t the number, but they way that it encourages you to think.
  2. Agendashift makes extensive use of generative images, things – typically terms or phrases – that help to conjure up a diverse range of naturally-aligned responses. Our de-jargonised Lean-Agile True North statement (below) is Agendashift’s most obvious example (quite a chunky one by normal standards), but even the prompts of the assessment tool are used in that way.
  3. And of course there’s the Clean Language, mainly via our 15-minute FOTO coaching game [6], though its influence runs deeper. It’s not just that the game gives participants the opportunity to ‘model’ the organisation’s obstacles and outcomes – conversations that probably haven’t happened before – it also creates the experience of a new kind of conversation.

Slide12

With the benefit of a few days of reflection, I am over that initial surprise. Agendashift was designed as a positive response to the prescriptive approaches to Agile adoption that at their worst seem to actively embrace all the diagnostic dysfunctions I identified above. Instead of prescriptive and linear, generative. And what do we generate? Outcomes around which people can self-organise, and ideas for action and experimentation that will point the organisation in the direction of those outcomes – hence outcome-oriented change – and all of it done in a coherent way that helps to develop Lean, Agile, and Lean-Agile sensibilities rather than work against them.

That said, I am not yet over my enjoyment of this book. In fact, I’m still wondering if Agendashift could and should move even further towards the dialogic end of the spectrum. Even in the Agendashift book there are hints of what might be possible – helping organisations create their own True North statements or their own non-prescriptive assessment tools, for example. And without creating any new tools, we practitioners should perhaps be keeping a closer watch for powerful new generative images amongst the many outcomes generated by participants, using their “thematic outcomes” (a phrase that is already part of the Agendashift lexicon) not just for organising plans but as seeds for wider dialogue.

I’m even challenged (in a good way) by two alternative visions of the workshop (a large part of my work). Is an Agendashift workshop:

  1. A planning event (diagnostic), or
  2. A “container for disruption” (dialogic)?

Yes!

One thing is for sure: if ever there’s a 2nd edition of Agendashift, Bushe & Marshak’s Dialogic Organization Development will certainly be among its key references. I’ll be adding it to our recommended reading list [7] very soon.

References

[1] Organizational Culture and Leadership, Edgar H. Schein (5th edition, 2016, Wiley)
[2] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation, Mike Burrows (2018, New Generation Publishing)
[3] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_constructionism
[4] Dialogic Organization Development: The Theory and Practice of Transformational Change, Gervase R. Bushe & Robert J. Marshak (2015, Berrett-Koehler Publishers)
[5] The Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change SIMPLE , Mark McKergow and Paul Z. Jackson (2011, Nicholas Brealey International)
[6] 15-minute FOTO: agendashift.com/15-minute-foto
[7] Recommended reading: agendashift.com/recommended-reading

Acknowledgements

Thank you Mike Haber and Parag Gogate for feedback on earlier drafts of this post.


Upcoming workshops – Boston, Berlin, Oslo, and Stockholm

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


Blog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter

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

A video for Changeban (and related: what’s in store for Featureban)

Changeban is our Lean Startup-flavoured Kanban simulation game. It is based on our classic game Featureban, with easier mechanics, a Lean Startup-inspired board design, and some different learning objectives. Both games are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (Yay! Open!).

As promised a couple of days ago in the April roundup, the Changeban page now includes a video of a game session recorded at last month’s London workshop. I’m grateful to Agendashift partner Steven Mackenzie for its production. You’ll find it and loads more information at agendashift.com/changeban.

Questions? Channel #changeban in the Agendashift Slack; request access here

In store for Featureban

At around the 37:05 mark you will notice this exchange:

Dragan: Can a work item – a sticky – move more than one step in a round?

Mike: Yes they can. I know where that question is coming from – if you’ve played Featureban, the rules discourage the cards from moving more than one column per round (per day). The reason for that is technical, and it’s annoying, and it makes the rules unnecessarily complicated. The language is changed in Changeban so that it’s just that if you can’t do anything for yourself, you help somebody.

The Featureban rules in question are those that mention pairing. Instead of helping someone (anyone!) as Changeban allows, you’re allowed to pair up only with someone who can’t otherwise move. These rather frustrating rules generate more questions than the rest put together! The technical issue I mention in the video is that disallowing cards from moving more than one column in a day happens to make the calculation of flow efficiency in the metrics iteration very easy. I’m convinced now that the complication and restrictiveness is an unnecessarily high price to pay.

Admittedly I’ve been saying this for a while (I also had a book to finish!), but soon(ish) I will publish a Featureban 3.0 beta version that ditches the pairing rules in favour of Changeban’s much kinder “help someone” rules. While I’m at it, I’ll complete the transition from coins to playing cards as the source of variation.


Upcoming workshops – Boston, Berlin, Oslo, and Stockholm

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


Blog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter

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

More ‘Open’, and my first online workshops

I’m getting ready for a busy couple of weeks mid May:

Partly in preparation and partly as housekeeping, I’ve updated the generic workshop description page Advanced Agendashift: Coaching and Leading Continuous Transformation as follows:

  1. Very much in the Open spirit of the Boston symposium, it now has a Creative Commons 4.0 CC-BY-SA license. That’s not quite the big deal that it might sound since the Overview pages that describe all Agendashift-based workshops have long had one, but it’s good to get that sorted.
  2. Its structure now tallies with recent improvements. Day 1 is Learning the language of outcomes. Day 2 is Organising for impact, and it reflects the “rejigging” described in last week’s Notes from the April 2019 Advanced Agendashift workshop, London. I’ve updated the abovementioned Overview pages also.

As a spinoff from Boston (there’ll be discounts for attendees), from June I’ll be offering an online workshop, also titled Learning the language of outcomes. Presented as two 2-hour sessions on consecutive days it will be a great way to get up to speed quickly with outcome-orientation and Clean Language, getting some real practice in applying the latter to the former. At a minimum we’ll cover:

Officially, we launch these at the Symposium, but for a sneak preview (and early bird prices):

In person or online, I hope to see you soon!


Upcoming workshops – Boston, Berlin, Oslo, and Stockholm

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

workshop-2x1


Blog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter

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