About: Our mission: Wholehearted

Our mission: Helping organisations grow in wholeheartedness – to become less at war with themselves, their obstacles, imbalances, and contradictions identified and owned, value and meaning created through participation.

Wholehearted image

Wholehearted describes both a vision to pursue and something we can help you experience right away: people engaging on issues that matter, articulating outcomes in their own words, co-creating a coherent way forward. It’s what we do!

Part of wholehearted’s power is that people respond to it in so many different ways. Qualities such as these are suggested, typically falling into one of two main groups:

  1. Wholeness, integrity, integration, alignment
  2. Engagement, energy, commitment

Bringing the two groups together: purposefulness – alignment to purpose and commitment to purpose.

The words we picked out in bold suggest some values:

  • Authentic engagement – open, transparent, curious, listening; true to ourselves and respectful of others
  • Meaningful participation – maximising the opportunity for people to contribute to conversations of real consequence
  • Attention to needs and outcomes – not just hollow promises of future benefits but a fundamental reorientation, a paradigm shift, a change of language
  • Leadership at every level – facilitating all of the above, responsible and accountable for it

Contrast those values with the engagement-destroying inauthenticity and imposition of traditional change management. In the context of cultural and other adaptive challenges its record of failure is so extensive that good motives no longer excuse the harm. It’s why a clean break was necessary, and we’re proud to be in the vanguard of a new category, the engagement model.

Many and varied are the obstacles that we have helped organisations think and work their way beyond. Some recurring themes however:

  • Strategy, objectives, accountabilities, or performance inadequately defined or understood
  • Gaps between demand and capacity or between expectation and capability (often these go together)
  • Customer involvement in the process – too little, or too much of an unhelpful kind
  • Slowness in bringing forward innovation in product, service, technology, or process

Where we’re coming from: Agendashift’s founders, partners, collaborators, supporters, and champions work at the exciting intersection of (Lean-Agile) Delivery, Strategy, and Organisation Development, are growing into that space, or see its potential for their organisations.

Working at the intersection image

What sets us apart: a fundamentally outcome-oriented approach. Outcomes identified, articulated, and organised strategically through participation. Outcomes kept in the foreground, solutions following, emerging at the right time and the right scale from the people closest to the problem. Not for us the solution-driven rollout, a source of failure and dysfunction when applied in the context of cultural and other adaptive challenges.

Image: Things on the right ahead of the things on the left

The challenge that motivates us: We see too many organisations expose themselves to the familiar risks of the conventional approaches to change: mediocrity, disappointment, and (most damaging of all) disengagement. Ironically, they often exacerbate the very problems that they are called upon to solve; no wonder then that so many change initiatives fail. Isn’t it time we left those tired old ways behind?

Image: The failings of solution-first approaches

Actionable at every level of organisation: Wholehearted is not just a dream. Whatever the level of organisation you operate at, there's plenty you can do to make it a reality. In yourself and in others you can develop the skills of the outcome-oriented strategy conversation. You can practice keeping outcomes in the foreground, creating both the space for impactful innovation and the sense of meaningful progress. You can learn to recognise the richness of opportunity that your organisation represents.

Image: Three strategies

Find out more:


The original inspiration for our characteristically needs-based and outcome-oriented use of the word wholehearted is this short paragraph from a classic book, The Timeless Way of Building, by the renowned architect Christopher Alexander:

A thing is whole according to how free it is of inner contradictions. When it is at war with itself, and gives rise to forces which act to tear it down, it is unwhole. The more free it is of its own inner contradictions, the more whole and healthy and wholehearted it becomes.

The Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander (1980, OUP USA)

On the surface at least, Alexander is writing about the design of buildings and the built environment. However, deeply struck by the metaphor and its application to organisation design, in my 2019 book Right to Left I wrote this:

I love the idea that as leaders and trusted advisers we can choose to be in the business of helping organisations to be more wholehearted ... (If) we improve our delivery processes by removing impediments to flow, then we improve our organisations by removing impediments to alignment.

I choose this! Do you?

Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile
Mike Burrows (2019, New Generation Publishing; audiobook 2020)

Mike Burrows, with Steven Mackenzie, Dragan Jojic, Karl Scotland, Teddy Zetterlund, Kjell Tore Guttormsen, and Andrea Chiou

Agendashift™ is copyright © 2015-2022 Positive Incline Ltd. All rights reserved. The page Our mission: Wholehearted by Mike Burrows of Positive Incline Ltd is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/.

Source text maintained at github.com/asplake/agendashift-open/tree/master/about/wholehearted.md (github.com)

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About us

Agendashift™ is brought to you by Positive Incline Ltd, UK-based specialists in Lean, Agile, strategy, and change. Founder Mike Burrows came to prominence in the Lean-Agile community as the orginator of Kanban’s values model, out of which came his first book, Kanban from the Inside (2014). His more recent books Agendashift (2nd edition 2021) and Right to Left (2019, audiobook 2020) bring a resolutely needs-based and outcome-oriented perspective to change, transformation, and the Lean-Agile landscape as a whole, contributing meanwhile a number of popular tools, games, and other resources. He works as a consultant, facilitator, and trainer, and as a keynote speaker at events public and private around the world.

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