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Generative patterns: Meaning, Measure, Method

Aka 2MBM, for “meaning before metric, measure before method”. From the blog post #2MBM: Meaning before Metric, Measure before Method (blog.agendashift.com):

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.

Meaning, Measure, Method, can be read in two ways. Firstly, as two warnings:

  1. Don’t lead with metrics that aren’t meaningful to people and might drive dysfunctional behaviour (recall Management by Objectives)
  2. Don’t choose solutions – let alone implement them – without first defining how success will be measured

More colloquially: Be careful what you wish for, and as per Yogi Berra, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up someplace else.

But it can also be read as something constructive, a generative pattern:

  1. Identify what you really want and explore why it’s important to you
  2. Identify how you will know that you have it, and before that, signs of emergence and indicators of progress
  3. Use those measures – perhaps including metrics – to inspire solutions

Steps 1 and 2 together may be implemented by the IdOO (“I do”) pattern, Ideal, Obstacles, Outcomes.

In Leading with Outcomes, The Meaning, Measure, Method pattern is introduced and applied in the Foundation module and used in the other three modules also.

Copyright © 2015-2024 Agendashift Ltd (formerly Positive Incline Ltd). All rights reserved. The page Meaning, Measure, Method by Mike Burrows of Agendashift 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/framework/patterns/meaning-measure-method.md (github.com)

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Agendashift™ is brought to you by Agendashift Ltd (formerly Positive Incline Ltd), UK-based specialists in leadership, engagement, strategy, and change. Founder Mike Burrows came to prominence in the Lean-Agile community as the originator 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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