Agendashift as framework: Agendashift’s five principles

Distilled essence of Agendashift in five principles:

Principles image

As text:

Five principles of continuous, outcome-oriented transformation:

  1. Start – and finish – with needs
  2. Agree on outcomes
  3. Keep the agenda for change visible
  4. Manage options, testing assumptions
  5. Organise for leverage and learning

The principles first saw the light of day in the 2017 blog post Agendashift in 5 principles. In chapter 5 of Agendashift (2018) they are expanded as follows:

  1. Start with needs – get a sense of what’s needed, based on an appreciation of where we are now and our ambitions for where we’d like to get to
  2. Agree on outcomes – explore a landscape of obstacles and outcomes, using authentic agreement on outcomes as the basis for change
  3. Keep the agenda for change visible – use visual mapping to organise, prioritise, cross-check, and communicate
  4. Manage options, testing assumptions – generate and select options, frame hypotheses, and develop experiments that will validate or invalidate our assumptions
  5. Organise for clarity, speed, and mutual accountability – organise the conduct of experiments such that:
    • It is clear to all what is happening and why
    • Decisions are made quickly by the right people
    • Transparency and support are both given and received, with responsibility shared both for impact and for how results are achieved

Also in chapter 5, echoing in the inclusive and outcome-oriented style of the Agendashift assessment prompts:

  1. Start with needs – We understand why the organisation should continue to exist, discovering and rediscovering the needs of customers, employees, and the stakeholders that it must serve
  2. Agree on outcomes – We maximise potential and minimise friction by deferring and delegating the ‘how’; by habit and deliberate practice we focus first on the intent of any change
  3. Keep the agenda for change visible – We maintain alignment on organisational themes, goals, and priorities, keeping them (and progress against them) visible and under regular review as they evolve
  4. Manage options, testing assumptions – We make progress by generating and prioritising options, surfacing their assumptions, testing them through experiments, and incorporating learning
  5. Organise for clarity, speed, and mutual accountability – Our organisation is designed and operated such that decisions about delivery or change can be made quickly and safely, close to where the real action takes place

The wording of two principles has changed a little since the book’s publication (the updates to be reflected in a planned 2nd edition):

  • Principle #1 Start with needs (not uncoincidentally top of the list of service design principles for UK Government Digital Services) becomes Start – and finish – with needs, a reminder that we’re not done until we can demonstrate that needs are being met; see also our helpfully provocative Definition of done
  • Principle #5 has been shortened to Organise for leverage and learning – this trips better off the tongue, and mutual accountability, though a great concept, was a little too obscure here (its inspiration, Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! remains a highly recommended reference)

Agendashift™ is copyright © 2015-2020 Positive Incline Ltd. All rights reserved. The page Agendashift’s five principles 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/framework/principles.md (github.com)

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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 (2018) 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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