Resources: Right to Left: The digital leader's guide to Lean and Agile

Due midsummer 2019, Right to Left will be the third book by Agendashift founder Mike Burrows, doing for Lean and Agile in digital delivery what his 2018 book Agendashift did for change and transformation.

From the introduction:

Did you know that there are two kinds of Agile? There’s the kind that’s capable of generating real passion – passion for the outcomes that can be created for customers and passion for the way that Agile teams go about achieving them. Then there’s the kind that achieves no more than modest improvements in performance and continues to deliver products that seem to delight no-one. Instead of the passion and engagement of the first kind of Agile, this second kind generates frustration on all sides at the poor results and resentment that unfamiliar and unwanted ways of working have been implemented for so little benefit.

A disparity as wide as this suggests that something fundamental must be going on. You don’t need to have been around the Agile community for long to hear people complaining about it; perhaps you’ve noticed it for yourself first hand. Many put it down to Agile “going mainstream” and becoming the victim of its own success, as though there’s something inevitable and perhaps unstoppable about its decline. I find this explanation unhelpful however – not because there’s no truth in it, or because it’s pessimistic (I’m an optimist by nature), but because the insight doesn’t lead in any obvious way to action.

Let me offer a complementary and more helpful explanation. That first kind of Agile – the passion-generating kind – is characterised by a shared focus on outcomes. The second kind – the kind that dances with disengagement – is characterised by a focus on implementation, with designs, working practices, and workload largely determined up front, often with little meaningful involvement from the majority of people who will be tasked with carrying it out. Hardly Agile at all, by most meaningful definitions.

Hence Right to Left, the central metaphor of this book. Right to Left is shorthand for consistently, deliberately, and even provocatively starting with outcomes – with needs being met – and working backwards from there, keeping outcomes always in the foreground. It’s a visual metaphor, and to understand it, just imagine a diagram of the delivery process drawn conventionally with inputs on the left and outputs on the right. Now put outcomes even further to the right; it’s from there that our thinking starts, and it’s to there that we’re constantly drawn.

The book is organised into six chapters, the first four of which have a strong right-to-left theme, the last two appraoching questions of organisational design and leadership from complementary angles:

  1. Right to left in the material world – introducing Lean, the pursuit of flow
  2. Right to left in the digital space – introducing Agile and Lean-Agile
  3. Patterns and frameworks – popular Lean, Agile, and Lean-Agile frameworks and how they combine and complement each other
  4. Viable scaling – the Agile scaling frameworks, organisational viability, and the challenges of change
  5. Outside in – two key feedback loops – strategy reviews and service delivery reviews – towards a more ‘wholehearted’ organisation
  6. Upside down – the supportive, customer-focussed organisation

For the latest updates, follow us on Twitter, join the #right-to-left channel in the Agendashift Slack and check out blog posts tagged right-to-left. These posts in particular:

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Agendashift™ is brought to you by Positive Incline Ltd, UK-based specialists in Lean-Agile transformation. Founder Mike Burrows pioneered the values model for the Kanban Method that led to his definitive book, Kanban from the Inside. His new book Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation was published in April 2018.


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