Our mission: Wholehearted

We – Agendashift’s founders, partners, and supporters – are in the business of building wholehearted organisations:

Coming from the exciting intersection of Lean-Agile, Strategy, and Organisation Development, we employ our expertise not by imposition but in principled support of participatory, whole system engagement. Our mission reminds us not to be defined by past solutions as we pursue the bigger objective: wholehearted organisations that strive always to meet needs and achieve outcomes in the best way possible.

We’re wholehearted – are you?

I’m a sponsor, and I’m in!

Things we can do for you:

  • Help you increase effective participation across and between strategy, development, and delivery
  • Help you articulate the outcomes around which your operational, improvement, and transformational work should be aligned, a facilitated, participatory process
  • Help your organisation embrace the language of outcomes, minimising lazy prescription and freeing people and teams to find innovative solutions to your most important challenges
  • Help your organisation on its path to wholeheartedness, facilitating the formation, pursuit, and ongoing development of an effective transformation strategy

I understand that I will be joining the Agendashift mailing list

I'm a sponsor, and I’m in!

I’m a practitioner, and I’m in!

Through the Agendashift partner programme:

  • Unrestricted access to the Agendashift assessment tools
  • Integrated workshop materials, combining our popular open source tools into a coherent whole
  • The support of an amazing community of like-minded practitioners, with an inside track on new developments and plenty of opportunity for meaningful collaboration

Get started:

I understand that I will be joining the Agendashift mailing list

I'm a practitioner, and I’m in!

I understand that I will be joining the Agendashift mailing list

I'm a sponsor, and I’m in!

I understand that I will be joining the Agendashift mailing list

I'm a practitioner, and I’m in!


  1. Mission, not manifesto
  2. Inspiration
  3. Wholeheartedness, strategy, feedback opportunities, and participation
  4. Servant Leadership

1. Mission, not manifesto

Agendashift partners converge at the confluence of Lean, Agile, strategy, and organisation development; for some it eases the transition from familiar spaces into others.

It seems appropriate to note here that Agile here points back to what is popularly known as the Agile Manifesto (or the Manifesto for Agile Software Development to give it its proper title). This document is of its time (2001), isn’t perfect, rightly or wrongly is centered on software (even its signatories disagree on the rightness of its focus), and (regardless) is not universally applicable. Nevertheless, it has a power that none of its many imitators have succeeded in replicating, and we continue to celebrate it in its original form.

Wholehearted is our mission statement, not a manifesto. It’s for us to pursue (we work hard at it), and if it inspires others, fantastic! If you’re looking for something more deliberately generative – meaning that they are designed in a framework-agnostic and non-prescriptive way to prompt creativity and action in others – we encourage you to try these:

More is explained in Agendashift's About page. And note: this page, the True North, and the Principles are each released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. You are warmly invited to make of them what you will 🙂

2. Inspiration

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
(2019, New Generation Publishing)

3. Wholeheartedness, strategy, feedback opportunities, and participation

My reference to Alexander is made in chapter 5, Outside in. The chapter title alludes to outside-in strategy (customer and environment first, not capability first). We’re big on strategy, and find it unfortunate that most frameworks and their success stories neglect what is not only a critical success factor, but also a crucial aspect of organisation design.

Approaching strategy from the outside is a powerful way to identify contradictions between business goals, the work done on the ground, and everything in between. This is at the heart of two of our workshop offerings: the private Agendashift Outside-in Strategy Review (OI-SR) workshop, and the public or private workshop Wholehearted: Bringing OKR to life with Agendashift. See also one of our free resources, the Outside-in Strategy Review (OI-SR) template:

As described in the book, the outside-in structure shown in the template also works very well as the agenda for service delivery review meetings. It should go without saying that service delivery review should start with service, not internal measures of capability, and in the OI-SDR (the outside-in version of this key meeting) we make this explicit.

Structures and feedback opportunities such as these are important tools in the pursuit of wholeheartedness. To be successful though, you need the active participation of people from a range of different disciplines, who have skin in the game, and are respected for their direct knowledge of the situation. We recommend that at least three levels of seniority should be invited to contribute – bypassing reporting lines, flattening hierarchies, and bring diverse experiences together. Without this kind of diversity, the chances of contradictions being surfaced are greatly reduced. And without accountability, little changes.

4. Servant Leadership

As with strategy, we’re also unequivocal on the need for leadership, Servant Leadership in particular. By this we mean not something vague, insipid, or mainly team-centric; instead we reference Robert K. Greenleaf’s 1970‘s model, a model that remains relevant and challenging to this day. In the final chapter of Right to Left, I attempt to summarise it as follows:

  1. Help others to be successful – removing impediments, ensuring that basic needs are met
  2. Help others find autonomy and meaning in their work, together discovering, developing, and pursuing the organisation’s values, mission, and purpose in society
  3. Help develop Servant Leadership in others, continuing a process of transformation

Thus defined, Servant Leadership is strategic, transformational, and multi-generational. I’ve described it as a great piece of Systems Thinking, also (borrowing from Aaron Dignan’s Brave New Work), as both people positive and complexity conscious:

  • People positive, because it is so focussed on other people (and so optimistically), with success measured in terms of their needs and outcomes
  • Complexity conscious, because through its people it helps the organisation discover and become what it needs to become, not as a one-off project but as an open-ended journey

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

Agendashift™ is copyright © 2015-2019 Positive Incline Ltd. All rights reserved. The Agendashift page 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/.


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About us

Agendashift™ is brought to you by Positive Incline Ltd, UK-based specialists in Lean and Agile. Founder Mike Burrows is known to the Agile and Lean-Agile communities as the author of Kanban from the Inside (2014) and Agendashift (2018), the creator of the Featureban and Changeban simulation games, a keynote speaker at conferences around the world, and as a consultant, coach, and trainer. His new book Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile was published August 15th 2019.

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