Rebel Diaries

Mike Burrows - The Importance Of Focusing On Outcomes

August 01, 2022 Mike Burrows Season 1 Episode 15
Mike Burrows - The Importance Of Focusing On Outcomes
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Rebel Diaries
Mike Burrows - The Importance Of Focusing On Outcomes
Aug 01, 2022 Season 1 Episode 15
Mike Burrows

Leave Scott a voicemail and possibly get featured on the show:

Agendashift founder and Agendashift Academy co-founder Mike Burrows is the author of Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (2nd edition March 2021), Right to Left: The digital leader's guide to Lean and Agile (2019, audiobook 2020), and the Lean-Agile classic Kanban from the Inside (2104).

Mike is recognised for his pioneering work in Lean, Agile, and Kanban and for his advocacy for participatory and outcome-oriented approaches to change, transformation, and strategy.

Past leadership roles include global development manager and Executive Director at a top tier investment bank, CTO for an energy risk management startup, and interim delivery manager on two of the UK Government Digital Services ‘exemplar’ projects.

What Scott discusses with Mike Burrows:

  • Why Mike switched to focusing on outcomes over values
  • How people get very excited and distracted by problems 
  • Why people fall in love with their own solutions
  • Outcomes before solutions and outcomes over outputs
  • The key elements of a strategy
  • The difference between outside in strategy and inside out strategy
  • And much more...

Links in this episode

Support the Show.

Keep in touch with the show

Leave a review

  • Please leave a review (written if possible) on your podcast app of choice

How Scott can help you and your business

Additional resources (Purchasing using the links below helps support the running of the show)

Show Notes Transcript

Leave Scott a voicemail and possibly get featured on the show:

Agendashift founder and Agendashift Academy co-founder Mike Burrows is the author of Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (2nd edition March 2021), Right to Left: The digital leader's guide to Lean and Agile (2019, audiobook 2020), and the Lean-Agile classic Kanban from the Inside (2104).

Mike is recognised for his pioneering work in Lean, Agile, and Kanban and for his advocacy for participatory and outcome-oriented approaches to change, transformation, and strategy.

Past leadership roles include global development manager and Executive Director at a top tier investment bank, CTO for an energy risk management startup, and interim delivery manager on two of the UK Government Digital Services ‘exemplar’ projects.

What Scott discusses with Mike Burrows:

  • Why Mike switched to focusing on outcomes over values
  • How people get very excited and distracted by problems 
  • Why people fall in love with their own solutions
  • Outcomes before solutions and outcomes over outputs
  • The key elements of a strategy
  • The difference between outside in strategy and inside out strategy
  • And much more...

Links in this episode

Support the Show.

Keep in touch with the show

Leave a review

  • Please leave a review (written if possible) on your podcast app of choice

How Scott can help you and your business

Additional resources (Purchasing using the links below helps support the running of the show)


Welcome to the Rebel Diaries podcast. I'm Scott Fulton, international speaker consultant and trainer. Work sucks for far too many people in business and corporate life. And my goal is to fix that. My guests each week include authors, millionaires, entrepreneurs, thought leaders and inspiring people who share their stories, insights, and tips to help you transform your work and life for the better. They are the rebels because they challenge the status quo and help others to do the same.

Scott: You are listening to the Rebel Diaries show. Stick with me and work will never be the same again.

[00:00:38] Mike: If you think about it in outside in terms, where do you wanna be? And that's a question about where do you want to be for your customers and relative to your competitors, what is the ground you want to occupy?

[00:00:48] Mike: I think there is a big issue. If there is a fight worth fighting in the framework space, the fight isn't over the detail of the frameworks, the fight is over whether you think it's okay to impose these things or whether it's not.

[00:01:00] Mike: I had one occasion where there was two teams, one team saw the other team as dinosaurs who saw the first team as cowboys, cowboys versus dinosaurs that's the dynamic. And they really were at odds with each other. And if anything, wasn't working, they blamed each other. 

[00:01:15] Scott: Mike is the founder of a Agendashift which is dedicated to helping companies deliver outcome oriented change. He's also an author and pioneer in the world of Lean Agile and Kanban.

[00:01:27] Mike: Hi, Mike, welcome to the Rebel Diaries podcast. 

[00:01:30] Mike: Hi, Scott. Thank you very much for having me. 

[00:01:32] Mike: Thanks for being here. To help people out who haven't heard of you, would you mind giving us a bit of background yourself, who you are, what you do?

[00:01:38] Mike: So I'm the founder of Agendashift and the co-founder of the AgendaShift Academy. Just that name probably tells you a little bit. I'm the author of three books with a couple more in the pipeline. Kanban from the Inside is the one that made my name really. I originated the values model for Kanban.

[00:01:53] Mike: All those years ago, nine, nine years ago now. And moved, it was a fairly easy move from values into  outcomes. And my more recent books have been about looking at the whole problem of change from an outcomes point of view, and also looking at the whole lean agile landscape from an outcomes point of view as well.

[00:02:10] Mike: And I keep telling people I've committed the rest of my career to outcomes. , I'm quite serious about it.

[00:02:16] Scott: I like that. Why do you think people don't focus on outcomes? 

[00:02:19] Mike: I think people get distracted by a couple of things. One is problems. People get very excited about problems. And it's actually often not a bad thing to get distracted by, but obviously it's only a good thing to be working on if it's the right problem and even when you think you found the right problem, when you properly understand what the world would look like when you've solved it. You'll open your eyes to, different ways of approaching the problem, different ways of framing, the problem, different problems inside in, entirely perhaps. And that's even more true with solutions. People really attach themselves to solutions. You might have heard the phrase they fall in love with our own solutions or they fall in love with  other people's solutions. I think people falling in love with agile frameworks, for example, people whose whole identity is wrapped up in agile frameworks. And all the problems I mentioned, are multiplied by a factor of 10, you're no longer even solving problems.

[00:03:12] Mike: You are just, just pushing your solutions on everybody. It gets really tiresome and also it really gets in the way of actually learning anything as well. So I think it's so much more productive to first of all, focus on outcomes. I think outcomes before solutions. And outcomes over outputs are phrases you'll hear quite a bit. 

[00:03:29] Mike: But I've taken it a bit further. I'm very interested in the conversations about outcomes. My principle number one is keep asking the agreement on outcomes question, keep asking if we can put agreements on outcomes ahead of solutions. Keep putting outcomes ahead of solutions.

[00:03:45] Mike: Keep putting agreement on outcomes ahead of solutions, meaningful outcomes, authentic agreement, all of that. Really trying to turn the dial up on outcomes. And making sure we really are focused on the right things and it makes for such a more productive and I think more meaningful work experience when we do that.

[00:04:01] Scott: I've seen first-hand everyone comes with the solution almost ready made, and especially I've called them the hippos, the highest paid person's opinion on a few episodes. Or they've seen that solution work somewhere else. "oh it must work for us". And often that isn't often the case, is it? 

[00:04:16] Mike: No, that's absolutely right. Or people more junior arrive at an organization. And they're very upset that the organization isn't receptive to their favourite solution. It happens at all levels. I stop worrying about outcomes cuz outcomes are everywhere. 

[00:04:29] Mike: If you're interested in the conversations around outcomes and strategy conversations, which is really what I do you are never far away from a solution and knowing that you're never far away from a solution actually means you can actually do things with more confidence. Especially once you've learned how to go from solutions back to outcomes it, the old rule about, workshops and conversations and no wrong answers.

[00:04:48] Mike: If the answer is a solution we can easily go from a solution to an outcome and we're back on more interesting territory. But if you can make your, not just your workshop, but actually make your process such that generates more ideas than it consumes then you make that whole thing, self sustaining. You make the innovation process, self sustaining, and life gets really interesting, so long as it's focused on achieving what it wants to achieve and it knows what it wants to achieve. And you've had those conversations. It's, the organization having a conversation with itself.

[00:05:18] Mike: When I say organization that could be the whole enterprise, or it could be just the team or anything in between. Those are conversations that just go missing and it's unfortunate, I've committed myself to doing something about that.

[00:05:29] Scott: You were talking the problems and how, it's almost an obsession trying to fix problems. 

[00:05:34] Mike: Yeah. 

[00:05:34] Scott: How do you advise people on which problems to fix? Because it's also that knock on effect. You can fix one problem, but downstream, if you've not joined the dots that can actually create more problems elsewhere in the organization can't it?

[00:05:46] Mike: Yes. Yes. Actually joining the dots is a really interesting part of the process, outcomes lead to other outcomes. Just as when you fix one problem that just reveals the next one. And that's the negative version of it. The positive version of it, outcomes lead to other outcomes.

[00:05:58] Mike: Things like OKR are absolutely based on that, objectives and key results. Going back to Andy Grove at Intel, he didn't use the acronym OKR, but if you read his high output management book carefully enough, you realize he actually does describe and define OKRs really well.

[00:06:13] Mike: So he said, where do you want to get to that's your objective? How will you see that you are pacing yourself to get there?. those are your key results. All those years ago before OKR was an acronym before everybody was talking about OKR on LinkedIn. Those words are there. And if you read it carefully enough, you realize that he was very much talking about outcomes.

[00:06:32] Mike: It's not about, following a linear plan. It's a framework within which the innovation happens. But it's innovation towards an objective. And it's not just, imposing targets and things like that. That was management by objectives, which OKR was influenced by and that's worth knowing because of all the toxicity of management by objectives.

[00:06:50] Mike: All the corporate scandals that have happened as a result of it. But once you understand the essence of it. It's about outcomes and how they relate to each other, how you focus on the outcomes you  can realize soon, but choosing those, which actually take you in the direction that you want to go that unlock the next, the next load of outcomes and so on.

[00:07:08] Mike: You are actually creating a strategy when you do that. When you connect those dots, you've got everything you need in the strategy. You've got, a sense of where you want to get to, or at least what direction you want to move in. You've got some places you can start at, places where you can concentrate your effort. If you've approached it in the way that that I teach you will have identified your obstacles as part of that process. You know which problems you want to solve. You've got, measures of success signs that you are winning, signs that you're making progress, all that kind of stuff.

[00:07:37] Mike: You've really got all the essential ingredients. It's it sells itself. It's compelling, cuz it's made out of outcomes that people have articulated in their own words. If you've done this as a participatory process, it's grounded in reality, one of the first things you do is identify the obstacles and so on.

[00:07:53] Mike: As well as teaching people, how to put outcomes before solutions, I'm really teaching them how to have strategy conversations. And that's useful,not just for the big strategy occasions, those big strategy reviews, where you get everybody in, everyone in the room but even for your one-to-one conversations or when you're, in a stand-up meeting, just reminding ourselves what it is, we are we're about.

[00:08:12] Mike: what's the need that we're trying to meet. What's the meaningful progress we're trying to help people make and make sure we're focused on that. Not on just building stuff or not just fixing things randomly in the hope that makes things a bit better.

[00:08:24] Scott: Yeah, essentially, you brought up strategy. I'm sure you've come across lots of bad strategies I've read. I'm halfway through the book. It is a really interesting book. I need to finish it called Good Strategy, Bad by Richard Rumelt. And he's got some great quotes, like being ambitious is not a strategy.

[00:08:40] Scott: How many strategies are "we want to be the best at this"? And that's the strategy! 

[00:08:44] Mike: Yes. Yeah. A target, is not strategy, a solution isn't strategy. I think going back to the beginning of our conversation, a lot of strategies actually do boil down to a solution. We're gonna roll out this framework. For example, if you're in the agile world or we're going to implement this application or whatever it might be, the trouble is if that solution  doesn't deliver the benefits that you've promised.

[00:09:02] Mike: What are you left with?, you just made people's lives a misery for, for all those months and at the end of it, very little to show for it. And that's just, that's not good enough. That's such a lazy version of strategy. It's got none of the ingredients that I mentioned, you haven't properly identified what the problems are you've accepted the sales pitch as the outcomes you're going to get without having first worked out, what is it we really want to achieve? It's so lazy and then there's all the pain. And if you're trying to roll out something, that's supposed to make people more productive, and you're doing it by taking away their ability to work out how things are gonna work.

[00:09:34] Mike: You've actually made them unhappy and disengaged and cynical, how is that gonna help? It just it's, it beggars belief that we still think this is a reasonable way of doing things. 25 years ago, the nineties, when these change management frameworks were all in the rage, people accepted it and tried it. But I think after the agile revolution and after the equivalent revolution in the OD community as well, the organization development community as well I think, in 2022, it's really hard to excuse. 

[00:10:00] Mike: Solutions are easy to sell and they're easy to buy.

[00:10:02] Mike: So you could say that the buy side and the sell side conspire in this I think the only way out of it is to teach leaders you, and that's why the Agenda Shift Academy exists because, teaching people how to lead with outcomes.

[00:10:12] Scott: When we say outcomes, we're talking largely customer outcomes, having an impact on customer experience, but also in employee outcomes as well? 

[00:10:21] Mike: Oh all of those and more there are different approaches to strategy and our tools actually work with I was gonna say all of them that's a grand claim. So two, two main approaches. So outside in strategy is strategy that starts with your customer and other things outside of your organization and you work through the implications of that for you inside in terms of what products and services you need to offer in terms of the platform you deliver those from in terms of what that means for your teams, for your people and so on.

[00:10:50] Mike: And that's a really important kind of strategy, but also inside out strategy as well. So that starts with your internal experience in your organization, in your team, in your whole organization or something in between and your capabilities, and you're looking at how both of those can be improved and help you be what you want to be, in the light of the challenges that you face, the purposes that you have and so on. And those two approaches, they're both important and that they're not mutually exclusive. In fact, there's a virtuous circle there, you want outside in strategy, tells you where the opportunities are and how you properly meet with your customers and inside out strategies, how you keep innovating to achieve that.

[00:11:30] Mike: And each creates opportunities for the other, new capabilities, create new customer opportunities, create new demand for innovation. It sounds chicken and egg, but actually it's virtuous circle. We all start. We all start with something. We don't have the chicken and egg problem.

[00:11:43] Mike: We are just better aligning what we have with what we could be and driving ourselves in a direction that's gonna be productive.

[00:11:50] Scott: And the, these things are always changing aren't they? So how do you help and what advice do you give organizations and team leads to, how do you, how do they prioritize? What do they, how do they choose what's the highest value? Cause you can't do everything. So It's tied into prioritization based on presumably the best outcomes and trying to measure that in some way.

[00:12:07] Mike: So I always in, in, in different ways, recommend working backwards. 

[00:12:11] Mike: If you think about it in outside in terms, where do you wanna be? And that's a question about where do you want to be for your customers and relative to your competitors, what is the ground you want to occupy?

[00:12:21] Mike: What, what is gonna make you. The organization that customers are gonna go to, that your customers are gonna keep going to. And when I say your customers, this is true even of internal teams, serving internal customers even your internal customers have alternatives, they can try and muddle through on their own or the organization could outsource you to be brutal about it, and none of us want that. So understanding our customers better. And understanding how we can serve them better is all is all part of it. 

[00:12:47] Mike: So you work backwards from you work backwards from your objectives. And if you understand how these outcomes relate to each other, you can ask, which of the outcomes we can have the most influence on today? Which are the ones that can have most impact on either directly on our objectives or indirectly on, you know the the measures of success that will take us towards our objectives? 

[00:13:11] Mike: It's a good book Four Disciplines of Execution. I think it's from the Franklin Covey people. If I remember rightly but one of their principles is act on lead measures first of all, try and measure things with leading measures rather than lagging measures, but act on the ones that are gonna do the most to get you in the direction that you want to go to. And it's, this is all leveraging that idea, that outcomes are related to each other.

[00:13:31] Mike: And if you've you understand those relationships, you model those relationships, you've visualized them. That that helps you make better decisions. Prioritization is much easier when you have an idea of where it is you wanna be and who you want to be. Prioritization isn't just down to a financial calculation.

[00:13:47] Mike: That's to be honest, if you need a financial calculation to do a tie breaker who cares?

[00:13:52] Mike: If the decision isn't obvious And it's a question about who we want to be and where we wanna be. You need to have that conversation and if you then need a tie breaker it doesn't matter. You could do either. Yeah. It's not that money isn't important. It's not that ROI isn't important, but making a priority decision based on a made up number divided by a made up number is, you get what you deserve, don't you? Probably the analysis that goes into that calculation is gonna be more useful than the actual than the actual number. And probably than the decision you're gonna make either, yeah. If it's just a time breaker, it doesn't matter.

[00:14:21] Scott: So one of the questions I would always get asked, I was in corporate life for 20 years as a Head of Digital. And I brought in agility and that way of thinking, and the question would always be "well, when would it be ready"? It's I genuinely don't know because we haven't done this before.

[00:14:35] Scott: And. We're trying to learn what customers will do. So do you still see that going on in organizations? They want like their cake and eat it as well. We want agility and we want flexibility. Oh. But we still wanna know when it'll be done and how much it's gonna cost and those kind of things. 

[00:14:49] Mike: I think I, I see some signs of change. But there are some tactics that definitely help being. transparent about what you're doing and the progress you're making and the struggles you're facing is important.  And again, this, you know what I, this is what the title of this is what the book Right to Left is about really, is working backwards again reporting on the things that are recently finished, then closest to finishing.

[00:15:09] Mike: And then so on in that order backwards. If you're doing Kanban and you review your board right to left, it's the same idea, but to any kind of reporting also to meetings as well, just review in that order. And you are already giving, you're already building some trust because your customers, your clients can see that you are making some, not just making progress in terms of doing work and some output.

[00:15:32] Mike: But you're achieving some things that have value to them. So that's important. And then the other thing is break it down and if you break it down and then report in the way I just described, you'll be making steady progress towards their goals and yours, quickly anyway break it down.

[00:15:47] Mike: Don't bite off more than you can chew. Don't work on too many things at once. These are the really basic. . And only when you've been doing that for a while, can you build up the track record, have any kind of clue as to how long these things are likely to take. But if you sequence the work in the right way, you get a lot of the value early anyway, and everything else is the icing on the cake or doesn't get done because actually what's the point.

[00:16:06] Mike: So yeah I haven't had to give firm commitments like that for a long time .More it's a matter of right. We're working within this time window. How much do we think we can do? Which is a slightly different conversation. 

[00:16:18] Mike: Once people start to have the confidence that, that whatever happens, we can have something useful and you make sure you get to that point really quickly. Then you're good. And when I'll give you a real example, a mission critical example. So in the year, leading up to the Euro, So I remember that one was that in 1999, was it I led the team in an investment bank that rewrote its P and L system PNL system for fixed income. What a crazy thing to do in the run up to the Euro.

[00:16:40] Mike: Profit and loss so have billions of pounds worth or billions of dollars worth of fixed income securities traded around the world. Really at the heart of the bank's liquidity, it's absolutely no doubt, no bones about it a mission critical thing. And it's one of these things that if you screw up, then the regulators are gonna be absolutely crawling all over you.

[00:17:01] Mike: You don't, you don't want that to happen. And all the extra scrutiny around the Euro conversion. And we did this crazy thing of rewriting our PNL system, cuz the old one wasn't gonna cope, which was the reason. 

[00:17:10] Mike: And we had about a year to do it and we first went live with it in the September before the new year conversion.

[00:17:18] Mike: And we actually went live a couple of weeks earlier than, our predictions. We did it in such a way that we could process these more vanilla securities. Before, the more complicated ones but that's the vast majority of them. And for the ones that we didn't support, this is a question of how much manual work is involved for the stuff that we couldn't do automatically. But we had three months to get on top of the rest or to get on top of enough. So we had massively, de-risked the project you know by September. In fact, it was massively de-risked a long time before that because people had the evidence in their hands that the system was going to work. One of the first things I did, one of the first things I built was the ability for people in finance to, to download, the internal workings of our system.

[00:18:03] Mike: So we had teams of accountants all over the system while we were building. Really we were outnumbered vastly. The developers were outnumbered vastly by, by expert people doing the testing. It's like the perfect scenario of 

[00:18:14] Scott: that's giving you feedback then 

[00:18:15] Mike: giving us feedback right from the early say early weeks of the project, let alone the early months of the project.

[00:18:20] Mike: So we had a working skeleton working really quickly and and then rolled it out, it's 80, 20 rule, it's delivered the first 80 20, and then the next 80, 80% of what's left, and so on and so on until the thing is completely manageable.

[00:18:33] Mike: That by any definition is a mission critical project, and we didn't do it on the basis of estimates, we did it on the basis of fast feedback and confidence building and testing.

[00:18:41] Mike: And it 

[00:18:42] Scott: And collaboration by the sounds of it. 

[00:18:43] Mike: Oh, fantastic collaboration. Yes. Yes. Yeah. It's one of these, it was just one of these projects where, you know, if you are asked to, look back on a project where, 10, 20 years later, you bumped into one of your colleagues, it's like the first thing you're gonna talk about.

[00:18:56] Mike: This is before the Agile Manifesto. But actually a very agile way of doing it. It was a project, it's a product to support over the long run as well, but we had to build the thing first.

[00:19:05] Mike: We did it in a very agile way. Yep.

[00:19:09] Scott: But would've been very different. If it had been like "developers, here's our requirements, go and do it. And you hit this deadline and we'll review it when you've done it". And then, "oh, bugger. It doesn't work". 

[00:19:19] Mike: Yes. 

[00:19:20] Scott: That's brilliant. So I'm interested in the scaling of this stuff, cuz that's one of the challenges, isn't it about how does this work at scale and communication and all that good stuff and, "oh, we need a big framework" what's your experience of that and seeing that either working or not working?

[00:19:35] Mike: That, that project actually really colours my thinking on, on, on these things. There were project managers on that project, but their job wasn't to tell us what to do or to maintain a plan. They were mostly to keep, regulators and senior stakeholders and things off our backs. And it was a project at scale. And I led the front office development. We had to work with teams in settlements, in finance, in risk management, and so on lots of teams involved and it was pretty much self-organized. And I did a couple of quite significant projects in the bank where one team said we're okay we're taking the lead this is what we wanna achieve. And we're gonna work with the other teams in order to get it done. Now you need a certain level of sponsorship just to make sure that, the money's gonna be found for the work and those kinds of things, but, yeah, that, that's what some of these people, were there to help us with.

[00:20:25] Mike: A lot of that came from inside a lot of the coordination that was between teams. So I have seen self-organization or certainly self-management work at scale. Self-organization at the level where, people are organizing themselves into teams and so on, I've seen less of that, but I've certainly seen team structures that have a certain amount of fluidity to them. People like, moving in and out between different things and so on, and I ended up running a, partly on the back of that experience ended up running a global department of, a hundred odd people.

[00:20:52] Mike: And the structure of that department, you wouldn't read in any textbook but you got multiple competing priorities, you wanna be there for all your customers around the world, but also you want to have people co-located. And you want to have certain concentrations of expertise and you want to distribute your expertise.

[00:21:10] Mike: You can't it's very hard to have all of those things at the same time. 

[00:21:12] Mike: We had teams in several countries in Europe and in the States and in Australia. And also, yeah, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, yeah. Again, having experienced all of those, I'm just, I, it just makes me very sceptical of these sort of cookie cutter models, where everything is squeaky, clean, everything is regular.

[00:21:30] Mike: Those are fine if you're working for a blank sheet of paper and where you don't have these competing priorities, but the real world isn't like that. And I actually think it's much better to make the best of what you've got than it is to start with a blank sheet of paper. 

[00:21:41] Scott: Otherwise you're asking teams to just change their culture or suddenly "you must follow this completely different way of working. And you must think in this different way, and you must all think together in the same way". It's just, there's gonna be resistance to that. 

[00:21:54] Mike: I'm actually very careful about how I talk about the standing frameworks now. And I don't wanna, get into stupid conversation about them , but 

[00:22:00] Mike: I think there is a big issue. 

[00:22:02] Mike: And I think there is, if there is a fight worth fighting in the,  like the framework space, the fight isn't over the detail of the frameworks, the fight is over whether you think it's okay to impose these things or whether it's not. 

[00:22:14] Mike: And I'm among those that think it's not, I just find that, that idea objectionable that may put me in the minority, but I also suspect that we'll get to a point where we'll get to, to like peak framework, when people realize that it's only so much that process frameworks can do, process frameworks solve a particular set of problems and a lot of organizational challenges aren't actually solved by them. And I think it's much more interesting to look at what are the root causes for a lot of, the real things that organizations struggle with. And for those that aren't solved by the process frameworks, some of those actually you should fix first. And then if there comes a point where the process frameworks are useful use them to solve the problems that you have. Don't create a whole new raft of problems by, going down the rollout route. 

[00:23:01] Mike: So I'm not gonna try and change the frameworks themselves, but I'm gonna try and change our relationship with the frameworks, perhaps the best way of putting it.

[00:23:08] Mike: Cause I think you are shooting, pot shots at the frameworks. Doesn't actually get you very far. And I see people trying to do it. And they always have an answer, it's they have, there's the framework do have that cake and eat it. Some of them say, you're not allowed to change the framework.

[00:23:20] Mike: Some of them say, don't worry. What goes on the poster isn't actually what people get taught or what gets implemented. How do how do you even argue with that? And I think it's better not to try. And I think it's the it's the it's I have decided what it is I object to. and I'm being not only being clear about what I object to, but actually offering a constructive and pragmatic alternative, leading with outcomes, strategy conversations, helping the innovation come from the inside. I think that's a constructive response to that problem.

[00:23:49] Mike: In our workshops, when people identifying obstacles, it's actually very easy to come up with a list of obstacles that are, wishful thinking, selling a solution, selling a theory, jargon that people understand differently, pointing fingers at other teams and all these kind of things.

[00:24:02] Mike: How long list of of things actually quite easy to fix. but they're really get in the way of people from different parts of the organization, a diverse group of people, the kind of diversity that you want having a productive conversation. Very quickly we look at reframing those obstacles so that they are more conducive to a constructive conversation.

[00:24:22] Scott: And do you see the challenges at all levels in terms of trying to break through that, getting that alignment across the organization? How much is the leadership versus the people at the lower level? Cuz it's that challenge? The people at the lower level tend to be closer to the customer and the problem don't they, whereas the leaders can be quite out of touch?

[00:24:41] Mike: It absolutely works. Both. It works both ways.

[00:24:43] Mike: And one of the things I almost insist on certainly strongly recommend is you want multiple levels of organization represented. If you can have any, serious conversation, so a strategy review or something like that. So even your, your sort of regular feedback opportunities, at least three levels of organization in the room, you need people with authority and you need people that know what's going on and you need those people in the middle whose job it is to hold it all together.

[00:25:05] Mike: There speaks the ex middle manager, by the way. Because you get both, you get you get people , at the cold face saying, the managers don't get it and you get the, you get the leadership team saying the same things of of the workforce, I've had people in, chat me in slack saying, these are the obstacles I got in my workshop.

[00:25:20] Mike: And what do you think? And, I see these awfully judgemental obstacles and I asked who was invited? That's one of my favourite questions by the way, who's invited? And I could tell straight away it was a very narrow group of people in the room, in the case, I'm thinking of it was a group of managers, but it could just as easily be a, a group from a, development team or anything like that. Being very judgemental about a group of people that wasn't represented in the room. If you want to achieve real organizational change, you need both sides of that in the room together, identifying real obstacles and real outcomes. That are meaningful to both sides. And if you've got that, you've got a, you've got a basis for change.

[00:25:59] Mike: No, one's selling a change to anybody. You've got everyone, I'm not even gonna use the word buy in cause that, that's it's all about that's all from that model of selling change, isn't it? But you've got people invested in something that they're invested in it because they created it themselves. They put it in their own words, it addresses real problems that affect them on a day to day basis. It gives them something they really genuinely want to move towards, there's something compelling and aspirational about it and it, it addresses, some of their pain, that's a, important basis for anything difficult.

[00:26:31] Scott: And did you come across that siloed approach quite often? I've seen it where teams are just at odds with each other so much so that they're completely forgetting why they even exist! Madness, and would this kind of territorial "oh, they're the problem, not us. And we're not gonna talk to them and we'll just send snotty emails to each other".

[00:26:49] Mike: Yes. Yes. Yes. I think some I've had a couple of experiences in the government space where, you've had teams from different suppliers and you've had people from the government department or the government agency making things worse - I mean meetings that were just so awful, that I actually had to get some of the key players off the record around a mug of coffee, and said, " we can't, we just can't have another meeting like that", 

[00:27:13] Mike: I had one occasion where there was 

[00:27:15] Mike: like 

[00:27:15] Mike: two teams, one team saw the other team as dinosaurs who saw the first team as cowboys, cowboys versus dinosaurs. That's the dynamic. And they really were at odds with each other. And if anything, wasn't working, they blamed each other. 

[00:27:28] Mike: And, but, a few weeks, maybe months afterwards, we actually had members of one team sitting in the same room as the other a completely changed changed dynamic. 

[00:27:39] Scott: And how did you do that?

[00:27:41] Mike: First of all, was just pointing out just how embarrassing it was, how we were making ourselves and our customer look bad. The one thing you never do is make your customer look bad. 

[00:27:48] Scott: Yeah. 

[00:27:48] Mike: And we were making ourselves as well as each other look bad that made our own customer look bad.

[00:27:53] Mike: It was just bad at every possible level. So first of all, the basic agreement that that, that challenge was there. And then being realistic about what was expected and identifying outcomes that made sense for our customer that we both could contribute to achieving together in a way that we were gonna struggle to achieve if we, kept up the antagonism. 

[00:28:13] Mike: And another thing I've seen a few times, where people start digging into sort of technical problems, for example, and finding evidence that what's actually happening is different to what anyone actually thought was happening, and then you, now, you now you're on the way to actually finding, find, finding better solutions. So yeah. So some basic agreement get some facts are your friend, do the analysis, do the reporting, quantify the problems. And start to show meaningful progress. Once you've got those sort of problems quantified, you can start to, to show progress.

[00:28:44] Mike: When I went back in my investment banking days I had a team that was in denial, that there was a performance problem. And then I managed to work out a way of visualizing performance. And I showed a, the visualization to a senior trader and before, it, an email went out with this report on every day and then like in a couple of weeks later, over, over a weekend somebody fixed a problem that didn't exist.

[00:29:08] Mike: It was funny how they funny how these things happen. So that was yeah. That's that was transparency again. 

[00:29:12] Scott: So they thought they were doing a great job?

[00:29:14] Mike: They thought they were. The thing is I found a way of reporting performance in a way that no one had done before, but the way I reported performance aligned with how the customers experienced it. 

[00:29:24] Scott: All right. 

[00:29:24] Mike: So the, the techies were saying, "oh, we are processing X number of transactions a second. Aren't we great". And the traders are sitting there waiting 20 minutes for a trade to get saved. Possibly losing their work, if something crashes in the meantime, for them it was just unacceptable.

[00:29:38] Mike: But you had other, people on the technology side, in denial about the extent of the problem.

[00:29:43] Mike: I saw a lot of that in the gov government digital as well. Some quite complicated user journeys, necessarily complicated user journeys.

[00:29:50] Mike: People applying for things, with money is at stake and all these other things. And the eligibility criteria are quite complicated. So we started looking at how long it takes to get through the process who drops off at what stage, and what you wanna do is to kick out as quickly as possible people who aren't going to be successful, but hold onto the ones you want to keep by making it as easy as possible for them. You've got some interesting competing requirements there. And you wanna treat people's time and effort as precious and if you do that, both for those that shouldn't be there and those that should you, you achieve something and it's by reporting on the performance of the user journey in a way that reflects the user experience, was key to making improvements that unlocks and real performance for us.

[00:30:32] Scott: . Thank you. Mike, one of the questions I ask all my guests on the show is if you could take one book with you to a desert island and you're not allowed an escape, how to build a raft book, you're stuck there for life. What book would it be? 

[00:30:43] Mike: Oh, that's a such a hard question. I should have prepared for this one. What I suppose maybe I should think about a book that I've read multiple times actually. I, yeah, I actually do know the answer to this question. It's probably Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf. I know people struggle with being a servant as the metaphor and  people have come up with some alternative metaphors that possibly better. So Mark McKergow came up with host leadership and that's actually another, great book, Servant Leadership written in the late seventies. I think something like 1979 I bought the 25th anniversary edition which was published still before the year 2000, but I've read it.

[00:31:18] Mike: I've read it multiple times. And, there's the kind of the diluted version of servant leadership you get taught in scrum training, it just doesn't go anywhere near, what servant leadership is about in, in that book, it's not just about serving your team, it's not just about removing impediments, but it's, connecting people to purpose, connecting the purpose of your team of your whole organization to society. Back to outcomes again. It really goes very well with outcomes. Clearly written in the last century and I, you say I would, I think it actually be unfair to say of its time, cuz it's actually, so ahead of its time Greenleaf recognized before most other people did that work patterns were gonna change, people weren't gonna have a career like our parents or our grandparents did and people weren't gonna stay with one employer, they were gonna stay with the employer that serves them, with the leaders that serve them. And, the book follows from, that one insight yeah very good book.

[00:32:08] Scott: Great. Thank you. If anyone wants to work with you, how did they get hold of you? 

[00:32:11] Mike: Oh, I'm very easy to get hold of. So, you've got my bio there. You've got my all my social media links and everything else. Or just drop me an email at 

[00:32:22] Scott: Brilliant. Thank you. I'll put those links in the show notes.

[00:32:24] Scott: Mike. Thanks for being on the show. It's been great to have you. 

[00:32:26] Mike: Been absolutely my pleasure. Thank you very much.


[00:32:28] Scott: A big thank you for listening to the Rebel Diaries show, your time is precious. So thank you. It is appreciated. 

[00:32:35] Scott: The show has a new Facebook group for you to engage with others, discuss topics, and let me know what you think of the show. 

[00:32:41] Scott: There's a link to the group in the show notes or search Facebook for Rebel Diaries community.

[00:32:46] Scott: It'd be great to see you there .

[00:32:47] Scott: Until next week take care, be a rebel and deliver work with impact.