Invite Not Impose

What we are calling INVITING LEADERSHIP may be the most important leadership skill of the 21st century.

Especially when the executive leaders are endeavoring to bring change and real improvement to the organization.

Employee engagement is essential to success in achieving a lasting business agility transformation.

Imposing practices enterprise-wide does not actually work long-term, and never actually did.

Everybody knows.

But: don’t take my word for it.

Here’s what other world-class experts have to say:




“The failures resulted from trying to use positional power to impose a process.”
-David J Anderson, management science pioneer and author. From his book The KANBAN Method (page 21)
“…Imposing an agile process from the outside strips the team of the self-determination which is at the heart of agile thinking.”
-Martin Fowler, author and Agile Manifesto signatory
“…You know as well as I do that if the team really doesn’t want to use a methodology, IT WON’T WORK. Let them make their own assessment.”
-Jeff Sutherland, Agile Manifesto signatory & Scrum co-author. From POWER OF SCRUM book, page 31 
I have read several studies. From 70% TO 87% of workers dislike their job/are disengaged. THAT IS A HORRID CONDEMNATION OF MANAGERS/LEADERS. (And of the ineffectiveness of those of us trying to fix the problem.)
Tom Peters, world famous authority on management & organizations. Author, IN PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE. From his Twitter feed (link)
“…I hope I’ve made clear that imposing agile methods is a very red flag. ”
Martin Fowler, The Agile Imposition (link)
“Transformation occurs through choice, not mandate. Invitation is the call to create an alternative future.”
– Peter Block, world renowned expert on culture and community. From his book COMMUNITY: The Structure of Belonging
“Transformations can’t be accomplished without others helping voluntarily, & people don’t help unless you engage them first.
-Geoffrey Moore, world-renowned management consultant. (Arguably one of the greatest management minds of our time.) From his book ZONE TO WIN. 
“By 2002, I had concluded that prescriptively enforcing processes on a team didn’t work.”
David J Anderson, management science pioneer and author. From his book The KANBAN Method (page 03)




If this is not a complete refutation if what passes for “best practice” in the Agile industry, I do not know what is.

The obvious path forward goes something like this:


Imposing change does not work. It is a complete waste of time and MONEY.

If you are an executive leader: do everything you can to avoid this trap. Stop yourself from listening to those “leading” Agile consultants that are telling you that you can push, you can force. That you can “roll it out.” That you can impose.

Because: it simply does not (and never did) WORK.

Listen to REAL Agile experts. (See below.) Stop listening to Agile consultants who say NOTHING about the essential nature of employee ENGAGEMENT in getting real success with Agile.

You, are invited. You are invited to:

Stop accepting advice from these people: THE AGILE INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX (link)

Start inviting.



On social media, follow the hashtag: on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook: #InviteNotImpose

The OpenSpace Agility group on Facebook (link)

Follow and engage THESE people: The REAL AGILE LEADERS HALL OF FAME (link)

Engagement Models Explained

Employee engagement is essential to rapid and lasting change. It’s impossible to get a lasting “transformation” of anything at all if the people affected are not actively and willingly participating.

This is all explained here:

The term Engagement Model, defined: (link)

Mike Burrows (of Agendashift fame) offers these additional defining characteristics and properties of an Engagement Model: I do think they apply…

  • Non-prescriptive by design, Engagement Models work happily with frameworks big or small
  • In their various and complementary ways, Engagement Models bring people together from multiple levels of the organisation, and
  • Engagement Models help the organization to collectively reveal to itself what needs to change, and
  • Engagement Models help the organization come to agreement on what needs to change.

The Engagement Model concept is an essential part of any “transformation” plan. The idea is to address employee engagement UP FRONT and directly as part of the overall design for introducing organizational change. If you do not, means you are not managing the very large risk of FAILURE. And these initiatives can cost millions of dollars and tens of thousands of “up in smoke” employee hours. Those risks need to be managed.

Therefore: any overall “transformation” plan must include an “employee engagement plan” if there is going to be any success at all!

Current Engagement Models that are useful for managing risk in agile and digital transformation (by this definition) include:

Success with Agile: What They Don’t Tell You


There is now a very long list of “Agile scaling frameworks.”
None of them work particularly well if they are “rolled out” to a dis-engaged, dis-empowered workforce.

But nobody tells you that. Instead we are led to believe that “if we do the framework right,” success will surely follow.

Except that it won’t. Why?

What are all these frameworks missing?

An engagement model.


An Engagement Model.

And what exactly is an engagement model?

Here is the definition:

Any pattern or set of patterns, reducible to practice, which result in more employee engagement, during the implementation of an organizational-change initiative.

Now let’s be really, really clear about this:

As of today, almost none of the Agile scaling frameworks actually address the issue of employee engagement, let alone the use of a specific engagement model such as OpenSpace Agility. (The framework called Enterprise Scrum, from Mike Beedle, is one notable exception.)
OpenSpace Agility is an engagement model.
OpenSpace Agility is designed to reduce the risk of failure and increase the chances of success with your chosen framework. It does this by actually engaging your workforce in the change process.
Unless and until the issue of employee engagement is addressed, your chosen framework has almost no chance of actually sticking.


The Agile frameworks designers, for some reason, have somehow missed something essential, that amounts to a critical success factor: employee engagement in the change process.

Without it, all of your good intentions, all of your good plans, and all of that time, money and effort spent on “transformation” are … up in smoke. Gone. Wasted.


Because employee engagement in the change process is what actually scales, not your “Agile scaling framework.”

In summary: if you are embarking on a digital transformation, if you are embarking on an “Agile transformation,”  if you are getting ready to change your entire organization, getting ready to “transform” it… here is a word to the wise:

If you cannot name your Engagement Model, you don’t have one.

And you are therefore likely to fail, in a rather epic way.

At enormous cost.

This failure is avoidable. To avoid it, you must address the employee engagement problem, as part of your overall transformation plan.