Introducing the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation

 Up and down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation, business agility at every scale

Deliberately Adaptive Teams

  • Constantly pushing the frontier of knowledge about customers and their needs, and about themselves
  • Working in the expectation that learning will be accounted for

Deliberately Adaptive Organisations

  • Strategy, delivery, and organisation development mutually informed through participation across boundaries
  • Self-organisation at every scale, structure emerging from collaboration

Deliberately Adaptive People

  • Development as personal, collaborative, and systemic, and a model for adaptive leadership
  • Colleagues helping each other grow in their roles, into new opportunities, and in their relationship with the organisation


At each scale, three overlapping systems

Intentful Knowledge Discovery

  • Guided by purpose and intent
  • Evolving effective working environments
  • Probing and extending the frontier of knowledge with disciplined experimentation

Adaptive Strategy

  • A participatory process, informed by intelligence both internal and external
  • Creating options, incorporating learning, recognising new possibilities
  • Developing and affirming identity and purpose

Mutual Trust Building

  • Operating at each scale and between scales
  • Reconciling expectation and reality both horizontally and vertically
  • Maintaining confidence, respect, trust, and safety

What holds them together, sustaining outcome-orientation and learning-orientation 

    The Agenda for Change

  • Made principally of outcomes and the relationships between outcomes, created, developed, and maintained through participation
  • An expression of shared understanding that unfolds and evolves as the organisation learns

    Feedback loops inside feedback loops

  • Not just around the work but everywhere – the lifeblood of distributed decision making
  • For every flow a reverse flow: intent & impact, probe & response, experiment & progress (and more)

Containers within containers

  • Regular review cycles and other containers in time that create the expectation of learning
  • Teams and other self-governing circles as containers for people and their work

Not just self-governance but self-organisation at scale: circles are free to spawn related circles, to collaborate with other circles, and to have people move between them. And the whole model is fractal: circles can be Deliberately Adaptive Organisations themselves.

Watch the video

Watch here or visit: Up and Down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation (

    New! The Agendashift assessment, leadership development

    Announcing early access to a new Agendashift-style assessment for the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation, 35 prompts across the following 5 categories:

    1. Intentful Knowledge Discovery
    2. Mutual Trust Building
    3. Adaptive Strategy
    4. Between and Across Levels
    5. Self-governance, Self-development, and Self-organisation

    This tool brings together 1) the diagnostic power of the Viable System Model – the organising framework of the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation – and 2) the generative power of Agendashift, another of its contributing models. Use it to help your organisation have the conversations it needs to have with itself.

    The assessment can be accessed today by joining the Agendashift partner programme or by engaging an Agendashift partner for that purpose.

    The Deliberately Adaptive Organisation is at the heart of the Adaptive Organisation track of the Agendashift Academy's Leading with Outcomes curriculum, rolling out over the course of 2022. The self-paced Foundation module of Leading with Outcomes is aimed at all leaders in transforming organisations and is out now:

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    Powered by these great models

    • Viable System Model, Stafford Beer’s classic model for all organisations that have the desire to ”meet the demands of surviving in the changing environment” ; here it is the framework within which the other models and tools are integrated
    • Agendashift™, the wholehearted, outcome-oriented engagement model
    • Sociocracy (aka Dynamic Governance, Circular Hierarchy) – purposeful collaboration and self-governance at every scale
    • Lean-Agile – ”Lean and Agile celebrated both separately and together“
    • Objectives and Key Results (OKR) – the strategy deployment framework pioneered at Intel and employed at Google and elsewhere
    • The Deliberately Developmental Organisation, Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey’s model for building organisations that align personal and organisational growth

    Read more

    Up and down the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation is the title of the new final chapter of the 2nd edition of Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation by Mike Burrows, published March 2021.


    Related resources from Agendashift (more here):

    Related reading

    • The Fractal Organization: Creating Sustainable Organizations with the Viable System Model,
      Patrick Hoverstadt, (John Wiley & Sons, 2008)
    • We the people: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy, John Jr. Buck & Sharon Villenes ( Press, second edition, 2019); also Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow, Matthew Skelton & Manuel Pais, (IT Revolution Press, 2019) and  Dynamic Reteaming: The Art and Wisdom of Changing Teams, Heidi Helfand, (O’Reilly Media Inc, 2020)
    • Right to Left: The digital leader's guide to Lean and Agile, Mike Burrows (2019, audiobook 2020)
    • Measure What Matters: OKRs – The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth, John Doerr, (Portfolio Penguin, 2018)
    • Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey (Harvard Business Review Press, 2016)