Can't Make Change? It Is Probably Your Fault

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Video of talk (+ slides) with related material: Frustrated? It is probably your fault.

Fred starts by indicating that it is hard to sell change. We decide to talk about one idea. The idea is "Bridging legacy apps to new apps instead of big bang releases." Proposals have been written, attempts have been made but things seem to fall flat. There is friction against it.

One thought against is that it cannot be done effectively. Also that legacy code can't be read (there may be validity there). The platform can't be supported. These are all arguments being presented.

But Fred has reasons that make it worth doing.

The biggest obstacle is a product manager. What Fred views as valuable the product manager does not.

Question: Do you feel or know that he sees any value at all?

Fred indicates that there was a major push, even involving a consultant, and it was presented to the product manager but it didn't work.

Question: What is the strategy for winning that you had?

To show low risk and how easy it would be to implement the change.

There was an idea about the mental state and a plan to overcome the mental state. Was the product manager asked if his model was accurate?

There are issues with the product manager saying one thing and doing another. Real answers are not often given.

Question: Have you shared that concern with him?

No.

Statement: People do not like to be confronted with those aspects. However there is value in stating the aspects and letting it sit. They will often defend the aspect but it will still marinate.

It doesn't seem like this is about Fred's boss, but about Fred. Fred can say I have a problem and that I don't feel what you are telling me is what you genuinely think. Fred has also withheld his opinion from him (though Fred is confrontational).

As you use the "I" language you are not confronting a person you are expressing something you feel to be going on.

We have a situation where two people aren't sharing themselves honestly. "They may have to break up." :-)

You have a judgement and rather than share that with him you are indirectly trying to let him know.

Fred has a feeling where if you put all your cards on the table at once you are out of plays. It feels like the blunt person always loses. This feeling is shared by others.

"I'm not sharing my full reasons. I am going to withhold something so that I still have a move to make later."

If you don't trust that they are giving you an honest hearing then there may have to come another confrontation.

A member shares that their spouse and themselves often get shut down when recommending change because they may be too blunt. They have started to back off and be a bit more accepting of when people aren't ready.

Question: If you have the thought that they are not ready do you share that with them?

There appears to be a pattern of people withholding their views and then trying to outflank others. There is more getting withheld (opinions) because we are not always confident that we are right. Maybe the other person's idea would work. In the past, our ideas felt more right and obvious to work.

WHAT WE ARE ALL DESCRIBING IS TOTALLY NORMAL.

As a consultant, you are not called in because things are going great. You get brought in because things aren't working. Typically Argyris worked with the executive team. The culture influences the company. The behaviors that led to the consequences are defensive relationships with lack of information. There must be information that everyone can accpet as true even if there is disagreement. Covert accusations can happen. Unillustrated attributions happen. Such as leaving things unstated.

"Skilled Incompetence" - we effortlessly produce this behavior but it doesn't produce the outcomes we would favor.

(A slide is shown showing thoughts on the left and spoken words on the right) The conversation is telling in that there is confirmation bias in the internal dialog. The right hand dialog does not have tension.

There are bigger concerns than monitoring such as losing money when the site goes down. Not knowing the answer to that could lead to finding out and that might have an impact on getting something done.

Unilateral Control Model versus the Mutual Learning Model

UCM: The goal is to win and get my way.

MLM: There is stuff that I know but I don't know everything. I could be wrong and being wrong would be great. Learning you were wrong feels bad but being wrong feels just like being right. Everyone here likes to learn. Learning feels like being wrong but not knowing it. Then finding out what is right.

The concept of being wrong is discussed.... What I care about is not getting my way but instead I have ideas and reasoning that I would like to put out there to test. Being wrong would be great to know. If you aren't sharing why you are advocating for something you aren't going to move things forward.

Statement: There is a fear of incompetence. There are environments where being right is important. However, if you play that game you establish that the game is important.

Question: I'm comfortable being told I'm competent. I struggle with dealing with externalities. If the result of the conversation is to change outcome or view. There is a discomforting factor for people that have invested time and money in all of this wrongness. How do you deal with that?

Statement: It is hard to get someone to understand something when their income relies on not understanding it. Is this an example of a covert attribution?

If you have the attribution and you aren't willing to share it and test it you may be just making something up. If you aren't willing to test it, you are choosing to stay stuck.

It may be hard and uncomfortable because we aren't practiced at it and also because of vulnerability. The generic recipe to build trust is to be vulnerable.

Statement: I want to do model two.

Question: What is the strategy for getting model one people to use model two.

You have to start by you using model two and then going from there. If you ask someone about their different view and that you seek to understand, the mutual learning model shows its values.

Transparency and Curiosity is the base for MLM. You want to be transparent and curious to make informed choices. Having more choices available to us allows us better outcomes.

If you value an informed choice over you own choice then it means you must behave different ways. Choosing to bring something up to someone is about yourself not about them.

Why do I want to do this? Maybe sometimes I will not react well, there are other externalities, and now I come into this discussion that will be influenced by my external anger.

The Compassion Game: I have a commute where there are jerks. People do something rude and I think maybe they have a good reason for that. Maybe I can come up with a story that explains why their behavior is understandable.

Traffic in Chicago and Ann Arbor is discussed. There must be compassion to let other people in. That doesn't seem to happen around here.

You are in effect acknowledging that we are all experiencing a different reality and yet you are improving someone else's illusion to fit your own illusion.

During code review, always assume that the person wrote the code with the best intentions. There was some reason behind why they did things that way.

Retrospective Prime Directives. Stating a prime directive improves the retrospective. We are learning to get better will improve the outcome.

We have an illusion that we see everything. Having a conclusion or belief about your boss not sharing real feelings should lead to going back and checking your data and what led you to that conclusion. The story I made up in my head was 'you thought that was what I wanted to hear because you thought i was upset' and asking if that is the case. Often, opinions are generated on misunderstandings and inarticulation.

Experience: Being non-critical about code. A piece of code that I had written that was bad based on my own feelings. Then someone else said Wow I'm glad I didn't write that. There had to be reevaluation about that code. Maybe calling someone over and asking what would have been better would have been more humanizing. Sometimes trying to be too perfect can make someone unapproachable.

Question: Have you tested that? What was said sounded like theory of mind for someone else.

Answer: I have tested that.

Q: Can you describe a test that you did?

A: I questioned the relationships that I was having and why I didn't feel comfortable in that relationship. I decided to make a conscious effort to acknowledge my own faults.

Statement: That sounds effective, but it is not model two. All the decisions happened in your head. The analysis was private. Doesn't mean it wasn't effective, it just wasn't model two.

State views and ask genuine questions, share all relevant information, use specific examples and agree on what important words mean, explain reasoning and intent, focus on interests not positions, test assumptions and inferences, jointly design next steps, discuss undiscussable issues.

Taking the analysis out of your head and into conversation leads to model two.

An experience of feeling less senior is shared. Code reviews show bad decisions. There is more willingness to give feedback after seeing vulnerability.

Question: Do you find it easier or harder to use MLM as an executive?

Sometimes it's easier because being high up means no one is going to fire you or use stuff against you because it doesn't affect your income. It gets harder for people and I must be very explicit about valuing feedback. Because people put extra weight on what I am saying so I have to make extra effort to be very clear and often add disclaimers because of the environment that people are used to.

Commenting on your own pull requests showing your vulnerability. Is that manipulative? Could you avow it? If you have something in mind as a strategy that you are doing and you are not sharing that strategy then you are not being transparent.

There is also something called Negativity Bias. People are going to fill in the gaps of your motivation.

There is some confusion about the achieved outcomes and motivation. The group discusses this. There is machinery in our heads that keeps working and wondering if there are other motivations.

Statement: I'm in an environment where I don't understand what's going on around me. I am gifted with the opportunity to state "I don't understand what you just said." That is an easy pitch and I get it every day.

Statement: Get the list (shown above) and practice it. Don't just say you are going to do all every day. Choose one and keep score for the day. How many genuine questions can I ask today? It doesn't count if you are asking a question to just lead in to something that you want to say. Am I going to change my view of the world with the result of the question?

Imagine you are in a meeting and you are trying to persuade people and a decision maker. During the meeting you see them look at their watch. What do you do?

1) Ask them why they're bored. 2) State I notice you checked your watch 3) Let it go 4) Talk Faster

It could be nothing. Coherence busting: We jump up the ladder of inference as to what things mean. We do this all the time. There is a book called thinking fast and slow that defines how the mind works.

Asking "Is there something I need to know?" can be helpful. The element of curiousity allowed you to get a better outcome.