“Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining”

If you’re involved with a team as a coach or consultant, there is a great line from a Clint Eastwood film that you should remember.

“…don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.”

Extra credit if you know the movie 🙂

Point is, while language targeted to your audience can aid in the receipt of a change message it won’t make much difference if you are lessening people’s level of autonomy.

As Dan Pink outlines in his book “Drive”, there are four types of autonomy: Task, Time, Team and Technique.

The more your change proposal lessens these aspects of autonomy; the more resistance you’re likely to encounter and the higher the risk to the change effort.

Say you’re faced with a goal for improving performance, don’t assume there isn’t a way to achieve it  without lessening autonomy of teams.  Through coaching you can better engage a team to own the goal and to chart their path to its attainment.  IME, the outcomes of such an approach have the lowest risk of groups lapsing back to old behaviors that caused the perceived unacceptable levels of performance.

My experience over the last 3 decades has lead me to prefer coaching-dominate style in working toward change for improvement in a team or organization.  More times than not there is some blend of consultative style engagement with teams when one serves as a change agent in an organization.  The level seems to be in direct proportion to how much the leadership you’re dealing with are “driver” or “Red” type personalities and their awareness of realities of human systems.

A very ‘Red’ personality combined with a non-systems thinker often demand big change with quickly realized results.

You’ve probably seen this before, an agile transformation effort approved as an initiative and laid out on a project plan with explicit milestones for having reached specific change.  I once saw an agile transformation plan that detailed when the amount of performance increase in team throughput would be achieved. 😮  Definite red flag!  Let’s put it this way, the teams in this organization felt a warm stream down their backs. To no surprise this initiative was a failure and had to be rebooted.

Bottom line, always be aware of the human behavioral aspect of change, especially if your effort attacks one of the key components of intrinsic motivation in the modern knowledge based economy,  that being autonomy.

Move: “The Outlaw Josie Wales

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About Mike DePaoli

Mike DePaoli has been contributing to the IT community for over two decades and practicing agile and lean approaches to software development since 1996 in roles from programmer to CTO. His evolved approach to crafting successful lean-agile software development organizations was forged by the meaningful challenges he undertook at prior employers and as an Agile Coach at companies such as eBay, Adobe Systems, AOL, NetApp, Disney, Boeing, EMC, and Trizetto. Mike’s area of expertise is helping organizations craft strategic change initiatives that educate on and establish agile and lean values, principles and practices at every tier of the organization. Mike applies systematic thinking with a multi-discipline approach to his work. Mike is a Certified SAFe Agilist, Certified Scrum Professional, Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). He is a highly-regarded speaker in the Agile community having spoken at Agile conferences in North America, South America and Europe. He is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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