Monday, January 30, 2012

What am I doing in daily work?

It seems that the posts in my blog come less frequent and one of the reasons is that I am working on removing impediments, supporting the team, the Area Product Owner (APO), other scrum masters and other people in the organization. I am giving trainings, facilitate workshops, participate in workshops as a scrum master and being "summoned" to other meetings (well, one way to figure out what needs improvement is to participate the meeting and then see). Even though I am not willing to share my observations and findings in public, I am sharing with you HOW I attempt to tackle the issues e.g. how to approach people and situations.

In this way, I am happy that I have the opportunity to test the different techniques which I learned in the past in the “real” life. It's not more and not less - applying the theory in praxis. All those trainings seem to pay back now. In many cases I try a systematic approach to an issue with a (fact-oriented) focus on product and people instead of process.

Step one: Create common understanding of the issue

First of all, I observe my environment and try to be objective in those observations. This means I avoid to interpret a situation or even judge what is happening. Typically, I do not get the full picture and thus I need to ask questions to understand the situation better. I try to visualize the situation in various ways - it typically helps all of us to see what is the issue and understand the context. When I approach people, I ask them about their point of view, their findings and their ideas. Of course, I am not telling others that now you must make this visible … I rather ask e.g. “do you know? if not, would you like to know? Do you have any ideas on how to make it visible?”. I also remind others to e.g. tolerate other people’s opinion, not to jump to conclusions, seeing the issue from a different point of view (e.g. if you would be APO, how would you interpret the situation).

Step two: Make people think on where they want to be

This has been a though nut. Too often the motivation is low, the context right now appears to be one in which people believe only negative things can happen. It requires more energy from me to convince people to let go from the misery and the negative thoughts and start thinking "out-of-the-box", without limitations (In another case, I stated the facts like it is possible to switch off the lights in the building - just to show that it can be done). Also here, I like to stimulate discussion by e.g. drawing a picture of the ideal situation (similar idea as above), followed by asking people what is hindering them to get there. Often, the discussions lead quickly (with haste - no time to think) to a situation in which some key individuals think that they have the one and only solution (and of course only they and nobody else in the world would ever be able to do any better). I think it is important to document the solution as a potential (!!!) solution or let's call it experiment (or even potential experiment).

Typically I discuss with people to create understanding in what is hindering them in getting to the ideal state (aka root-cause-analysis). When doing so, I try to avoid why-questions and I rather ask like “what makes you think that this …”. I observed that why question are making people nervous, "itchy" and they feel sometimes offended and become defensive. Somehow it might be that the underlying tone in a why-question is that “you did it wrong … “ - something like in this direction.

Step 3: Asking others - what can YOU do?

Like in the our issue mgmt board (see earlier post and more coming later), I show people how easy it is to pull an item and start working on it and demonstrate what I can do to help. Even it is a little step forward, yet I can typically choose from various options on what to do next (and show this to others as an example). Furthermore, it seems important to demonstrate this "I take responsibility" attitude to others that even though I am not the expert in a particular field, I can facilitate the discussion. Once more, the wording is important. Instead of talking about solutions (often people hear that this is now THE final solution and written in stone), it seems important to ask people whether they can support an experiment. Generally I prefer talking about experiments instead of solutions because the solution first needs to proof that it works (difference between hypothesis and theory, or theory and praxis).

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