Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Changing Change Aversiveness

"I want to change the automatic installations to hourly over the 4-hour period it has been before". I suspected that could cause a little bit of discussion.

"But it could be disruptive to ongoing testing", came the response. "But you could always do it manually", came a proposal for alternative way of doing things.

I see this dynamic all the time. I propose a change and meet a list of *but* responses. And at worst they end up with *it depends* as no solution is optimal for everyone.

In mob programming, we have been practicing the idea of saying yes more often. When multiple different ways of doing something are proposed, do all. Do the least prominent one first. And observe how each of the different ways of doing teaches us not only about what worked but what we really wanted. And how we will fight about abstract perceptions without actual experience, sometimes to the bitter end.

This dynamic isn't just about mob programming. I've ended up paying attention to how I respond in ways that make others feel unsafe in suggesting the changes, after I first noticed the pattern of me having to fight for change that should be welcomed.

Yes, and... 

To feel safe to suggest ideas, we need to feel that our ideas are accepted, even welcome. If all proposals are met with a list of "But...", you keep  hearing no when you should hear yes.

The rule of improv "Yes, and..." turns out to have a lot of practical value. Try taking whatever the others suggest and say your improvement proposal as a step forward, instead as a step blocking the suggestion.

Acknowledge the other's experience

When you hear a "But...", start to listen. Ask for examples. When you hear of their experiences and worries, acknowledge those instead of trying to counteract them. We worry for reasons. The reasons may be personal experiences, very old history or something that we really justifiably all should worry about. The perception to whoever is experiencing a worry is very real.

A lot of times I find that just acknowledging that the concern is real helps move beoynd the concern.


Suggest to try things differently for a while. Promise to go back or try something different if this change doesn't work. And keep the promise. Take a timebox that gives and idea a fighting chance.

People tend to be more open to trying things out than making a commitment on how things will be done in the long term.