RICARDO ABELLA - What if we STOP focusing on and talking about the CULTURE?

What is the background situation/context for your probe?

On one side, we usually hear “change is hard”, “people are not ready”, “it takes too long”,” “the management doesn’t get it”, “there are too many silos,” “it won’t work here,” “people are not engaged,” “there is no buy-in.”   On the other side, coaches and no coaches always say that Agile transformations imply a cultural change, which means changing collective believes and behaviors.

We all know that cultures and mindsets do not change by talking about ethics, injecting rules of conduct or codes of behavior, or fixing a list of values along the walls. They do not change either by bringing frameworks or methodologies. In fact, each year more and more management leaders and instructors self-called “coaches” realize that certifying tons of people in Scrum or scaled frameworks does not produce the desired change (certainly it is easier to sell heavily-marketed certifications and workshops than helping organizations become more Agile).

For a couple of years, every time I think about “driving change,” four thoughts come to my mind:

1)  I’ve heard twice someone saying, “stop selling frameworks and teach people what Agile means.” Each time I wanted to say, “let’s start a movement.”

2)  By talking with a number of psychologists, dating a couple, reading medical papers, and looking at my own personal and professional failures, I finally accepted a fact: believing that you can change someone’s beliefs, habits and behaviors –whether kids, parents, friends, partners or co-workers– is a very long, frustrating and disappointing odyssey.  I wonder if that was what my mother tried to teach me when I was a child: “stop trying to change your dad. You’ll lose that battle. Just become his friend and you will win.”

3)  One of the best definitions of culture I have seen is “the stories we can tell ourselves about ourselves.”  I wonder if we should forget about culture, behavior, or change itself, and instead focus on “changing the stories we can tell”?  Since different behaviors and habits necessary lead to different stories, this would be like reversing engineering.

4)  Every time coaches address topics such as collaboration, psychological safety, high-performance, healthy conflict, and respect, we landed on the same word: trust. And I always say/answer, “I can hold your back, if I know you will hold mine. But how am I going to hold your back if I don’t know you? The only thing I know about you is that we work in the same company/project.” The stronger the foundation, the stronger the relationship  --which in turn increases trust exponentially.

What is (or has been) your hypothesis?

"Focusing on forming relationships might produce more effective and faster results than focusing on rolling out frameworks, changing behaviors, fostering cultural changes, or cultivating new mindsets."

"If we make relationships our focus point, a (the) new culture might evolve by itself."

"Focusing on developing relationships –like a spider net inside an organization– might produce the change we are looking for:  changing the stories we tell about ourselves = strength relationships at different levels = increase trust exponentially = foster partnerships quickly = change collective beliefs = modify behaviors = create habits = evolve the culture by default."

What is the experiment you would like to run (or you have run) and how can this experiment validate or invalidate your hypothesis?

Two years working with a financial institution, starting from scratch, banning words such as change and transformation, and avoiding terms and descriptive roles from frameworks.   Instead, I focused on building as many strong relationships among people as possible, taking advantage of every opportunity to make anyone get to know deeply each other in a personal and professional way –not only as individuals but also as a group (dynamics and collective interactions).  So far, it has been one of the most amazing and rewarding jobs I’ve ever had, with surprising and very effective results. From zero Agile to a completely different organization, with clear strategy, visible goals and a nice culture.

Is there a specific skill/technique you would like to learn/explore at this coach camp?

CLEAN LANGUAGE: the main source of conflicts is the belief that we are always right –which is the result of our own assumptions, bias, experiences, thoughts, presuppositions and opinions. When judgment –whether conscious or unconscious– comes into play, relationships become unleveled and trust does not emerge easily.

POWERFUL QUESTIONS: the usefulness of the knowledge we acquire and the effectiveness of the actions we take depend on the quality of questions we ask.

Actionable TOOLS AND ACTIVITIES to foster deeper relationships: anything that set the right stage to understand each other, the way we and others think and feel, our and their emotions, passions, frustrations, challenges and dreams.

Call for Papers CLOSED
Ended on Jan 25 '20 05:29 AM IST

Interested in attending the Agile Coach Camp on Oct 11th in Bengaluru? Read on...

It's been 12 Years and almost 110 viral Agile Coach Camps since our very first coach camp experiment. This year, Coach Camp co-creator Naresh Jain along with Jutta Eckstein and John Buck will lead participants in this Coach Camp in Bangalore, organized as part of the Agile India 2020 Conference.

Coach Camp Theme

As a coach, you're often the one who needs to drive and sustain change. Yet, how do you do this? What has helped and hindered you doing so and how can you best pass your experience on to other coaches or how can you best learn from other coaches?

This is the theme for this year's coach camp. To tackle this challenge, we invite you to try something new:

  • Currently, we face the following situation: Constantly driving change is getting more and more important for companies to survive in this VUCA world. At the same time, it is (or should be) the core skill of every coach – no matter if you coach individuals, teams, or organisations. However, sometimes it seems every coach has to come up with her own experience on how to drive change successfully.
  • Our hypothesis is that for driving change, every coach uses so-called probes, that are defined by small, safe-to-fail experiments based on hypotheses derived from reflection on the current situation as well as on theory. So, probing allows discovering (based on the hypothesis) what's working and what is not through one or several experiments. This allows to make sense of both the current situation but even more important of the situation we are aiming for. And if we create a knowledge base of our collective wisdom on probes we used (or intend to use) we can learn from each other.
  • Therefore, as an experiment we want to invite this year's coach camp participants to jointly discover, share, create, improve, and finally publish probes that help(ed) driving and sustaining change. As in a typical coach camp, we will use the Open Space format to explore different topics for driving change and we invite you to use probes to focus the discussions on these different topics. We anticipate as a result that the discovered and created probes will provide a foundation for such a knowledge base.

Registering for the Coach Camp

The coach camp is free of charge (financially) yet, for registration we ask you for the following:

  • Please click on the Add Paper button and submit your position paper. In your position paper, you will be asked to share an idea for a probe, consisting of a background situation (context), a hypothesis, and an experiment. This can be a probe you've implemented before, one you've discovered/heard of others implementing it, or you intend to implement. The probe should focus on the coach camp's theme: Driving Change.
  • The discussed probes provide a basis for a free and publicly accessible knowledge base.

Final Note

Please note, we want to invite you to use probes for the discussion and recording of the Open Space sessions. This is by no means an enforcement. We are well aware that there might be situations where probes are not the right means for discussing or/and recording a particular topic - and that is of course fine. After all, using probes for this coach camp is a probe in itself (and we are open to possibly invalidate our hypothesis.)