Only help those that want help

Posted by Marcus Hammarberg on June 23, 2015
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I tweeted this the other day:

I continued to think a bit about that, especially after a little bit depressing response I got.

What would the opposite to that be? Help those that doesn’t want help. How stupid doesn’t sound? Or “Don’t help those that want help.”

I don’t know how much time and effort I’ve spent on the opposite. Trying to convince people that they need to change, when they don’t want too. Or forcing (yes, sorry … they told me to) a new process or methodology on team who were quite content with their ways and procedure.

Why do we do these things? How can anyone be this stupid? In many cases I’ve got my instructions from high ranking managers… are they particular insensitive or have a hard time to understand a situation?

In almost all cases I’ve found that it comes down to lack of describing WHY and overemphasize HOW. That is; we tell people a lot about how they should change, what their new roles are, what the documents are called, when to gather for stand-up, how the board should look etc. In the same time we very seldom explain the reason behind us needing this change. A couple of times, the people requesting the change didn’t even know themselves; we just need to become agile.

Let me tell you something: no-one needs to become agile - that is not the goal. For some reason we need to improve and agile might be one way we can try. Maybe it will help us to improve.

Finally I’ve seen a couple of occasions where the ones requesting / demanding the change don’t want to tell the reasons for change. This is not only mean, but also doomed to fail. But, sadly, I’ve seen times where the person taking the initiative doesn’t want the people involved to know.

Solution

As for a “solution” to this I think that for starters we can do the opposite of what I described above; overemphasize the WHY and leave the HOW more open. It’s much better and easier to have practical problems about HOW we should do something than to have many people doing what they think is right without really knowing WHY they are doing something.

For the people that came up with WHY it often seem obvious. So much in fact that I’ve seen many endeavours fail just because we thought that everyone knew WHY we where doing something.

Also, leaving the HOW up to the people actually doing the work is more honest and humble I think; the people closest to the work most likely knows best how to change. And if you take the kanban approach and “start where you are” they will grow into something better than we (and they) ever thought they could be.

But they have to know WHY - or they might grow into something better for the wrong goal.



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