Bias to Inquiry is Hard

I’ve got a Bias to Action. My wife will call me a Fact Finder, which is true, and at some point… I do make a move.

I recently learned the phrase “Bias to Inquiry”, which is useful in the world of an Agile Coach: you run across a behaviour you deem odd, and instead of wanting to act on it, you first seek to learn about it. Context is key. History can be insightful. Figure out why there’s a fence across the road before trying to tear it down. It’s the fifth Habit.

This Bias to Inquiry is something I do at work – I get paid to be diplomatic.

This blog post is to acknowledge aloud that Bias to Inquiry at home is hard.

Let’s take a benign example:

Oh, lookie here! Clothes strewn in the hallway. I’m going to make a quick decision and either kick it aside or take a detour to throw ’em in the hamper.

Then there’s a more contentious example:

Oh, lookie here! You believe some fantastical conspiracy theory about the election or vaccines. I… don’t even know where to begin.

I don’t always have the time or energy to first seek to understand bullshit. Maybe I should be more open-minded. Maybe I should have more grains of salt with what information I consume in general. Being open to learning is generally good for one’s survival, so why not apply that in these cases?

I’m just saying it’s hard.

My Approach to Sharing a Screen

I’ll be blunt, starting with a sample inner monologue:

Oh, you’re about to share your screen during this Zoom meeting? OK. Let’s do this. Oh, can I see your screen? Yes. Thanks for asking: the technology worked. Oh, you want me to focus over in that part of the shared screen? Sorry, that shit’s too small. Can you make it bigger? Is that all you can do? Well that’s annoying… Just keep going. I’ll lean in and squint.

Let’s do better.

When facilitating a Zoom meeting, and I’m going to share a screen, I have a Driving Principle: Actively remove from the screen what is not part of the conversation. I’ll even do this after I’ve started sharing, as education via a “before ‘n’ after” micro-session, showing off my tactics in a live demo, making the world a better place…

Continue reading My Approach to Sharing a Screen

My Approach to Running an Intervention

On my resume, it says I ran an intervention. I’ll admit, it’s a dramatic term, but damn was it necessary. Certain details aren’t important – I’m not gonna be world-buildin’ here – so I’ll leave out personalities, politics, and a lot of context to jump to the point in the story where I called it: the last Retrospective.

Well, fine. A little context: The team was fractured, which isn’t a fair characterization because… they never fully formed. It was always one team who’d been together for a while, led by “Alice”, and the newer few who joined from a broken up team, led by “Bob”. This was a move by engineering management to create full-stack teams, and this one was building a new product, requiring a new API.

You can see where this is going: Alice & Bob didn’t agree on the API design. Like, really didn’t agree. Things got stagnant. So stagnant, that as their Agile Coach at one Retrospective I, gently, had it. I pointed to Alice & Bob and requested their presence for 45 minutes as the 3 of us over the next day at the local hotel lobby down the block for an intervention.

I had never used that term, let alone run one, but I knew I’d figure it out by then, much better than on the spot, and it went like this…

Continue reading My Approach to Running an Intervention

Look At The Camera

It’s simple… If you Zoom-From-Home, then: Look at the camera!

I mean… I could end this post right here.

But I won’t… This is just one of a few Remote Facilitation Tactics I wrote about a year ago, where a piece of insight I came to was:

You are either connecting with a person for your benefit (by looking at the person’s image), or connecting with a person for their benefit (by looking ‘at’ the person via the camera).

I seriously think I’ll turn this Public Agile Service Announcement into a rap song:

Continue reading Look At The Camera

My Approach to Getting Refining Sessions Unstuck

What do you do when half the people think it’s 3 points, and the other half think it’s 5?

(Ooh, don’t share any more context – leave it there and just keep going!)

That’s going to happen. If I’m facilitating this Refining Session, I’ll ask one person who scored it a 3 to explain why, and then I’ll ask the same from somebody who gave it a 5.

(Aww, you explained the scenario… you could’ve let ’em writhe! You’re no fun…)

I’ll restart a vote, and hopefully this discussion has swayed folks to vote more similarly. But let’s say it hasn’t. Let’s say y’still have a roughly 50/50 split between the same two adjacent Fibonacci numbers. Fine. I then ask about the Fibonacci numbers on either side of those scores.

I ask everybody, “Could this be a 2?” then pause for their responses. I then ask, “Could this be an 8?” also pausing for their responses. What I’m looking for is not just what is said, but more importantly how it’s communicated. This what/how split neatly echoes a content/style split for you HTML/CSS folks, and a product/process split for weird Agilists like me. I lean on the greater emotional response to resolve this difference of opinion in the group.

So, if folks say half-heartedly, “Yeah, I guess,” when asked it’s a 2, but when asked about an 8, they say with some energy, “Naw, it ain’t THAT big… it’s not like the other 8s!” then I hear more emotion away from 8, thus between 3 & 5, I recommend a 3.

Similarly, if folks are energetically ‘meh’ about a 2, but all, “well, yeah, it could be a lot of work, it could blow up,” while nodding their heads a bit more about the prospect of it being an 8, then I hear more emotion towards an 8, thus between 3 & 5, I recommend a 5.

I then explain:

Continue reading My Approach to Getting Refining Sessions Unstuck