Monday, November 9, 2009

“What do you think of …?”

Long before I became involved with Agile ideas, I was doing internal (and some external) consulting in more traditional (software) quality and process improvement. And many years before that, even before I got involved with software, I taught some at the college level. My style, I came to learn, was “Socratic” in that I would use questions to encourage (self) learning by my classes, clients, and audiences rather than be too direct, too often with “answers.”

I think this has been helpful as an Agile coach/trainer since, over the years, I do believe leading a horse to water will get most of them to drink. That is, most people are reasonable enough to arrive at decent conclusions if given the information that will allow them to do this. This does not mean people will not have years of experience pointing them in certain directions than my questions may be hoping to encourage. I also find that it is easier, in a group, to get more useful learning to occur using this question-driven approach since the group learns from itself in a sense.

In another context in a Twitter post I stated you can control what you give, but not what others take. With at least some common base of agreed upon information, I do think you can encourage people to take and experience them asking you to give more. And what I do give, I try to do so by offering alternatives when I think they exist.

The title of this post suggests what I typically do that seems to work. I’ll ask people to direct attention to some data or situation and ask them what they think of it. In general with any data related to quality/process, I suggest people take an “it’s ten o’clock, do you know where your children are”* approach. That is, I encourage them to know what’s going on to the greatest extent reasonable at that time, then consider whether they are or are not okay with that being the situation.

That’s it. Nothing dramatic. Just something that I find has worked for me over the years in many different contexts.

(By the way, I have even used this approach to teach 8yr olds, and up, about Newton’s laws of motion where they derive F=MA and eventually come to understand why satellites stay up in the air. Takes about one 30-45 minute class. And, no, they don’t all remember everything, but they do end up learning about learning and that they, in fact, can learn about some seemingly complex things.)

*For those not familiar with this phrase, it was used in a US public service announcement on TV to urge parents to know what their kids are up to and where they are late at night.

No comments:

Post a Comment