|My Agile Practice has changed over the years.|
I have deliberately not discussed politics on this blog. The internet is filled with plenty of places on the political right and political left to discuss current events. I have plenty of strong opinions myself but do not share them here because they are not germane to the discussion of Agile, Lean, and Scrum. The world of business transformation is hard enough; injecting partisan political views seems counterproductive to me.
I come from the world of college debate and forensics. It is a community centered in the “reality-based,” zones of academia, science, media, and government. It is a skeptical community which relies on empiricism and rhetoric to persuade others. These same institutions are referred to by political conservatives as pillars of deceit. A year ago, my smug self-assurance in my expertise took a severe beating.
Over the last year, I have gotten much wiser. I have rededicated myself to my profession. I shut down my internet startup. I even made an effort to listen to Nickelback to see if there was any merit to their music. Suffice to say; it was the audio equivalent of eating chocolate frosting out of a tub with a spoon; including the stomach ache.
The most significant notion revealing itself to me was the concept of epistemic-tribalism. I felt that if you are “reality-based,” and gave people the facts of the situation, they would eventually come around to your point of view. If this formulation was good enough for Socrates, then it was good enough for my agile practice. I now realize this was naive. People have deep emotional and political biases. Stating the facts is not good enough. When confronted with facts that contradict their worldview or place in the world, some people will reject those facts. It is similar to the ideas of Wittgenstein who explained language was a construct and subject to games. Furthermore, two people can look at the same object and see two different things. The neat and tidy world based on objective reality and evidence fell away replaced by an effete world of conjecture resembling a postmodern literary theory class. It was disorienting.
If epistemic tribalism can happen in the realm of national politics, it is not too far of a stretch to see it manifest itself the cubical of an office. Personal relationships are more important than sales. Countless Quid Pro Quo agreements bind the office together and harm customer service. Tenure with the organization is more important than accomplishment. Finally, being likable is more important than getting work done. It became clear to me that these things were happening. I counted on the better angles of others instead of understanding the tangled webs of motivations. To be a successful scrum master or agile coach, I had to accept office professionals could be nasty and brutish.
So this last year for me, the political became professional. Reason and empiricism are less useful tools for change compared with understanding the motivations and prejudices of my colleagues. Epistemic-tribalism is a real thing, and you need to understand it in your organization. Finally, it takes disappointment for you to set aside your prejudices and view your surrounding differently.
Until next time.