Sunday, July 03, 2011

Change Artist Challenge #3: Changing Nothing is Doing Something

Of course I am idle, but I am not idle by nature; I simply haven't yet discovered what I can do here...  - Sophie Tolstoy
The purpose of the next challenge is to find out what's driving you to change things, and what happens if you don't respond to that drive in the usual way.

The Challenge
Next time you're part of a team or group effort, sit back, listen, and observe. Your job is not trying to change anything. (You're not trying to prevent change. If the others want to change something, just let it happen. Otherwise, you'd be trying to change what they're attempting to do.)
Take particular notice of your urges to change things, and what happens when you don't do anything about those urges.

Here are a few experiences of other change artists who accepted this challenge to do nothing at all.

1. Wow! I couldn't do it! I lasted almost three whole minutes. I resisted the temptation to open the window, or to ask someone to do it. I resisted the temptation to move the flipchart so everyone could see it. I resisted the temptation to move over one seat to make room for a latecomer.
But when Jack stood up and grabbed the marker pen (AGAIN), I couldn't resist suggesting that someone else should take a turn. It was out of my mouth before I knew it! But I just HAD to say it!

2. (The same woman as the previous experience.) After my first miserable failure, I decided to try again, the next day. I got through the mechanics a lot more easily—the window and the flipchart and the chairs—and with somewhat more difficulty, I let Jack grab the pen again. I was on a roll, and I managed to keep it up for almost fifteen minutes. When I finally did say something about the direction the meeting was taking (I just didn't notice what I was doing), the other people reacted as if I was the President of the United States. They gave me their full attention, let me finish everything I had to say, and then did exactly what I proposed.
I think there's a clue there for me. (duh) I'm working on it, and I'm going to try this again.

3. I didn't think this would be very hard for me. I would just sit in the meeting and do what I usually do—keep my mouth shut and observe. I was doing a good job of this when all of a sudden I realized that I was changing things in my mind about once every thirty seconds. Then I said nothing about any of them, and I found myself getting angry that nobody else was doing anything about them.
Aha. Were they doing exactly what I was doing?

4. (The same man as the previous experience.) Armed with my new insight, I worked out a plan for the next meeting. I sat in my usual way, quietly fanning my smoldering anger and frustration. When I got to the proper amount of emotional heat—not so much that I wouldn't be able to control it—I said a sentence that I had written down and practiced: "Is there anything about this meeting anyone would like changed?"
The reaction was instantaneous, and the changes poured out. The rest of the meeting went very differently from our usual meetings, though I didn't say another thing.

5. This was a pretty boring exercise for me, so I had to do something to occupy my mind. I decided to try to observe emotional reactions, because I had always thought our meetings were rather flat and unemotional, but our consultant told me they weren't. I noticed lots of things that I never saw before. For instance, two of our folks were really suffering—I didn't know from what, so I asked them about it after the meeting.
Was that a violation of the assignment? If it was, I don't care, because I learned some things I had never even suspected before, and the quality of my relationships with two members of the team have gone up several notches.

The Meta-Challenge
Here's a challenge about the challenge:

When you take this challenge, I'd love to read about what happened and what you learned. Hundreds of readers would like this, too. Besides, it will probably do you much good to sit down for a few minutes and recall your experience. Good writing practice, too.
     For more about Becoming a Change Artist, you can read the book and try the entire sequence of exercises. 


Issi Hazan said...

I am leading a team of testers. Each week we are doing a joint Exploratory testing session. Last week I noticed that I am too active during the session, so some of the team members have less opportunity to be active. This week I have asked one of the team members to lead the session. I did my best to remain silent as a participant too. Each time that I wanted to say something I thought few times if this is a necessary comment or “overtaking” the session, I ended up with a very little amount of talking during the session, which made the session session more of a joint activity as it meant to be.

Gerald M. Weinberg said...

Well done, Issi. Not only have you helped yourself, your team, and your organization, but you've helped others see how effective "doing nothing" can be.

Thank you.

Asera Rain said...

I have been labeled a co-dependent which means I very much want and need to be in control. This is going to be quit interesting. I have decided to do this for week. I am starting today. This should be enlightening.