I got into a conversation with a coach once about something which had blocked progress. We usually call these impediments and the goal is to make them visible, and go after them to remove them from being such a problem. I wound up considering a few things along the way. Even though this particular problem was already resolved, the emphasis from the coach still fixated on the problem and the problems it caused. Though we retain this as experience, it still caused some emotion for this particular person. I tend to emphasize the solution and action of the solving. Since time immemorial history favors the conqueror or problem solvers, the tactics used to overcome obstacles. The obstacles themselves are temporary. The labors of Hercules, Alexander’s Gordian knot, Alan Turing and the Enigma Machine, Rutan’s White Knight and SpaceShipOne winning the X prize…
Can you go around, over, under it, or iterate through time?
Ender’s Game has a zero gravity room in which there really is no up or down – just an orientation around where the problems are. Kids are left to explore that context and find different ways of getting around. Context and situations, call for different strategies and tactics. Exercises like brain storming, or using the five whys are now often intermixed with daily activities instead of separate and distinct activities with the teams. We are developing individual and team skill sets as we don’t just ‘go get there‘ but instead ‘grow to get there’. We can never go fast enough, we are never truly ready, just perhaps we are ‘ready enough’ with the resolve to continuously improve.
Why so much focus on the problem and then simply walk away?
There is a bystander effect which can indicate the cohesiveness of the group. Many simply find it easier to by remaining a critic. In the critic’s voice you get to be part of an elite group that establishes a hierarchy over some other group. Active participation, suggestions and alternate solutions are far more preferable. The best teachers share. The behavior to get ramped up and even show emotional venting doesn’t strike me as productive and often hurts the situation. Switching over to better adaptive behaviors to solve problems should be emphasized. Have the calm and experienced understanding to move through it with a state of grace. Teams should be problem solvers, the best solutions do not come from being defensive, panicked or fearful. They come instead from drive, passion, creativity, inquisitiveness… If you want to continue to foster this in your environment, then some recognition and reward is also important.
Can a person be an impediment?
I have always separated a person from their behavior. I like people! There are some behaviors I don’t care for. I don’t list a person as an impediment. It’s too easy of a stereotype and doesn’t tend to solve the problems we are having. Selecting a scape goat or blame and then walking away is not helpful. Role assignment, support, responsibility, processes, visibility, convergent expectations, aligned goals all are things that might help. Things we can TRY, and still continue to move forward. A person however can solve the problem, a team even more so. Very often techniques like the five whys left us in silence where there was no longer deeper knowledge to draw from. It is often hard to bring a context you have never experienced as a possible solution. We speed up this process of extrapolating solutions from experience by communicating ideas in a group and sharing that richer set of contexts for the entire team to draw upon. We even communicate in abstract development patterns and have some pretty common ones. Sometimes we bring in architects, subject matter experts or coaches depending upon where the impediment exists.
In the movie Ender’s Game, Ender winds up with someone on the team who steps forward and tells Ender he doesn’t even know why he is there. The two boys don’t even like each other. Ender’s reply is that he is there to make the team better and responds with his own question – Is he wrong?