Be Like Water – A great insight from Ed Wehr

Ed commented on this post about being vulnerable:  and I absolutely loved it.  Since it was buried, I thought I would bring it to the surface and give it the visibility it deserves.  Thank you, Ed.

From Ed Wehr:

Change. In itself often can push us into being quite uncomfortable. Even unstable in a situation. Some people are only comfortable with limits on change. A difference meant for the environment versus one forced upon ‘me’ and sense of self. A human’s capacity for change is not infinite. This would be sensory overload. I have seen people shut down and not only stop processing because they couldn’t keep up with the information. Some may even put blocking mechanisms to shut out any more sensory input.
Change may be viewed as an attack, meant as one or not. Response to stimuli is natural. Within the context of communication however, there is an analogy I often use. Be like water. Fill the container you are in. The moment, the situation, the comment. Explore into it. Pour into it. Even when some feedback comes as surprising, and initially cut as a painful stabbing. If you visualize it however; a knife into water doesn’t cut, doesn’t damage. The water washes it as gently as any other thing. There is no pain, no scar left to the water- which reforms and seeks its level again. In agile the visibility we seek, could be akin to the clearness to the water. As with all agile – there is a very heavy burden to balance as appropriate. Visibility too, can sometimes be overboard. Feelings can be hurt. Which is why there is an art as well to giving criticism and feedback. A jab may have the intended response you want, but at what cost? How much disturbance? Some feedback can be taken in and absorbed, and some might make smaller ripples in comparison with larger priorities and situations. Rest assured though, there is some spark, some larger reservoir and unique talent that deep down everyone whom strives to improve. Exploring the hurt is an expression of developing a fearlessness and confidence with ourselves. .

Make IT Easy

The first job I really loved and had fun in was challenging, crazy, frustrating and awesome.  I used to think about that time a lot and wonder why it was so amazing.  The people were wonderful.  The work itself was good.  What really made it stand out was we all – about 150 of us – had a purpose.  Our CEO had a vision.  It was almost a rallying cry and we all were working towards achieving it.  And we did.

In the transformation I’m working on now, it would seem obvious that everyone would know the vision but, I bet if you asked 20 of us separately, you would hear themes rather than a unified, consistent no-doubt-about-it response.

I LOVE the idea of having a rallying cry for this huge, enterprise-wide effort.  I want a three word sentence to sum up what we are doing.  To me, it’s simple.

Make IT easy.

Make delivering value easy for our teams.

Make it easy for our customers to interact with us.

Make it easy for our teams to make good, informed decisions.

Make it easy for stakeholders and management to get the information they need.

Make it easy for people to learn.

Make it easy for people to challenge.

Transformation is hard.  Change is hard.  Making it easy is hard but, that’s our job. We need to make it easy.

You can’t focus on how far you have to go. Focus on how far you have come.

It doesn’t matter what kind of journey you’re on, focusing on the goal can be discouraging.  I have fallen into this trap myself.  In the midst of the transformation my company is going through, if I only looked at how far we still had to go, I might not show up to work.  When working with teams, I have thoughts on the ultimate goal for the team and can get impatient with the amount of time they are taking to get there.  This isn’t good for me but, it’s especially not good for the team.  As a Scrum Master, I have an idea of where I want to go and the kind of coach I want to be and there’s always so much to learn that it can be overwhelming.  I mean, will I EVER be there?  If I look back at where I started, I am there.  I have modified the end goal along the way.

Take some time to think about where you were when you started.  Reflect on what you have learned on the way and how you’re incorporating it now.  Celebrate the successes you have.  I guarantee you have more than you think.  Do this with your teams too.  Have them reflect on where they were when they first got together and assess where they are now.  It’s quite a motivating way to spend some time and, let’s face it, a little motivation never hurt anyone.

No matter what journey you’re on, keep your eye on where you want to be but, don’t forget to reflect on how far you have come.

“Fail fast” = “Learn fast”

When people start saying “We learned” instead of “We failed” you’re on to something awesome. Some people have a reaction to the word “fail” that isn’t positive and may create a boundary to learning the concept you’re trying to teach. So, change the language. Learn FAST! Every attempt at something new – big or small – results in learning. From making attempts or trying experiments, you will find things that are good and some that are not so good. The point is you try something and you learn. As long as you’re open, you will learn. As long as you learn, you will get better.

When you stop experimenting or trying you.just.stop.

Who wants to just be stopped?

Imagine if you weren’t afraid…

I’m sure everyone does this from time to time – you think about what you know, how you could harness it and really do something powerful.  When I say powerful, I am talking about something to really drive change.  Not change in your workplace or with your current client.  Industry change.

I have had so many ideas.  Some were junk and some were really good.  Good enough that someone else is doing it and is wildly successful in their endeavor.

What has stopped you from taking the jump yourself?  I know what it is for me.


What would the idea have to be in order for the fear to be outweighed by the possibility?



Too possible to ignore.

Do you have one of those?  What is it?  What is the reason you aren’t jumping besides FEAR?

How do you get comfortable with vulnerability?

I had a realization today.  I have a difficult time making (allowing?) myself vulnerable.  That’s not the realization though.  The reason why I have a hard time with it is because it feels like someone then has power over me.  I’m not sure why it feels that way but, it does. 

Today, I allowed myself to be vulnerable with someone and, not surprisingly, I was hurt.  So, I started thinking about why I was hurt and ended up asking myself a lot of questions.  They were questions along the lines of:

  • Why does this hurt me?
  • Do I care about their opinion and, if so, how much?
  • How will I avoid this in the future?

That last question was the tip off there was something up.  As a PM I prided myself on mitigating risks.  I would think through all the scenarios and mitigate the hell out of them.  That’s great for a PM but, it’s not so great as a person.  I can’t avoid hurt.  It will happen.  Previously, I held the belief that I could avoid hurt by shutting out people who hurt me but, that isn’t an effective strategy unless I want to shut a lot of people out and I don’t.

Hurt happens when people you respect or love tell you something you don’t want to hear.  It happens when people you know, but may not respect so much, tell you something you don’t want to hear and don’t agree with.  That is, you don’t agree with it until you reflect on it some.  And that’s where the a-ha moment happened.

I am not comfortable with being vulnerable because of the risk of being hurt through facing something about myself.  If I don’t make myself vulnerable, I limit the learning.  I don’t have to accept the “gift” the giver is giving.  Maybe I should exchange it for something and that may not be what was offered at face value.  It could be the gift, the quick hurt, is a gift of reflection time to decide what to accept and what to discard on my journey of becoming a better person.

What does this have to do about being a Scrum Master?  It’s about learning and growing so you can help others learn and grow too – even when it’s incredibly uncomfortable and scary.

Coaches! I’m talking to YOU

I know some amazing, wonderful and inspiring coaches.  I value them and am better for knowing and learning from them.  Then….there are “coaches”.  These people are not really coaches. They’re imitations.  In the spirit of keeping it positive, let’s review what coaches behavior should look like.  I would also like to take a moment to thank them for, once again, teaching me what NOT to do.  I guess I should also apologize.  I’m sure this will make some unhappy.  It’s not meant to.

Let’s begin shall we?

1.  Coaches will support the team on their journey rather than berate a team for “doing it wrong”.

2.  Coaches will coach individuals individually rather than in front of the team.

3.  Coaches will notice when a team member has disengaged and do something about it.

4.  Coaches will be humble.  It’s ALWAYS a learning experience for everyone.

5.  Coaches will apply the rules they ask teams to follow to themselves.

6.  Coaches will coach rather than pontificate.

7.  Coaches will enjoy guiding you rather than lecturing you.

8.  Coaches will remember what it was like before they called themselves “coach”.

9.  Coaches will not call themselves a coach until they deserve it.

10. Coaches will leave the Scrum Master alone so as not to muck up what she’s got going on with the team.

Enjoy the view from up there, guys.  It’s a sure thing you’re going to fall and you’re so high up there, it’s going to hurt.  Ouch!

Make it Positive…BELIEVE

Lately, I’ve been trying with myself and my team to make things positive.  Often you’ll hear team members start sentences with things like:

  • We shouldn’t rely on e-mail to communicate.
  • We don’t communicate enough.
  • You didn’t tell the team what was happening.

When you ask them what are they doing, you get the positive.  For example:

  • We will have face to face conversations as much as possible.
  • We will over communicate and find the right balance.
  • We will keep each other informed.

Besides sounding better it feels better.  Here are some of my own:

  • Instead of “doubting”, I’m BELIEVING
  • Instead of closed-off, I’m open
  • Instead of scared, I’m trusting

My Favorite Team

My favorite team is the one I made the most mistakes with and learned the most from.  They also happen to be the most high-performing team I have seen.  They had trust, drive, commitment to each other and their work.  More importantly, they had fun.  It didn’t matter how difficult the work was, they still had a blast with each other.  Managers knew to leave us alone.  They trusted the team and it was well-deserved.  I had the pleasure of getting back together with them this week and we picked right back up where we left off.  Sometimes, I wish we could “get the band back together” but, I know that’s not part of my learning plan.

I couldn’t tell you what makes this team so special to me.  They just are.  This was the team that taught me to worry about the team and not about the work.


That’s what you MUST do when you’re trying to get a gigantic organization shifted to Agile because there’s nothing about it that’s easy.  Not.One.Thing.  If you’re involved you need to be upbeat, positive, encouraging and CONFIDENT.  You need to be able to recognize the small successes and understand how it fits into the larger plan.  You need to stay in the present and look back to see how far you have come and not get bogged down in how far you have left to go.  And, in those moments of doubt you will surely have, you need to be able to hide it and hide it well.  You have to be the person who energizes people.  When others are feeling discouraged and spent you have to find a way to re-energize them.  You have to find a way to create viruses like you.  It’s exhausting and challenging but, you must continue to believe.  For those moments of doubt you can’t shake off yourself or those times where something just shocks you, you need someone else who gets it too.  Someone to commiserate with but, feed you energy and remind you to be confident and carry on.  If you don’t have one of those people, find him or her now and let the person know that’s what you need.  Otherwise you will bring her down too making the journey that much harder.  Just don’t forget to believe.