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I saw this post on LinkedIn a while back from Brian Orlando. I read it, and a few comments motivated me to write this post. 

Here’s Brian’s initial post—

I’ve been thinking…

In the latest Arguing Agile Podcast podcast where Hemant (Om) Patel and I discuss Peter Drucker’s three different types of teams, right near the end we started to talk about aligning #management with/to the appropriate team model.

Anyone who has been involved in an #agile transformation knows organizational design changes are likely required for success (in response to product challenges, changing markets, etc).

I’m wondering why the obstinate resistance to responsive #organizationaldesign and #organizationaldevelopment?

And here’s one of the comments from Robert Shaw—

It great-grandma’s pie recipe! The structure, setup and management has been handed down from generation to generation, manager to manager. It is tradition and sacred. It was not thought about, just replicated, perfectly. Even if the pie is just OK, it is the best pie ever to them.

There has not been a reason to change, or to actively consider that another recipe even exists.

I like opening with, tell me why you have this structure?

I’m not going to disagree with either Brian or Robert. In fact, I’ve seen the challenges they are alluding to many times myself. So, I agree and empathize with them.

However, I want to explore something else. That is, are they, or more importantly, are we, in general, meeting these leaders with respect? And, if we’re not, how might our approach lead to much or all of the resistance we’re encountering?

For example, let me use Robert’s question as a counter-point. He asked—

Tell me why you have this structure?

This immediately puts the answerer under pressure to explain and defend themselves and their organization’s structural decisions.

There is no partnership in the question: no co-creation or co-responsibility. And there is no apparent building of empathy or understanding. If I role-play it a bit as if I was asked this question, I might respond with—

  • No. Tell me why I need to change.

  • Tell me why your three years of agile experience trumps my 20 years of execution and results.

  • Tell me why I should listen to you.

  • Tell me why agile IS the answer to all questions.

  • Tell me why your first question is a probing question about my structure without trying to understand me better, my challenges, and our overall goals.

  • Tell me why you don’t respect my experience and track record.

Notice that I’m meeting the questioner where they are…in judgment.

But what if I sought first to understand the history behind the organization? And showed better understanding and respect for that history? And what if I celebrated past successes by that leader before we explored some of their existing challenges and how some organizational fine-tuning might be helpful?

The real point I wanted to make in this post is to amplify the role agile coaches and change agents have in HOW our clients react to us.

To put it another way…

I believe 80% of the resistance we encounter is our own doing! It’s driven by how we disrespectfully show up with and to our leaders. Now that’s the bad news.

The good news is that…

We can change how we show up with more respect and less judgment. Try it for yourself the next time you’ve encountered “resistance.” Try an experiment of changing yourself and your mindset and see if that changes the conversation. 

Stay agile my friends,


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