Suggest not Command. An effective way to introduce ideas.

Both as an agile coach or agile team facilitator, I’ve found myself trying to drive change throw organizations, teams and people. Even in any managing role you often needs to introduce your ideas to people.

If you are in a managing role, the most common way is to command. Sometimes people will obey you without problems, others people won’t like it because they think your’s is a bad idea, they don’t understand your basis, they feel like pawns with no decision power or simply they don’t want to do it.

I think is much better to suggest your ideas and I guarantee you will not only get people to follow them but also getting better results than expected. Here are some techniques that went well for me:

“Pain Driven Facilitation”

The first time I heard this term was from Alan Cyment and I realised that I was doing it without naming it.

The concept is simple, introduce you ideas to people when they need it (when they explicitly express they need it), this stands for “pain”, people have a problem, they know it, and they are asking you for help, that is the moment to propose your idea and they will embrace it..

But… what if they never ask? What if I know they have a problem but they don’t?…

Retrospectives! They are a powerful tool to make people come over their problems and raise needs to solve them. Most times you won’t even need to give them the solution, they will came to it, or even to a better one. Also, if you are who facilitates the retrospective, you can choose carefully the dynamic to guide people directly to the problem you are seeing, but that is material for another post.

Wrapping up, let’s say you are a Scrum Master and you want to introduce Story Points estimation over ideal hours, don’t just command people to change the way they estimate, do a retrospective and drive people to the problem:

– We are failing our estimates every sprint!

This task takes Bob half the time it’s taken me!

I had to refactor everything and it tooks me twice the time!

That’s the pain, that’s where you talk them about Story Points and suggest to try it, and then retrospective again to see if it worked.

“That’s a good idea!”

The other tip is a bit tricky, but it has worked for me sometimes. It consist on driving people to have the same idea you have, and then boost it as “That’s a good idea!”. People will always embrace better their own ideas that other’s and they will be much more motivated to carry them out.

To do this, just present the problem and plant the question:

How can we resolve the problem with the ?

I wonder what can we do about can we find another way?

Then discuss and tweak people ideas until getting a good result.

Using the same example as before, you are the Scrum Master and your team is failing estimates because they always estimates according to the technical leader´s (Bob) opinion, in order of his expertise.

Plant the problem:

Hey guys! Bob is very quick but his estimates are half the time it takes most of us to do the same. What can we do? We need more accurate estimations.

Open debate and they will throw a bunch of ideas:

– Alice: We can add some points to Bob’s original estimates…

– John: We can say our estimates “in secret” all at the same time, so we don’t get influenced by Bob..

– You: That’s a good idea John!

Tweak it a little and you may have introduced Planning Poker to your team as a “John’s idea”.

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