The Doer/Enabler Dichotomy

Posted by Doc
May 21 2009

I was talking with my fellow ThoughtWorker Saleem Siddiqui today. He used this phrase – the doer/enabler dichotomy – and I thought it quite apt.

We’re working on an “enablement” project – helping a client with their agile adoption.  Both of us have some expertise in their technical domain, as well as in agile.

We’re both recognizing and fighting the tempation to participate in their technical conversations.  After all, we were brought in to help them adopt agility – enable them – not to work on their technical team.

It’s a tough and ongoing internal battle. “But I know something about this subject!  Shouldn’t I contribute to the conversation? Aren’t I doing them a disservice by withholding my expertise?”

The problem I see, as an agile coach, is that when I cross that barrier from enabler to doer, I change the client’s perception of me. Then it’s possible that I lose my leverage/influence/credibility as an agile coach. It narrows the gap, and while I believe in being personable and friendly, I also believe that it’s important for there to be a perceived gap.

My karate instructor taught me his thoughts on this some years ago. Instructors aren’t the student’s friends, they’re their instructors and superiors (at least in the martial arts).

Familiarity may not breed contempt, but it definitely breeds familiarity. 😉

One Response

  1. Chris Matts says:

    Sometimes nipping in, fixing a problem and getting out fast again can result in building respect.

    Often a company going through a transformation will have nay sayers and anti bodies. “They can’t really do it, they just telling us what to do”. “Those who can’t…. teach.”/

    Think about Atticus Finch shooting the rabid dog in “To Kill A Mocking Bord”.

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