Identify, Isolate, and Remove

Posted by Doc
May 01 2010

This week is a two-event week for me. First was the Agile Boston Open 2010 in Waltham, Massachusetts. The second is Alt.Net Houston 2010 in Houston, Texas.

While in Boston, I got to spend a good chunk of time with Dan Mezick (InfoQ writer, founder of Agile Boston, founder of New Technology Solutions). Dan was the organizer and driving force behind Agile Boston Open 2010, which had about 250 participants. The event was a hybrid: programmed sessions in the morning, which included Ken Schwaber, Amr Elssamadisy, and Michael de la Maza; true Open Space in the afternoon, including an opening, agenda creation, and closing.

In the evening after the Open Space, Agile Boston held their regular monthly meeting, and I was privileged to follow Jean Tabaka on the program. Jean presented Twelve Agile Adoption Failure Modes. I presented Facilitation Patterns & Antipatterns. The synergy between our presentations, and between us, was exceptional. It was GREAT fun!

The following day, Dan and I did some walking and sightseeing in Waltham and Boston. During that time, we talked a lot about topics that interest both of us, much of it around group relations, group dynamics, facilitation, and working with Agile teams.

At one point, our conversation focused on how to deal with disruptive individuals in groups. My focus was on meetings and events, while Dan’s was on working teams, during this conversation. As we were discussing this, Dan casually said “Identify, isolate, and remove.” That really caught my attention, because it’s such a clear, simple formula.

The challenges with that formula are twofold, for me:

  1. It may apply to a working team. In fact, I’d say that there are circumstances where it clearly does. I feel that it does not apply to meetings and events. Isolating someone and removing someone from a meeting is countereffective, as it will engender the wrong feelings in the target, and negatively affect the group.
  2. It’s so simple that I fear it could become a mantra, and misapplied because it’s so easy to remember and apply.

I’m not disagreeing with Dan, or arguing that I don’t like the formula. I find it compelling, if only for its simplicity. I’m just being cautious that it doesn’t get misused in the wrong circumstances.

That said, I give Dan full credit for spontaneously articulating something that is so effective as a model.

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