Driving for Self, Driving for Other

Posted by Doc
Jul 18 2010

I spent the past weekend with my brother. We drove from Melbourne down to Aireys Inlet along the Great Ocean Road. The scenery is spectacular.

While driving, I began to notice some of my brother’s patterns, and it got me thinking about my own patterns.

I think there are two main categories of drivers: those who become one with the vehicle, and those for whom the vehicle is a mechanical conveyance that they manipulate. In either case, we generally drive for ourselves. That is, we react in advance, based on what we see and what we expect to do.

Unfortunately, as I experienced with my brother, this means that while the driver’s body is already moving into what’s happening, the passengers are caught by surprise and may feel bumped, bounced, and thrown around.

I think of myself as one of the people in the first category – the vehicle is an extension of my body, and so I move the vehicle almost unconsciously, and my core body is rarely taken by surprise. My wife and children and friends, on the other hand, may find themselves tossed about from time to time.

This got me thinking about Agile adoption. Those of us who feel that we really know Agile are the first kind of driver – we move unconsciously based on what we know or expect to happen next. This is just fine when we’re working on/with teams that already understand and practice Agile.

But what about when we’re working with teams that are new to Agile? Are we moving so unconsciously that they’re being emotionally tossed about? Are they finding themselves caught by surprise, confused, or frustrated because we’re jinking left when they expected us to go right?

The challenge for me is to figure out how to get the “passengers” in sync with the changes so that we reduce the frequency and amplitude of the surprises to the point where they’re no longer surprised.

2 Responses

  1. Adrian says:

    I think it’s OK for folks to be surprised when we “jink left” in our unconscious agile “driving”. In fact, it may even be more educational to folks to feel the jolt first and then learn the “why” after the fact. The trick, I think, to mitigating the confusion and eliminating the frustration is to talk through the “why” as soon after the surprise as possible. To your point, I think, it requires a heightened sensitivity on our parts to predict the confusion and explain the differences without presuming that the passenger understands as instinctively as we do when “going left” is the correct maneuver.

    Might be an interesting experiment to explain to my wife, the next time I’m driving, why I do what I do… “Honey, I just changed to the right lane because I saw a car in the distance that seems to be driving very fast behind me; I’m just getting out of his way”. Then again – it could drive her nuts. Yes. Then, it’s settled. I’ll try it.

  2. Interesting analogy.
    Since I’ve been in similar situations, here are some ideas to seed the discussion:
    – Announce the change. If people know something is coming, they’ll be less surprised by it. I say less surprised, because some will still be surprised anyway: they will not understand what this changes means, or how it will affect them.
    – Apply the change slowly. People will detect the change, and can start preparing for the full swing. They will also see what the change is, and will have a better understand of how it’ll affect them.
    – Listen for and encourage feedback. If the change is happening too fast, or causing discomfort, we can use this feedback to improve our approach.

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