Agile Conversations – Transform Your Conversations, Transform your Culture, written by Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick could be one of the missing pieces to make your agile transition work.
The book starts with some background information regarding the ideas and theories that underpin the conversational tools that will be used in the rest of the book. You get an explanation of the core techniques of the authors’ four R’s method. The four R’s representing the steps to help you learn from your conversations: record, reflect, revise and role play your conversation.
The rest of the book explains five different types of conversations. Conversations to become a high-performing team, conversation to reach more agility. These five conversations cannot be used randomly. You first have to build trust, using the trust conversation before you can start working on removing fear (fear conversation). Next you can start explaining the why by using the why conversation. The following step would be to agree on your commitments (commitment conversation) and finally we must have an accountability conversation.
TRUST conversation: we hold a believe that those we work with, inside and outside the team, share our goals and values.
- Be vulnerable
- Be predictable
- Use TDD for people (the ladder of Inference) to align your story with that of someone else to build trust.
FEAR Conversation: we openly discuss problems in our team and its environment and courageously attack those obstacles.
- Identify unsafe practices and habits (“how we do it here”): normalization of deviance
- Overcome the tendency to jump to conclusions by using Coherence Busting (use a more curious, open attitude into the discussion; uncovering fears)
- Jointly create a fear chart and mitigate these fears.
WHY conversation: we share a common, explicit purpose that inspires us.
- Distinguish interest from positions
- Combine advocacy and inquiry
- Jointly design a solution
COMMITMENT conversation: we regularly and reliably announce what we will do and when.
- Agree on the meaning of key elements.
- Use a walking skeleton for a series of commitments and show progress
- Compliance isn’t commitment
- Define and agree on your commitments (agree on the meaning, agree on the next outcome to commit to, reaffirm the commitment).
ACCOUNTABILITY conversation: we radiate our intent to all interested parties and explain publicly how our results stack up against commitments.
- Use theory Y to create a culture that fosters healthy accountability
- Give briefings and back briefings (directed opportunism. Bungay’s 3 gaps: plans – actions – outcomes, alignment gap, effects gap, knowledge gap)
- Radiate intent.
High-performing teams are characterized by high trust, low fear, clear why, definite commitment and solid accountability.
Conclusion. This book is not a simple read, but it’s a must read. It could be one of the missing piece to make your agile transition work. The book offers a conversational analysis model to record, reflect, revise and role play your conversations. In the book you get five different, but sequential, conversations to become a high performing team and reach more business agility. The trust, fear, why, commitment and accountability conversations are explained extensively with lots of recorded example conversations and reflections. It asks for discipline to read all those recorded conversations and use the reflection and conversation tools to find and understand the weak spots to improve these conversations. If you do, you have mastered the first step towards more agile conversations and ultimately agility. Following steps are practicing and practicing and practicing. Success!