Health Warning

Health Warning



I regularly read posts and articles informing managers and the like of this or that new technique for them to apply in their work. Here’s just one example amongst many.

Many of these techniques come from Agile folks, attempting – it seems – to encourage managers to move towards a more Agile stance in their methods, and in their relationships with the people they manage.


I always feel a little anxious and peeved when seeing this kind of advice promoted without a health warning. I have in mind something like:

“Caution! Attempting to follow this advice without winning the active support of your higher-ups and your peers may cause alienation, organisational cognitive dissonance, damage to your credibility, and to your career.”

The question of safety is just beginning to gain a wider profile in the Agile community. Is safety of managers as much of an issue as safety of developers and testers when it comes to trying things out – such as adopting certain new, Agile-ish behaviours?


Such posts fail to meet my needs for “avoiding possible negative consequences (on behalf of readers)” and for “doing no harm”. I feel that encouraging managers (or other folks) to put themselves in harm’s way fails to meet principles 1. and 2. of my Nine Principles.


If you’re someone who publishes such advices to managers, would you be willing to include a health warning of some kind in your posts?

And if you’re someone who reads such posts or articles, would you be wiling to signal the absence of such warnings to their authors – and to other readers?

– Bob


WarningSign Caution! Including a health warning in a blog post or article may cause some folks to think twice about following your advice.

Further Reading

The Hippocratic Oath (Never do harm) ~ Wikipedia
Organisational Cognitive Dissonance ~ FlowChainSensei (blog post)

  1. Hi Bob,

    Interesting thought but I would hope that no-one would ever start using my advice or suggestions (or anyone else’s) as a single source without further research, discussion or significant thought as to how that technique (or whatever) would actually be integrated into the organisation. I’d like to think that the posts that you and I and our fellow bloggers share with the wider world are designed to inform and provide thought provoking suggestions rather than proffer instantly implementable solutions.

    But then again I may be unrealistic and incredibly naive!


  2. Too bad that the FDA as well as big pharma, and other profit making parts of our healthcare system don’t even try to act in accordance with that oath. It’s still a wise advice. (He said, adopting the supposed convention most casually.)

  3. I remember a systemsy person who was brought in to help with an aspect of a systemsy intervention. She gave an explicit warning that any learning and changing of minds could lead to misery and feeling that ultimately they couldn’t stay in the organisation. It was repeated a few times, in various ways, to ensure that people had considered what she had said. it wasn’t done in a tick box style.
    Thing is, like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. You don’t REALLY know what you’re saying yes to until it’s too late.

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