If you could indulge in some confidential holodeck psychotherapy, would you? And if so, who would you choose for your therapist?
Psychology? Psychiatry? Psychotherapy? Pshaw!
[Note: I regard this post as incomplete. I’m publishing it now in the hope that getting some feedback will encourage me to finish it.]
For some years, DIY seemed all the rage. I’m not so sure that’s true in home decorating any more, but it does seem to be increasing in popularity in the therapy domain. Individual self-therapy seems like it’s become more popular and more acceptable, both.
I have for some time been thinking whether self-therapy for organisations might be possible, beneficial even. Maybe self-therapy would be a viable alternative to engaging a therapist?
In my Organisational Psychotherapy assignments to date, most of my engagement time with client organisations has been spent sitting in with them during their Business As Usual (BAU – meetings, conversations, lunches, etc.), observing their social dynamic and modes of interaction. Such observations lead me – as therapist – to find questions that I can share with the organisation, questions which invite reflection and discussion on e.g. unsurfaced assumptions and beliefs. (This being the essential practice of therapy, both organisational and other kinds).
For any organisation, making space and time for group reflection can be problematic. In most organisations, folks struggle to find time for all their scheduled responsibilities, let alone more esoteric activities like reflection and discussion of assumptions and beliefs. On the face of it, where’s the point – where’s the value – in spending any time on such “esoteric” things?
Anyone who’s been following this blog for any length of time may know of my focus on organisational effectiveness. And my explanation for organisational effectiveness in terms of Rightshifting and the Marshall Model. [links]
Observing clients during their BAU is all very well. It doesn’t take up any of their time and, aside from the marginal financial cost of having a therapist present, doesn’t detract from folks’ day jobs or the work of the organisation.
But when it comes round to the therapist finding and putting questions to the organisation, there’s at least a couple of issues we face:
- Finding the time to get together (Organisational Psychotherapy invites group discussions) to listen to the questions and reflect and discuss them as a group.
- The disconnect (in time, attention) between the point of observation and the point of reflection and discussion.
So, I’m presently focused on ways to ameliorate the impact of these issues.
Addressing the Issues of Having a Therapist
Improvements on each of the above issues:
- Integrating the asking of therapist’s questions into BAU (having the folks in the organisation ask themselves questions).
- Reducing or elimination the disconnect in time and attention between the point of observation and the point of reflection and discussion (integrating Organisational Psychotherapy into BAU whilst promoting useful group discussions and reflections).
It’s Good To Talk
As BT were wont to tell us: “It’s good to talk”.
But many organisations believe (or at least, assume) they don’t have time to talk. And certainly not the time for “talking for the sake of talking” (which is what many might regard talking in order to surface collective assumptions and beliefs – and then reflect on and discuss). That’s why Organisational Psychotherapy in practice takes place amongst the daily ebb and flow of regular meetings and conversations happening in the course of the organisation’s business-as-usual. No need to shoehorn off-sites or special meetings for the necessary conversations happen. Although off-sites and dedicated meetings can help, too.
Leveraging Valuable Discussions
So, recently I’ve been thinking about means to stimulate group reflections and discussions, in the course of doing things that clearly have immediate business value. For example, many organisations spend (an inordinate, perhaps) amount of time and management attention on coming up with mission statements, visions statements, and the like.
In decreasing order of “unarguable value”:
Most organisations spend at least some time, effort and management attention considering and communicating the “shared purpose” of the organisation. Indeed, the Mission Statement is a favoured format for this effort. This then feeds into PR, marketing, branding, positioning and other such MarComms activities. Aside: Simon Sinek describes this kind of thing in terms of the “Golden Circle”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jeg3lIK8lro
I’ve been involved in many such initiatives over the years, both with clients and my own companies. I’ve not, however, seen the agendas for such initiatives include time for examination and reflection on the organisations assumptions and beliefs. It’s almost as if the purpose existing in glorious isolation. “Here we are, this is our purpose, handed down from God (or the CEO)”. There’s obviously scope for reflecting on the assumptions and beliefs that underpin the announced Purpose, or Mission Statement.
Most organisations spend at least some time, effort and management attention on becoming more effective. Most often, this resolves to question like “How to cut costs?”, “How to improve quality?”, “How can we increase our market share?” and so on. Rarely, though, do such discussions “go meta” and delve into the roots of organisational effectiveness. If they did, though, we could imagine questions such as “What makes for an effective organisation?”, “What kinds of effectiveness are we seeking?“ and “Is effectiveness more than just a WIBNI?”
Generally, little time is spent on the question of “Let’s go Agile” and even less on what “Agile” means. Most often, the decision is a de facto edict from a HiPPO, handed down to the software folks as a fait accompli.
Hearts over Diamonds Preface
In case you’re undecided as to whether my recently published book on Organisational Psychotherapy will be worth some of your hard-earned spons, here’s the text of the preface to the current edition (full book available in various ebook formats via Leanpub and in paperback via Lulu.
Will This Book be Worth Your Time?
To my knowledge, this is the first book ever written about Organisational Psychotherapy. Thanks for taking the time to have a look. This is a short book. And intentionally so. It’s not that Organisational Psychotherapy is a shallow domain. But this book just lays down the basics. Understanding of the deeper aspects and nuances best emerges during practice, I find.
This book aims to inform three distinct groups of people:
- Senior managers and executives who might find advantage in hiring and engaging with an Organisational Psychotherapist.
- Folks who might have an interest in becoming Organisational Psychotherapists themselves, either within their organisations or as e.g. freelancers.
- Folks within organisations who might find themselves involved in some way in their organisation’s engagement with one or more organisational psychotherapists.
We’re all busy people, so I guess you may be curious, or even a little concerned, as to whether this book will provide a good return on the time you might spend reading it. I’ve tried to arrange things so that you can quickly answer that question.
I intend this book to be easy to understand, and to that end I’ve used as much plain English as I can muster. I guess some folks find the whole idea of Organisational Psychotherapy somewhat intimi‐ dating, and fear the ideas here will “go over their heads”. Let me reassure you that I’ve tried to make this book common-sensical, friendly and down-to-earth.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
In writing this book, I’ve set out to define the emerging discipline – or field – of Organisational Psychotherapy.
In a nutshell, Organisational Psychotherapy is a response to the growing realisation in business circles that it’s the collective mindset of an organisation (often mistakenly referred-to as culture) that determines an organisation’s overall effectiveness, productivity and degree of success. By “collective mindset” I mean the beliefs, assumptions and attitudes that an organisation as a whole holds in common about work and how the world of work should work.
Organisational Psychotherapy leverages over a hundred years of research and experience in the field of personal psychotherapy, a field which has evolved from its roots in the Middle East in the ninth century, and later, in the West, through the works of Wilhelm Wundt (1879) and Sigmund Freud (1896). Research and experience which, in large part, can usefully be repurposed from the individual psyche to the collective psyche (i.e. the organisation).
In my career of over thirty years in the software business, I’ve run the whole gamut of approaches in search of organisational effectiveness, in search of approaches that actually work. It’s been a long and tortuous journey in many respects, but I have come to believe, absolutely, that success resides mostly in the relationships between people working together, in the web of informal customer- supplier relationships within and between businesses. And I’ve come to believe that organisational effectiveness mostly comes from the assumptions all these folks hold in common.
Given that, I ask the question:
“What kind of intervention could help organisations and their people with uncovering their existing, collectively-held, beliefs, assumptions and attitudes? With discussing those, seeing the connection with their business and personal problems and challenges, and doing something about that?”
The answer I’ve arrived at is Organisational Psychotherapy. And so, when I’m working with clients these days, Organisational Psychotherapy is my default mode of practice.
But this book does not attempt to make the case for my beliefs. It’s not going to try to persuade you to see things my way. Organisational Psychotherapy may pique your interest, but I’m pretty sure you’ll stick with what you already believe.
So, if you have an open mind, or generally share my perspective already, this book may serve you in getting deeper into the practicalities and benefits of Organisational Psychotherapy, whether that’s as:
- a decision-maker sponsoring an intervention
- a potential recruit to the ranks of organisational psychotherapists
- an individual participating in an Organisational Psychotherapy intervention in your organisation
Relationships Govern Dialogue
A central tenet of Organisational Psychotherapy is that it’s the quality of the relationships within and across an organisation that moderates the organisation’s capacity for meaningful dialogue. As we shall see in more detail later, fragmented and fractious relation‐ ships impair an organisation’s ability to surface, discuss and recon‐ sider its shared beliefs.
Effective Organisational Psychotherapy needs a certain capacity for skilful dialogue within and across an organisation. Absent this capacity, folks have a slow, laborious and uncomfortable time trying to surface and discuss their commonly-held beliefs and assumptions.
In practice, then, any Organisational Psychotherapy, in its early stages at least, must attend to improving relationships in the workplace, and thus the capacity for meaningful dialogue. This helps the organisation have more open and productive dialogues – should it wish to – about its core beliefs and implicit assumptions, about its ambitions and goals, about the quality of its relationships and dialogues, and about its strategies for success. I wholeheartedly believe that:
People are NOT our greatest asset. In collaborative knowledge work particularly, it’s the relationships BETWEEN people that are our greatest asset.
Whether and how the organisation might wish to develop those relationships and dialogues in pursuit of its goals is a matter for the organisation itself. Without Organisational Psychotherapy, I’ve rarely seen such dialogues emerge and thrive.
Improving relationships in the workplace, and thereby helping the emergence of productive dialogues, are the means to an end, rather than the end itself. The goal of all Organisational Psychotherapy interventions is to support the client organisation in its journey towards being more – more like the organisation it needs to be. Closer to its own, ever-evolving definition of its ideal self.
We’ll explore what that means in later chapters.
Lencioni, P. (2012). The Advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Patterson, K. (2012). Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. Place of publication not identified: McGraw Hill.
Schein, E. H. (2014). Humble Inquiry: The gentle art of asking instead of telling. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
What if the last twenty years has been another classic example of software developers solving the wrong problem?♥
What if “agility” was never the issue as far as business was and is concerned? What if business agility is NOT the most useful response to, or strategy for, life in a VUCA world?
We hear so much about the need for agility. It’s now a given, an unchallenged assumption. Maybe even an undiscussable assumption? Well, I’m challenging it. And in the spirit of this blog – always having an alternative to offer – I propose congruence as a more useful response to the challenges of a VUCA business environment.
Agility: the power of moving quickly and easily; nimbleness.
Congruence: Similarity between self-image and actual experience.
Carl Rogers stated that the personality is like a triangle made up of the real [or actual] self, the perceived self, and ideal self. According to Rogers, when there is a good fit between all three components, the person has congruence. This is a healthy state of being and helps people continue to progress toward self-actualisation.
Applied to organisations, we can say that an organisation is made up of the real [or actual] organisation, the organisation as it perceives itself, and its ideal self. When there is a good fit between all three components, the organisation has congruence. This is a healthy state of being and helps the organisation progress toward being all it can be.
Without congruence, organisations won’t know what to do with agility, or how to get it. Without congruence, a VUCA environment presents challenges which incongruent organisations are poorly equipped to meet.
So, forget the past twenty years and the search for agility. Congruence is the thing.
♥ It was a bunch of software developers that invented and promoted the idea of agility (for software development) some twenty years ago now. Businesses everywhere have seized on this prior art in their attempts to cope with the upswing in perceived volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in the business environment.
The same argument also applies to the birthplace of the agility meme: the software development silo. Forget the past twenty years and the search for development agility. Congruence is the thing.
Plan for the Ending
Any therapy relationship is likely to end, sooner or later. Sometimes it’ll be a happy ending, sometime less so. Although the seeds planted during therapy often means the client can continue to grow and develop, becoming more whole, more congruent, in their own time and under their own tutelage.
There are many reasons clients decide to end therapy. Sometimes they’ve reached their goals. Sometimes they need a break. Sometimes the connection with their therapist isn’t there. Sometimes they notice a red flag. Sometimes they’re about to face a new fear or realise a new insight.
Whatever the reason, it’s vital the therapist and the client brings it up as soon as either party becomes conscious of it. Wanting to end therapy is a critical topic to explore. And it could be as simple either the client or the therapist saying “I feel like it might be time to end therapy, I wonder what that’s all about?”.
An end in therapy can be more like a bittersweet parting than a sad, abrupt, or complicated loss. Ideally, clients can have a satisfying closure to therapy that will help them end other relationships well in the future.
Processing negative feelings can be a way to work through maladaptive patterns and make the therapeutic relationship a corrective experience. If clients avoid this conversation by simply discontinuing therapy, they may miss the opportunity for a deeper level of healing resulting from their therapy.
I find it helpful to mention the ending even from the outset of the therapy relationship. If only in the information conveyed as part of the setup of that relationship.
Any particular client may find it a distraction, discomforting, or scary to entertain the idea that the relationship – or, at least, the therapy – might come to an end even as it’s just getting started. So the timing of the broaching of the subject generally depends on how things are going.
Advice for Clients re: Ending Therapy
Examine your reasons
A positive approach to ending therapy is to delve into the possible reasons why you’d like to leave. Is it because you feel disrespected, stuck or incompatible or because of feelings of discomfort in dealing with certain things that the therapist is pushing on me on? It’s common and part of the process of changing problematic patterns, to feel triggered and even angry with your therapist.
Don’t stop suddenly
It’s important for clients to discuss the ending with their therapists, because they may suspect that the desire to part ways is somehow premature. Even if a client decides to leave therapy, processing this can be therapeutic in itself. Some sessions discussing the subject, including feelings and what kinds of post-therapy experiences the client might go through can help ease the guilt, regret or sadness that often arise.
Plus, honouring the relationship and the work everyone has done together, with some sessions to achieve closure in a positive way can be a very powerful experience in its own right.
Talk in person
Avoid ending therapy with a text, email or voicemail. Speaking directly is an opportunity to practice assertive communication and perhaps also conflict resolution, making it is an opportunity for learning and growth.
Provide honest feedback
If you feel comfortable and emotionally safe doing so, it is best to be direct and honest with your therapist about how you are feeling about him or her, the therapeutic relationship or the approach you’ve been experiencing. After all, this has been a partnership, and part of growth is to embrace that, see the therapist as a human being, and see other folks’ needs met – including the therapist.
When offering feedback, do so without judgment. After all, the therapist will be working with other organisations and your thoughts may change their style and help them to better serve their clients in the future.
A good therapist will be open to feedback and will use it to continually improve.
Be as direct, open, and clear as possible. Articulate the exact reasons for wanting to end therapy.
Be ready for dissent
It is not unusual for a therapist to agree with ending therapy, especially if the client has reached their goals and is doing well. But they also might disagree. This disagreement can serve positively, as a spur to enhance the ability for discussing difficult topics.
Every therapy ends, there’s no reason to avoid this reality. Early in therapy, when discussing goals, why not talk about how and when therapy might end.
Advice for Therapists re: Ending Therapy
Most personal therapists note that having their clients share feedback on their experiences is incredibly valuable. It’s no different in the OP context. Feedback helps therapist improve and grow as practitioners.
Sometimes we won’t know why
Sometime we won’t get to know why a client ends their therapy. The connection can just fizzle out, with little to no contact or explanation. As we’re very invested in our work and in our relationship with the client, such an ending can be both a puzzle and a disappointment.
Practice letting go
Some clients simply stop, so it’s not easy to know if they’re just ‘done’ with therapy or if we’ve done something to make them want to leave. When this is the case, I just let it go. It’s their issue, not mine, and I don’t need to worry over it when I don’t know the reasons behind it. Of course we could wish it were otherwise, but letting go can be the hardest thing.
Enjoy the experience
When client and therapist are able to have some sessions for proper closure, it becomes a great opportunity to reflect on their work together. These sessions can be highly joyful, for both parties.
Our goal is to support our clients in confronting life and the issues they see as holding them back, blocking them from greater success. If clients have clear reasons to end therapy and we’ve had the time to talk about it and tie up the loose ends, ending therapy is a great time to reflect on our work, invite the client to talk about their future, and discuss what has been accomplished and what hasn’t. We can leave with a sense of closure, without nagging, unresolved issues. And with the sense that the client is now netter placed to tackle themselves new issues that might arise in their future.
Those precious final sessions afford the opportunity to relax, reminisce about our shared experiences, ponder the future, and learn how to be a better therapist for others.
When clients can approach the ending of therapy with respect, dignity and integrity, that sets the tone for other relationship issues. In other words, with proper closure, everybody wins.
In your practice, how often do you plan for the ending?
Fundamentals of Organisational Psychotherapy
By popular demand, I’ve put together this post, which sets out some of the fundamentals of Organisational Psychotherapy (n.b. by no means all of them).
Note: This is a work in progress: I keenly invite your comments and questions.
Fundamental: The Nature of the Problem
The Marshall Model proposes that organisational effectiveness (productivity, product quality, staff engagement, etc.) stems from the collective assumptions and beliefs of the organisation as a whole. (Oftentimes, assumptions and beliefs of individuals concerned differ from those held collectively).
Thus, for organisations needing to improve their effectiveness, this entails a shift in these collective beliefs and assumptions.
The problem, then, for such organisations is: how to effect such a shift? Who owns the problem, and the resources to tackle it?
Fundamental: Organisational Psychotherapy is a Solution Strategy
Given the above statement of the problem, Organisational Psychotherapy proposes that Organisational Psychotherapy is a viable and cost-effective approach to addressing this problem. I.E. Organisational Psychotherapy provides a means for organisations to effect a shift in their collective assumptions and beliefs (also referred to as the organisation’s collective mindset, psyche, or memeplex).
Fundamental: Points of Leverage In A System
Donella Meadows proposed that maximum leverage for changing a system (such as an organisation) derives from 2) shifting the paradigm or mindset out of which the system arises, and 1) by acquiring the power to transcend paradigms. Organisational Psychotherapy provides a means for organisations to grasp and exercise these particular levers (see diagram, below).
Fundamental: Organisations Each Have a Collective Psyche
Organisational Psychotherapy as a solution is predicated on the assumption that every organisation has a collective psyche (distinct from the psyches of the individuals comprising the organisation). And that this collective psyche is amenable to therapy much as is the individual psyche.
Fundamental: Therapy Techniques for the Individual Psyche are Transferrable
There are over four hundred different types, styles or “schools” of psychotherapy for the individual. Many of these are well-established, well-researched and well documented. And many of these are transferable, in whole or in part, from serving individuals in therapy to serving organisations in therapy.
Fundamental: It’s the Client-Therapist Relationship That Matters Most
Much research indicated that for individuals in therapy, positive outcomes are contingent mainly upon the quality of the relationship between the client and their therapist. Organisational Psychotherapy proposes that the same dynamic holds for organisations in therapy – positive outcomes are contingent upon the quality of the relationship between the organisation and its therapist(s).
Fundamental: The Therapist is a Constant Exemplar of Congruence
In some schools of therapy (Rogerian Therapy, a.k.a. Client Centered Therapy, for example) the idea of congruence looms large. And the role of the therapist in modelling/exemplifying congruence assumes a major significance in the relationship between the therapist and the client.
In engagements with larger clients, where the workload may suggest more than one therapist working with the client during a given period, the body (team) of therapists, as a collective entity, also exemplifies this congruence.
Fundamental: Therapists Have No Agenda
Outwith the basic agenda of accompanying the client of its journey, the Organisational Psychotherapist has no agenda. No pet solutions to suggest, no proposals as to how the client might choose to become better. Simply accompanying the client on their journey, with compassion and empathy, is the thing.
Solutions, strategies, new assumptions, beliefs and behaviours are the domain of the client. It’s not the role of the therapist to suggest “improvements” or changes (as might a coach). Rather, it’s his or her role to lend empathy and emotional support to the client in their journey. A journey which *might* include the client discovering more effective strategies, behaviours, assumptions and beliefs to replace some or all of their original strategies, behaviours, assumptions and beliefs.
Fundamental: Psychotherapy is About Treatment (It’s not Psychoanalysis)
I hesitate to use the word “treatment”, with its connotations that the client is somehow less than health, or needs “fixing”. I find these connotations entirely unhelpful in the context of therapy. Yet the word is sufficiently recognised to retain some explicative utility.
As intellectual understanding blocks empathy (Cf. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication), the Organisational Psychotherapist tries to avoid understanding what might be happening within the client’s collective psyche. Empathy without intellectual analysis (nor judgment). Just be there for the client. The world is a scary place, the organisation’s journey can be lonely without a friend.
Fundamental: Avoidance of Dependence
Organisational Psychotherapy aims to proceed toward a future where the client can take care of themselves, without the need for external intervention or support from a therapist. A future in which the client has become sufficiently self-aware and skilled in self-care that it can sustain its journey from its own resources.
The journey to self-sufficiency make take time, and proceeds at the pace with which the client is (more or less) comfortable. That is, the experience of therapy may cause discomfort on occasion, but the pace of progress Is never set, or forced, by the therapist.
Fundamental: The Client (Organisation) Owns Their Progress
As in individual therapy, Organisational Psychotherapy proceeds on the basis that clients deeply want change, even if there might be resistance to varying degrees and from various quarters, from time to time.
The Nine Principles of Organisational Psychotherapy ~ Think Different blog post
Testbash Dublin and Organisational Psychotherapy
As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m just back from presenting an interactive session on Organisational Psychotherapy at Testbash Dublin. Some folks seemed confused as to the relevance of Organisational Psychotherapy to testers and the world of testing, so I’m happy to explain the connection as I see it. (And please note that many of my previous posts on Organisational Psychotherapy may also help to illuminate this connection.)
I’ll start by riffing on something Rob Meaney said during his presentation:
“Significant quality improvements [aren’t] driven by testing. They [are] driven by building relationships and influencing the right people at the right time.” ~ @RobMeaney #TestBash
Quality (and other) improvements come from improved relationships. This has been a theme on this blog for some years now. For example see: The Power of Humane Relationships.
I asked a key (for me) question during my session (several times):
“If we accept that (as per the Marshall Model) it’s the collective mindset of the organisation that determines its relative effectiveness, how do we propose to support the organisation if and when it choses to do something about its mindset?”
Unsurprisingly perhaps, I heard no answers, excepting my own proposal for a means to that end: Organisational Psychotherapy.
I wonder how many folks involved with testing ask themselves and their peers the question “How can our organisation become more effective at testing?”. Or, using the #NoTesting frame, “How can our organisation become more effective at delivering quality products and services?”
Organisational Psychotherapy is not just about improving product quality, however. Through improved relationships, and a shift in how the organisation relates to its people (i.e. from Theory-X to Theory-Y), the quality of life at work also improves. Put another way, we all have more fun, more job satisfaction, and get to realise more of our potential at work. Further, for all the folks that matter, their several needs get better met. And, as a bonus for the organisation itself, it gets to see its people more productive and engaged. What’s not to like?
I’ve also written elsewhere about using the Antimatter Principle in practical ways during software development. For example, during development we eschew requirements gathering in favour of incrementally elaborating hypotheses about the needs of all the folks that matter, and then conducting experiments to explore those needs. I can envisage teams that still need testers adopting a needs-focused approach to driving testing. For example, putting into place various means by which to answer the question “how well does our product meet the needs of the people that matter to us?”.
On a related note, some folks asked me about practical applications of Organisational Psychotherapy in their day-to-day work as testers. Here’s just a few applications which immediately come to mind:
- Improving communication with the people that matter (i.e. developers, fellow testers, management, stakeholders, customers, etc.). I find NVC (nonviolent communication) skills and practice particularly useful in this context.
- Clarifying what works and thus what to do more of (Cf Solutions Focus). This can improve team retrospectives.
- Helping the people that matter (including ourselves) feel better about what we’re doing (Cf. Positive Psychology).
- Understanding each other’s strengths, with a view to having the right people in the right seats on the bus (Cf. StrengthsFinder).
- Eliciting requirements (if you still do that) (Cf Clean Language).
- Building a community (such as a Testing CoP or a multi-skilled self-organising product team) (Cf Satir Family Therapy).
- Improved cooperation with higher-ups (empathy, Transactional Analysis, etc.).
- Dealing with blockers to changing/improving the way the work works.
I’d love to hear if this post has helped put my recent Testbash session in context.
I’m just back from presenting an interactive session at Testbash Dublin. I enjoyed conversations on the topic of the session – Organisational Psychotherapy – as well as conversations around e.g. #NoTesting. Indeed, I noted a common theme running through many of the sessions from the more seasoned testers presenting: a grumbling low-key disaffection with the notion of testing as a path to quality.
A number of folks engaged me in trying to better understand what I might mean by #NoTesting. Such conversations generally start out with “What do you mean by ‘testing’?”. My time in Dublin has allowed me to see through my discomfort in avoiding this question (yes, I generally choose to avoid it). I’m loath to get into semantic arguments from the get-go. I find they rarely lead to productive mutual exploration of such topics.
The bottom-line, is: It doesn’t matter one iota what I mean by “testing”. Whatever YOU mean by “testing”, that’s what I’m talking about when I mention #NoTesting. It’s an invitation for YOU to pause awhile to consider how life would be different if you stopped doing “testing” (whatever YOU choose to understand by that term) and did something else to address the same ends.
Ends Over Means
There’s an idea from therapy which might help you understand this perspective. In eg Nonviolent Communication (and some other therapies), human motivation is assumed to stem from attempts to get our needs met. That is, our behaviours and actions result from the strategies (means) we choose in order to meet our needs (ends). Any particular strategy affords us a limited palette of behaviours and actions. Aside: Often, we have little or no conscious awareness of either our ends or our chosen means.
“Testing” (whatever YOU choose to understand by that term) is a strategy you (or someone else) has chosen – almost always, implicitly – for getting your or their needs met. And other folks’ needs, too, in the general case.
There are always other strategies (means, options) for meeting folks’ needs. Yet rarely do these other strategies receive any consideration. Maybe some of these other options offer a way to better meet folks’ needs. How would we ever discover that, without considering them, becoming aware of them, exploring them?
So that’s what I’m talking about with #NoTesting (amongst a raft of #No hashtags) – an invitation and reminder to actively consider whether your default means (strategy) are best serving your ends (needs), whether your first and automatic choice of strategy is the most effective way to attend to your – and other folks’ – needs.
What If #4 – No Answers
What if we refrained from inviting answers, at least until we had sought our own? What if we refrained from providing answers, at least until someone had unequivocally asked?
“I don’t understand this” is a pretty common admission. Although not perhaps as commonly admitted as it is thought or experienced. And what do we do when our friends, peers, colleagues, loved ones make this admission to us? We jump to fill the void. To provide some answers. To help them in their understanding. Helping people to understand is a natural human reaction. But how helpful is it, really?
How often do we tell ourselves that we’re helping someone to understand, when we’re actually just helping them adopt our interpretation?
And what if we helped them to understand something and they came to their own understanding of it? An understanding at odds with our own? How would we feel then?
Personally, the joy I find in helping people understand something is as nothing compared to the joy I take in folks finding their own understanding. Even, and perhaps especially, when it differs from mine.
There are occasions when someone asks me directly. “Just tell me the damn answer!”. On these occasions I mourn for the loss of opportunity. For the lost chance to explore together. For the missed joy we might both have taken from finding answers together. And yet most times I’ll accede to the demand. Albeit with a heavy heart.
What if we refrained from inviting answers, at least until we had sought our own? What if we refrained from providing answers, at least until someone had unequivocally asked us? What if we just tried to listen, to hold the space, to empathise, and to do what we could to relate to people as fellow human beings, walking together for a while, as we each pursue our journeys?
NB. I’m not looking for answers here – at least, until you’ve found some of your own.
What Is Clean Language? ~ Marian Way
Other Posts In This Occasional Series
What If #1 – No Management
What If #2 – No Process
What If #3 – No Telling
What If #5 – Continuous Improvement Is Useless
What If #6 ~ Agile Nirvana
What If #7 – No Work
What If #8 – Agile Never Happened