Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage Interviews Double-Loop Learning with Derek W. Wade and Susan Eller

Double-Loop Learning with Derek W. Wade and Susan Eller


1. Hello everybody my name is Todd Charron from InfoQ , I’m an Agile editor here and I’m joined at the moment by Derek Wade and Susan Eller. You guys have a session called Badass Double Loop Learning, that was your session at Agile 2012, first off where did that title come from?

Derek Wade: The phrase “Double Loop Learning” actually comes from the works of Chris Argyris who was an organizational consultant, is an organizational consultant, he's actually still living and still practicing, who observed many things about how consultants give advice and work to change organizations including this nature of what he calls theory in use and theory in action, which is that people often expose different beliefs and different theories than they themselves actually practice. And as he started digging into some of the why’s behind this, really came up with this concept of Single Loop Learning which is simple, I do something, it has an effect, I react to that effect, versus Double Loop Learning, I do something, it has an effect, maybe that effect isn’t quite what I anticipated so then I look inward to change something about my own makeup or background that led me to take that action. So there are two loops of interaction there.

I and a fellow named Benjamin Mitchell who is online and around and actually knows this Argyris theory far better than I do and Mike Sutton from the UK, who is just an all around awesome guy, were having a little conversation about this in general on Twitter and I was describing the situation of a client that could really make use of this sort of thing, and Mike Sutton pops out: “Time to drop some bad ass Double Look Learning on that situation” and I thought that was hilarious and said: “Mike I think you’ve just invented something new and I’m going to create a hash tag”. And did a hash tag BADLL and it’s started catching on and I keep pushing it and I thought when it came time for us to do a session about Chris Argyris and Double Loop Learning and Theory X and Theory Y that maybe sticking the tag “bad ass” on the front of it might make it a little more interesting.


2. Derek, let’s start with you, just maybe give us a little background about how you got from wherever you started to presenting Badass Double Loop Learning at Agile 2012?

Derek Wade: I’ve always had a cognitive psychology bent, I would say hobby, my father was actually a psychologist and I’ve studied both cognitive science and computer science in university and this has always been in the background and been something I’ve been interested in. So when I started programming and seeing that the code that I was writing was being not really used for any useful purpose and then I started Project Managing and realizing that the projects that I was bringing to completion didn’t really make any changes in the organization and then I started working with organizations to find out how can we actually stop wasting people’s time and make it something useful. I found myself reaching back and drawing into some of the cognitive science background that I had.

Around that time, my mentor, a guy with a name of Carl Turza, introduced me to the works of Peter Senge and Systems Thinking, and the fifth discipline and that's where I started hearing about Chris Argyris and it really spoke to me, because I believe that you don’t see the world as it is, you see it as you are, so if you can be aware of yourself you can be much more effective in the world, very important in my practice as a coach, and I’m trying as a practice instill that into people in organizations to help the organizations. When I wanted to do a session about this, actually the first time that I sort of reached out to do this was in Agile Tour Toronto, and I was saying that Agile isn’t what you do it’s what you think, if you know what your mental model is then you can be Agile instead of do an Agile practice.

When Susan and I started comparing notes on our work and how she works with teams and how I work with teams, we realized that we actually had some strong similarities that we just don’t give people practices and then grade them on their practices, we try to change fundamentally the way they view the world, so that it changes their practices, and we thought “Maybe we should do a little something on Double Loop Learning” and I said: “Ok, but we have to call it Badass”.


3. Susan you are not actually generally from the Agile Space, you come from outside of that?

Susan Eller: I come from way outside of that.

Todd: So can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Susan Eller: My background is, I work in health care and I’ve been a nurse for more years that I care to admit to actually, and I took kind of the traditional trajectory that nurses take in their development if you will, because I worked in a hospital. And what happens in a hospital if you are a good nurse that means you must be ok to precept the brand new baby nurses, so they make you percept and if you are good at that, they say “We are going to make you an educator”, and you don’t really have any necessarily formal training in education, it’s just that you are just the expert nurse and you should be able to teach people, which is not always how it works anyhow, but that is a whole other tangent.

So I was doing education for emergency medical services like paramedics and firefighters and I was doing education for nurses and my boss who I work with in a simulation center said: “Hey, we’re trying to do this team work in communication training for medical students” and it’s really silly to have this all medical faculty, like all doctors, trying to teach medical students about teamwork and communication because in order to have teamwork and communication, you need to have nurses”. And at the time I was finishing up a graduate degree and I was doing kind of like Quality Improvement Performance type of things, so I went over there to the simulation sites and it was interesting because as Derek said, we talked about the team stuff and what I learned, and what he learned and I already called it Argeryis instead of Argyris, so I guess I made a mistake.

When we started talking about stuff, it was like you have this Double Loop Learning that I found out from a different way in simulation we do to briefing and much of my familiarity with it was from somebody called Jenny Rudolf who actually works at Harvard probably with Chris Argyris. So anyhow it was like we started comparing notes as we said about this, similarities between what we do, and how we deliver this, so it's like if I teach a nurse “No you shouldn’t do that”, ok she probably won’t do it because she listens to me as an expert, but there is a really rational reason for why she doesn’t, and if I can discover that really rational reason that really strong held belief that motivates her to do it. So if I say “No, don’t do it”, she’ll listen to it for a while and then she’ll go along and go along and then sooner or later should go back to the same old pattern because of that rational belief she held.

So it’s kind of the same type of thing, it’s like unless you can get to that rational reason that she holds in her mind and either correct it or correct myself because I happen to be wrong, I really don’t change behavior. For my process improvement point background, that is where really came into being because a lot of time in health care we had this big upfront planning, and you have this DMAIC process, and you define your measure, you analyze, you implement, you control and it's going to stay that way. And it stays that way for a few months and then it changes for two reasons. One is because you know that rational reasons that people have to doing it, and the other thing is there are system issues, and so that is what appeals to me a lot about the Agile Universe is because they do this rapid iterative process and they go “Oh, let’s develop this thing, let’s put it out there, let’s test a little bit and see what works and then go back and fix it.” In health care we haven’t been as good at testing things and going back and fixing it, so that’s what kind of appeals to me about being in Agile because it's like: “We have this wonderful way of” what I look at as processes improvement or system development or design for things that I think could really be carried over to health care and help us to make more lasting improvements because we designed it the right way.


4. One of the things you guys shared at the beginning of your presentation that you had a common background was simulation, so maybe talk a bit about that and why is that a very important aspect?

Susan Eller: I think it’s a big passion, it’s like you learn better by doing, people learning in a variety of different ways and I’m a big believer in people who learn a lot by doing and then reflecting upon it, so in our simulation universe we have, there is still deliberate practice and then there is the expert feedback, so the deliberate practices, we design the simulations so we mock up a health care scenario or do whatever, and then we go in and have the expert feedback which is a time where I sort of facilitate the discussion but is not really about me, it’s about, I enable reflections it’s basically what I do, and I can help point out those things and I can help draw them out. I’ve been doing simulation for years because I did it with the firefighters and paramedics and then I did it with nurses and now I do it with medical students, and nurses, and directors, you know, business people too, so it’s interesting that we start talking about “Oh, I do these simulations and I have a big funky lab and I have a sixty thousand dollar man and the machine goes ping, but a lot of simulations that we do are very simple, they’re role playing, they’re this “I’ve got to teach you how to tell somebody bad news about their family member or the loved ones”, and teaching you to do that in a safe environment, where you don’t really hurt somebody’s feelings is much better than doing it for a live patient first.

So we just started comparing notes about, we do the simulation and we do something where we do role playing and bring people in to be the bad person in the room, and we bring somebody else to have manager’s practice conflict resolution, some of those things that we do and then it’s like, this stuff that I want to do is more similar than we think sometimes.

Derek Wade: For me actually, I was just realizing and reflecting on this, certainly half of my motivations and practice comes from aviation and the other half probably comes from Buddhism, in the sense that I’ve always been motivated by Reflective Practice: What just happened? Why do I think that happened? How much of that was due to the situation? I’m unfortunate that the situation turned out in that way, and how much of that I contribute to, because that means I have a certain amount of authority over the situation. Knowledge of others is wisdom, knowledge of self is enlightenment - I think is some parable probably from the East and that has kind of always been with me. So, when I started doing flight training to become a flight instructor and eventually, hopefully an airline pilot which was actually a career that happened in some alternate universe but didn't actually get to completion in this one.

I did do a lot of simulation based training and we would do both and the actual cockpit, we would do a briefing - “Here is what this flight is about”, we would do the flight and then we would do a debriefing. When we would practice things like engine failures and aircraft instruments failing and weather coming in that could possibly destroy your aircraft, we decided to not practice that in real life and we would use that on a simulator or often we would use the simulator because it was simply cheaper that actually find an aircraft to go, we would sit in the classroom do this kind of thing, but we still did the briefing, the simulation and the debriefing. And that become an experience for me, but in that time I was learning that, this simulated experience is doing all the things to me that the actual experience would do. I’m experienced in high cognitive load, I’m experiencing stress, I’m experiencing anxiety, I’m experiencing rapid decision making in real-time situations with imperfect data and then we get to go back and reflect, and this is where the meditating practice comes in “And see now what about that, why did you make that decision?” instead of just having an instructor say: “Hey you reached for the wrong knob, smack, don’t do that again! Why did you reach for the wrong knob?” And then you can start working on that.

Later when I was doing Scrum Training with a partner and we were doing things that we called simulations. Things like build a city out of Lego and build a brochure and then we’d say “Great, now you learned” and immediately go off into the next exercise. My reaction was “Wait, they haven’t reflected on it yet, they don’t think why things went!” so I started adding the notion of debrief and getting into those underlying motivations. And what we found was that we actually were cutting more and more material and spending more and more time on the sim with the debrief and people were saying: “I never realized what I’m doing, as a manager when I’m coming in and saying ‘I want people to look busy’, I’m having such an insight”, which to me was success, because that is how you change the world of business, is through people who show those practices.

That is how I came to it and I had a certain body of knowledge, but it was really more kind of like Susan’s knowledge at the level when you were a nurse educator. well I’ve been doing this: I’ve got some ideas about it but I don’t really know much of the background, I’m kind of teaching the best I can. And then, as we started exchange the information, she started throwing references my way and then I started graduate school, and I started getting a reference manager and I became hooked on journals and articles and the journal simulations and gaming and I actually started learning some of the theory and facts and empirical research behind it. One thing that I really love about the health care world, which we actually just saw in the keynote, is I think we in business and Agile so often, find a theory, it seems to work, it’s kind of sexy, we can sell it, good enough, time to go out and promote it, and one of the things that I love about health care world is empirical data, evidence based practice.

Does this practice, can it be directly traced to killing less people then we probably ought to do it. Does it not get traced to that? Then I don’t know that is necessarily something to do. In the Agile and in the business world we have so many practices that are superficially similar, but are different enough and can be interpreted incorrectly enough that they actually cause, if anything at best, no outcome for some consulting dollar spent, which I find almost unethical and I’d like to see that change. When I start training things like evidence based practice and controlled studies versus actually doing the type of coaching that we’d like to see and is there a benefit from it, I want to see more of that happen in the business world.

I said it’s time for us to start sharing these messages so let’s get some of this notion out into the business and Agile world and by the way let’s start getting the Agile just out of software and into other worlds like health care for example or even just the practice of what it is to be an organizational leader, forget IT, forget development.


5. You mentioned some practices perhaps not backed up by empirical data, were there any ones you had in mind or were you just talking in general?

Derek Wade: I have a lot of friends in Agile community who I think very highly of that I don’t know that I'd care to name any specific ones, I would say, you know what it is, it’s a case of “We don’t know what we don’t know”. And until you run into someone who says: “Where is the evidence for that, where is the controlled study?”, Would you like to tell your simulation study every dollar spent results in..?

Susan Eller: Oh the Central Line study, so we are doing much better in health care, because for a while in health care when I first started twenty, thirty years ago, is like process, we were doing research on processes, now the health care world has gotten much better on doing research on outcomes. We have a simulation study, so it’s actually somebody at the University that I work with, Doctor Jeffrey Barsuk did a study with doing simulations for Central Lines. So I don’t know if you heard the keynote, but it was talking about infections rates in hospitals, so putting a Central Line in it is something that can get people infections and it’s something that is a hospital acquired infection.

One of the things that he did, he training for residents, he had control groups, so we had two different intensive care units, so we looked at historical data for both units. So then he also did training for one group of residents in one IC, it was an experimental group, did simulations on how to enter central lines using simulation and feedback and check lists and all this mastery of learning concepts. And the other unit they didn’t do anything, they just kept it as normal. So they spent about a hundred thousand dollars doing - and it's not exactly numbers but this is what I remember the article - spent about a hundred thousand dollars doing training for these residents. What they found out is after a year they did studies and found based on the historical data from that unit and based on what they projected the unit should have based on years, and then the comparable unit was a control unit.

They actually decreased central line infections which included extra days for the hospital, which by the way don’t get reimbursed by the government anymore, which included patient death, which included extra days in Intensive Care Unit. They actually saved seven hundred thousand dollars and patients’ lives by doing this training and decreasing the central line infections, so that is a huge impact. You are talking about return on your investment from one hundred thousand dollars spent to seven hundred thousand dollars saving, it’s like seven to one return on investment ratio, which is great and that is how you sell it to the C-suite, but what I like is that you save all those patients’ lives, you save people from having extra days in the Intensive Care Unit. That is to me where the difference really lies.

Derek Wade:So the cool thing about that is that simulation and health care anytime you go into the sim room it’s very sexy from a technology standpoint – “Oh, this is cool, we’ve got to have one of these!” Anytime you go into an organization and you see this happen a lot of times when one part of the organization walks into the war room and sees all the sticky notes: “Oh, this is cool, we’ve got to have one of these!” Doing things because it is cool, I think it's awesome, it’s a great way to experiment with things, but at some point it reaches the ceiling, like you said the C-suite, and they go “I don’t care how cool it is, it goes against my principles. When I was a doctor I learned on real patients, when I was a developer I learned etc. This sticky notes stuff is bogus.”

Ok, so what if I could show some evidences based practice that said, that when you get people together and collocate them, when you get them using physical objects like stickies and not an online tool, when you do retrospectives and then act on those retrospectives, each of these things has a six to one or whatever dollar ratio feedback. Then the question of: “Should we do Agile or not?” or “What’s good Agile or bad Agile?” would be gone and we would not be having these kinds of discussions, we wouldn’t be having the Agile 2012 Conference, we would be having the Awesome 2012 Conference and how do we make business in the world far more, fantastic. And I have a lot of passion around that because to me this strikes me as a fairly solved problem and we just keep kind of doing over and over again because we can’t get that practice together.

Susan Eller: Don’t be too discouraged. We’re like Florence Nightingale talked about hand washing in the Korean war and it didn't really take on until, you know…

Derek Wade:And to your earlier question about “Are there any specific things that I hate”, I think, what I would say is there are so many good Agile Practices out there. There is the Agile Coaching Institute is doing some fantastic stuff, and then the Scrum Alliance and all of these groups are doing just such great things. There is positive deviance, there is appreciative inquiry, there is all these different ways of coaching, there is other fantastic pairing and TDD and engineering practices that are out there. They all do great but the problem is, is not that we don’t have the right practices or that we have bad practices, the problem is that people who want to select these practices and bring them into their organization, don’t realize the way to get the benefit and they are still asking the question: “Which one is the best, which one is right?” and “Who is the best coach consultant trainer because I want the best so that when I get it in I can than somehow the mana will radiate off of this coach or trainer and will infect our organization and we will get better.” No, you have to do the work and that is why we don’t really have the backup for it, that is why we don’t have the evidence for.


6. Going back to Double Loop Learning, why do we need Double Loop Learning? Why not just use single loop? Why not just, “Well, we saw something happen and we are going to take an action according to that?”

Susan Eller: I really think it’s because it’s not sustainable, because it gets to the mental model and it gets to the frames. And like I said before, people have this, it’s like part of this whole process that we talk about, is that we assume that people do things for these rational reasons and if it makes sense to them, how hard it is to get somebody to drop that if you don’t address that? It’s like I’ve had nurses that so strongly believe in something and I can tell them not to do it and like I said: “I heard that from Susan so I won’t”, but again that rational reason sooner or later will take over. And that is what getting to exposing the frames of the mental model is because they really believe that and unless I work with the belief, I can change the behavior and maybe I’ll change the behavior temporarily, maybe I’ll change the behavior for a long time, but I’m changing it for the wrong reasons because Susan said shouldn’t be a good reason. It’s like because there is evidence based practice – “Ok you should wash your hands” - it shouldn’t be I’m washing my hands because that is what my nurse educator told me to do, it should be I’m washing my hands because it decreases infections.

That is obviously an over simplistic example but it’s like if you can’t get to the reason why they’re so dead set against it, well I’m not going to wash my hands because if I do I’m going to create cracks in my fingers and it is going to spread infection because the infection will get stuck in my cracks and fingers. Ok, I can address that by talking and saying ok here's what is going to happen and what is not going to happen, but if I don’t know that that person still believes it, she is still carrying that around in her brain and somehow that leaks out. It’s like whether or not you always do it, ok so I’m going to be a little bit lax about it because I’m doing it because somebody told me I should not because I really believe it’s the right thing to do.


7. So you mentioned frames and mental models, perhaps you can just define that for us, what does that mean?

Derek Wade: Sure, so what Susan was talking about, that I can teach you one thing but you are going to come from another background. We are really trying to hack culture because culture eats training for breakfast and if I’m trying to help a group engaging in Agile Practices and their manager and people around them are coming from a background of “Waste not, want not, measure twice, cut once, and A stitch in time saves nine”, then this group will never be successful. The most common term for this I think is world view. What is his world view, what is his belief system? Whether we are aware of it or not, every time we make a decision, every time we take an action we are doing that based upon some belief of what is going to happen when we take that decision. We have in our brains a much watered down simplified version of the actual outside world.

In my brain, this might strike you as a little scary, I have a tiny little Todd that is my model based upon my past experiences with Todd about what he is going to react to, what he is interested in, what offends him, whether he’s a morning person or an evening person. And when I decide to get together with Todd for lunch or dinner, that decision is going to be informed by my model, my mental model of who Todd is and what he believes and what is interested in. That model frames or provides context for my decisions, my decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. The nice thing about models is that they let us interact with the world in a way that is more sophisticated then single celled animals or lower animals which is a direct interaction with the world. The difficult thing about models is that like any model it cannot accurately encompass the entire world and so there is going to be some distortions between what my model of the world is and what the world actually is.

So for example when I have a model that someone who displays this: “Hi, how are you doing, glad to meet you” handshaking behavior is in the past four times that I met someone like that is a lying, deceitful, backstabbing son of a gun. And then I meet someone who is just genuinely happy and outgoing and hi and handshaking glad to meet you, I’m going to react to them in a way that says: “I got to watch out for you, you son of a bitch”, and that might not be accurate. If I don’t take steps to validate or possibly even change that model, I will act in a way that is rational to me and meanwhile this poor friendly guy it’s going to say: “Derek why don’t you ever trust me” and he may not even say that, he may just say: “Derek is kind of an awful person who doesn’t trust people”.

Susan Eller: And it’s kind of like the mental model or frames and it’s like, yes, you assume that it’s rational but a lot of times is it based on evidence? Is it based on something that I’ve experienced over and over again or is it based on assumptions that I’m making? And that is when it comes into really exposing somebody else’s mental model or frames because it’s like: “Ok Derek, you’ve met three people and they’ve done this and you are going to assume that the next person will do that”. Well if I don’t know that then I’m trying to say: “Derek this guy's a really nice guy, why you are doing that?” If I say: “Derek you should be nicer, shake his hand next time, and be nice”. But if he says “Ok, here is my experience” and then we can talk about it and say ok, maybe that is a faulty assumption or maybe it's not, or whatever, but it allows you to have a richer deeper dialogue with people about why they do the things that they do.

I like to say some of the times in my professional we talk about the performance gaps, you have expectations so you have an expected behavior and someone performs and doesn’t do that expected behavior. Now, sometimes they don’t do the behavior that you want and it’s a bad thing, sometimes they do something that you consider so amazing and then: “Ok, I’d really love to talk about what made you decide to do that because I thought that was fascinating and I’d love to learn more, so share that mental model with me so that I can have it inside my brain too.” So you know it’s not always something that is necessarily a bad thing, sometimes it can be a way for you to learn if you are facilitating a group for the whole group to learn too.

Derek Wade: That is a really good point, I mean what we are talking about is ultimately and again this comes back a little bit to the philosophical, but being in touch with reality, and what if everyone in an organization was directly in touch with reality, so that their assumptions about other people were correct, their assumptions about their business were correct, their assumptions about the finances with the power flows are all correct, what if that was actually true, some organizations are like that and we call them Highly Transparent Organizations but you cannot just simply say: “Be transparent”.

You need to really have an organization of people who are curious enough to ask the kind of questions that Susan was just talking about, to who have, and this is where it gets a little bit personal, who actually have a sort of self-confidence enough to be willing to have their own mental models of the world change and be curious enough to find out why this person is being motivated to do something that they see as excellent, but we really didn’t get in that self-confidence factor of it, but we wanted at least give people some practice in changing their world view even on something very similar without maybe going into the deep therapeutic aspect of it.

Todd: And part of the things you covered through the exercises and the session, was really how do you balance advocacy and inquiry, can you just talk a little bit more about that?

Susan Eller: What do you know about comedy?

Derek Wade: Go ahead, but if you are going to tell that story and it’s about me, then I have to tell that story.

Susan Eller: You tell the story, because it’s a really good story, because it’s a simple thing.

Derek Wade: Allow me to throw myself under the bus that Susan just pointed out to us, you own me for this. So Susan and I were at a conference on a complexity, and I just happened to be talking with somebody over dinner about viral Cat Videos, LOL Cats I think it was, and they were saying: “I just do not get that, I do not see what is funny about that”, and I was very interested to find out what it was that they didn’t find funny or why they don’t find it funny, what I was interested in doing based upon my own beliefs was finding their mental model. So bright cognitive guy that I am, I thought that I would seek to use, and bright Agile Coach that I am, I thought I would whip out my tool of 5 why's, and start saying: “Well, why don’t you find them funny, I don’t know, I just don’t find them funny” was the response.

“This is interesting, let me seek a little more, do they have experience with comedy? What do you find funny? I find some of these other things funny like red skeleton. Ok, maybe there is just not really into whimsy and they are more into slippage humor, well are there other things that you find funny?”, question, question, finally I suddenly get back this response: “Look I’ve studied Comedic Theory”, at which point I have a completely WTF moment about why is this person attacking me and it’s because with repeated why's and repeated questioning I’m basically giving a message that your world view is not correct because of the difference in us, and I’m keeping a secret, I’m holding something in, I know what is right and I’m going to keep inquiring and keep asking and eventually you maybe find out what is right, and in which point the person appropriately lost their cool.

And I learned that PHD candidates are maybe a little more emotional and reacting to excessive inquiry than some folks in business, but in debriefing this, Susan pointed out that all you did was inquire, and at the same time, I’m running into situations where people have told me: “You need to do this, that thing that you did with that Scrum Master Derek was really not appropriate, you really should do this thing”. Well, I had a reason for doing what I’m doing, and when you tell me that that is what I should have done, you are not interested in my reasons for. So by balancing advocacy, here is my world view, here is my mental model, here is my assumption about guys who come out and reach out and glad hand you, and then inquire why do you not find LOL Cats funny, or whatever. I both make myself a little vulnerable, I show my reasoning and then I can inquire to the other persons reasoning and we have a Double Loop Conversation, where we are not arguing about, my behavior is right, your behavior is right, we are now uncovering and sharing, here is what I’ve learned about the world, here is what I’ve learned about the world, here is where they are in common, here is where they are not, we can make decisions based upon that.

Is not to say that is always agreeing, there is still some judgment involved, there is still some huge what I believe about the world but I’m just sharing that believe with you.

Susan Eller: And it’s like I think the inquiry, just inquiry is sure fire way to get people to defensive most of the time, but I think the just the advocacy thing tends to be a sure fire way to get people to back down, where they don't feel they have a right, we are talking about agency, they don’t have any agency at all, it’s all about what you know, is because you are the expert nurse, you are the senior educator, you are the expert Scrum Master so I’m doing it because of that, and again those are not the right reasons so it’s like you want to find the right balance of trying to get to the reason why the person thinks that way, and if there is something wrong, ok let’s work on fixing that if there is something that I stand to learn like I say it again, because I do learn a lot from people when I have these conversations. So it works both for the persons you are trying to coach or teach, as well as the person who is doing it.

Derek Wade: I’ll add from a business sense, Double Loop Learning is far more efficient and far more effective, it is interpersonally more effective, it is organizationally more effective. When there is a conflict, when there is probing, when there is just inquiry, when there is just advocacy, when there is just kind of infighting, it wastes a lot of time, it creates a lot of bad blood, which saps morale, which saps effectiveness and it impedes learning. When you actually get people who are uncovering and sharing their world views, their mental models, and being willing to adjust those mental models to be closer and in alignment with reality. No one has to win or lose but what happens is we learn together, and that is ultimately what Agile is about is rapid learning and we cannot have effective Agile Organizations without Effective Learning and we are not going to have Effective Learning if all we're going to do is debate if your action is right, or my action is wrong.

Todd: You have a good example in the session of the story of using Double Loop Learning, that was the Scum Master story that you told, I was wondering if you could share that with us just to give us an idea of how to put it all together?

Derek Wade: Yes, this was an example of wasting time. I and another coach went into an organization, we were pairing together, and we observed a Scrum Master shortly after our training engaging a daily stand up and basically did the Scrum Sprinkler. First person get up in the circle, Scrum Master walks right into the center and says: “What you did yesterday, what are you going to today, what’s impeding you”, tic, tic, tic, and I and this other coach we are sitting and going: “OH my God, that is so irrational, why would you do that, we just talked about yesterday, we just trained you in giving agency to the team, why are you doing this”. Scrum is over, the Scrum Master comes and sit down and says: “How do I do?” coach next to me says: “You really shouldn’t pull the team like that”, advocating, don’t do this, I stopped that line of thought and this was by permission we had arranged previously how we will do this coaching engagement, because my concern was if that line of discussion went on, the Scrum Master had a rational reason for why they did this.

And if the coach said: “Don’t do that”, the Scrum Master might add a rule and say: “Ok, don’t poll the team”, but it is conflicting with some metal model in their head and they would get confused, they might get frustrated and at the very best they would simply say: “I’ve got two rules that are conflicting in my head and I don’t know which one to use and they would go away confused”. I was more interested in bringing about this learning so I said: “I noticed what you did, in my experience doing that really robs the team of agency, so I’m really curious why you did that”, and I uncovered the Scrum Master's mental model that I learned that Scrums have to be fast and this was the way that I knew to bring it about fast.

Great, now I know something about your model, let’s look together and see is that model is valid in the light of the fact that you also you want to give the Scrum Teams agency and self-empowerment and self-organization which is more important: Bearing that in mind does that change your mental model? Yes, next time I realize that I need to balance the timeliness with the need for giving the team self-empowerment, and I probably might want to do things differently and I see why, thank you!”. Debrief that with the coach later and then he said: “Could I learn a little bit more about that?”, and I said: “Yeah, there is this thing called Bad Ass Double Loop Learning, etc.”

Todd: Awesome, well, thank you guys very much!

Thank you!

Jan 06, 2013