Preparation for Agile Submission based on work I have in place.
When we work an agile transformation we see a number of leadership behaviors that slow the adoption of the new approach. One is that we continue to see people, especially leadership, get stuck on a particular position which they have trouble moving from. The feeling is that they don’t want to be seen to be losing if things don’t follow their thinking; that someone else will win. So while everyone will talk about “establishing a learning culture”, the behavior isn't really about learning at all but rather posturing.
In traditional management cultures the problem is in the relative positioning - its either that I 100% win, or that I 100% lose. How do we encourage truth-seeking instead of posturing? What we need to do is to get the conversation to be able to better deal with ambiguity by becoming more explicit on working with probabilities and less about absolute positions.
This workshop will work through an understanding of why people think the way they do, the problems traditional thinking causes, an alternative approach using a “betting” metaphor to more accurately assess positions and encourage less posturing. By thinking in terms of bets, and setting up real experiments, you will be able to improve how you and your organization makes decisions and conducts experiments.
Of course in many ways this is all a lead up. In the final analysis we want people to retrospect regularly, discover problems and learn new things, and figure out ways to get better. This thinking should also support that and, if we have scheduled retrospectives, will help us be crisper about what we are seeing when we review the results of the experiment at the next retrospective.
When we work an agile transformation we see a number of leadership behaviors that slow the adoption of the new approach. One that we often see is when people, especially leadership, get stuck on a particular position from which they have trouble moving even when there is significant evidence that their position is wrong. The feeling is that they don’t want to be seen to be losing if things don’t follow their thinking; that someone else will win. So while everyone will talk about “establishing a learning culture”, the behavior isn't really about learning but rather posturing.
In traditional management cultures the problem is in the relative positioning - its either that I 100% win, or that I 100% lose. How do we encourage truth-seeking instead of posturing?
What we need is to better way to deal with ambiguity by becoming more explicit on working with probabilities and less about absolute positions. This workshop will work through an understanding of why people think the way they do, the problems traditional thinking causes, an alternative approach using a “betting” metaphor to more accurately assess positions and encourage more collaboration and less posturing. We will:
By thinking in terms of bets, and setting up real experiments (with testable outcomes that are captured and reviewed), you will be able to improve how you and your organization makes decisions and collaborates. And you will help move the culture away from posturing to learning.
None really, although there is an expectation that people have have come across this issue with leadership not really leaning in to the transformation, that they are pretty much behaving as they normally have and would like to work this issue.
This is an outline for the session. After the introductions, scene setting, we will run through the following steps:
Information for Program Team
This is an outline for the session. After the introductions, scene setting, the problem I was trying to solve, we will run through the following workshop steps:
I have been doing agile transformation work since 2007 coaching, facilitating workshops, developing training materials, working with executives and leadership, and working day-to-day on agile transformations from team to enterprise level. I am currently leading a transformation of a traditional IT organization that will result in over 100 teams, geographically dispersed. This experience lead to the creation of this new workshop. The approach discussed has been worked with groups of leaders and coaches in that transformation. This is the first time it has be pulled together as a single workshop session.
I have also previously presented at the Agile Alliance Conferences:
Story: “I think back on some of the decisions I make and with this information I notice some things. So I've been on the corporate ladder for much of my life and this was good while things were going my way. So every time I got a promotion, I thought 'that was because they've recognized my skills - I am wonderful!' Contra-wise every time someone was promoted into a position I thought I should have I thought wow 'I am so unlucky' and then 'that person is such a brown-nose' and 'that manager clearly doesn't recognize quality when he sees it'. Notice I am either blaming the other for lack of skill. Also notice that this is a zero sum game - I win / you lose; you win / I lose. Also notice the result is that I am unable to improve my process.”
State: “Surprisingly, being smart can actually make bias worse. Let me give you a different intuitive frame: the smarter you are, the better you are at constructing a narrative that supports your beliefs, rationalizing and framing the data to fit your argument or point of view. After all, people in the “spin room” in a political setting are generally pretty smart for a reason. Corollary: the better you are with numbers, the more you can 'explain' your story.”
State: Learning to recognize the difference between the two is what thinking in bets is all about. And this comes back to “experiments”. We have a tendency to say “lets experiment” which is good, but we don't really take the time to go back and work the experiment to see what we actually learned from this, and the decision making process.
State: We are less likely to succumb to motivated reasoning since it feels better to make small adjustments in degrees of certainty instead of having to grossly downgrade from “right” to “wrong.” When confronted with new evidence, it is a very different narrative to say, “I was 58% but now I’m 46%.” That doesn’t feel nearly as bad as “I thought I was right but now I’m wrong.” Our narrative of being a knowledgeable, educated, intelligent person who holds quality opinions isn’t compromised when we use new information to calibrate our beliefs, compared with having to make a full-on reversal. This shifts us away from treating information that disagrees with us as a threat, as something we have to defend against, making us better able to learn.
State “In summary, benefits of this approach include:”
Ideas include forming learning groups where the focus is on thinking in bets means modifying the usual social contract. It means agreeing to be open-minded to those who disagree with us, giving credit where it’s due, and taking responsibility where it’s appropriate, even (and especially) when it makes us uncomfortable. As long as there are three people in the group (two to disagree and one to referee*), the learning group can be stable and productive.
Philip Tetlock and Jennifer Lerner, leaders in the science of group interaction, described the two kinds of group reasoning styles in an influential 2002 paper: “Whereas confirmatory thought involves a one-sided attempt to rationalize a particular point of view, exploratory thought involves even-handed consideration of alternative points of view.”
And finally use the natural agile ceremonies to operationalize learning with experiments as an input into that.
Biases Effecting Our Decision Making:
Special bonus bias
Idea: Brief description of the experiment
- How will we know:
Broader objectives of this session:
Other ideas. What is the learning model for leadership and how is this part of that? We want new behaviors for leadership. Is there a learning model we can pull together?
Perhaps we go with better approach to win / lose and set up real experiment. Say probability, and we are seeking to improve.
Definition: Why use a bet? A bet is a decision when you have an uncertain future.
Why bets: Treating decisions as bets helps avoid common decision traps, learn from results in a more rational way, and keep emotions out of the process as much as possible.
The challenge is not to change the way our brains operate but to figure out how to work within the limitations of the brains we already have.
Thinking in bets starts with recognizing that there are exactly two things that determine how our lives turn out: the quality of our decisions and luck. Learning to recognize the difference between the two is what thinking in bets is all about.
Start with “tell me about a bad decision you made” - get to decision vs result confusion
Hindsight bias is the tendency, after an outcome is known, to see the outcome as having been inevitable.
What makes a decision great is not that it has a great outcome. A great decision is the result of a good process, and that process must include an attempt to accurately represent our own state of knowledge. That state of knowledge, in turn, is some variation of “I’m not sure.”
There are many reasons why wrapping our arms around uncertainty and giving it a big hug will help us become better decision-makers. Here are two of them. First, “I’m not sure” is simply a more accurate representation of the world. Second, and related, when we accept that we can’t be sure, we are less likely to fall into the trap of black-and-white thinking.
When we think in advance about the chances of alternative outcomes and make a decision based on those chances, it doesn’t automatically make us wrong when things don’t work out. It just means that one event in a set of possible futures occurred.
Any prediction that is not 0% or 100% can’t be wrong solely because the most likely future doesn’t unfold.
When I speak at professional conferences, I will occasionally bring up the subject of belief formation by asking the audience a question: “Who here knows how you can predict if a man will go bald?” People will raise their hands, I’ll call on someone, and they’ll say, “You look at the maternal grandfather.” Everyone nods in agreement. I’ll follow up by asking, “Does anyone know how you calculate a dog’s age in human years?” I can practically see audience members mouthing, “Multiply by seven.” Both of these widely held beliefs aren’t actually accurate. If you search online for “common misconceptions,” the baldness myth is at the top of most lists. As Medical Daily explained in 2015, “a key gene for baldness is on the X chromosome, which you get from your mother” but “it is not the only genetic factor in play since men with bald fathers have an increased chance of going bald when compared to men whose fathers have a full set of hair. . . . [S] cientists say baldness anywhere in your family may be a sign of your own impending fate.” Tells you we are not as logical as we think - listen, truth, perhaps change Then “you are wrong!” Bias or is there a better way to do this? Learning loop
Question: we as coaches use idea that “let’s experiment” as a way of progressing a new idea. When is it appropriate to do this without disciplined follow up of the experiment?
My story - horse race betting in Hong Kong
Definition of “motivated reasoning” - form / cling to beliefs despite overwhelming evidence. Seek out information that confirms what they believe.
Our beliefs drive the bets we make: which brands of cars better retain their value, whether critics knew what they were talking about when they panned a movie we are thinking about seeing, how our employees will behave if we let them work from home.
This is how we think we form abstract beliefs:
It turns out, though, that we actually form abstract beliefs this way:
In other words, people are credulous.
Flaws in forming and updating beliefs have the potential to snowball. Once a belief is lodged, it becomes difficult to dislodge.
This irrational, circular information-processing pattern is called motivated reasoning. The way we process new information is driven by the beliefs we hold, strengthening them. Those strengthened beliefs then drive how we process further information, and so on.
Disinformation is different than fake news in that the story has some true elements, embellished to spin a particular narrative. Fake news works because people who already hold beliefs consistent with the story generally won’t question the evidence. Disinformation is even more powerful because the confirmable facts in the story make it feel like the information has been vetted, adding to the power of the narrative being pushed.
Fake news isn’t meant to change minds. As we know, beliefs are hard to change. The potency of fake news is that it entrenches beliefs its intended audience already has, and then amplifies them.
Surprisingly, being smart can actually make bias worse. Let me give you a different intuitive frame: the smarter you are, the better you are at constructing a narrative that supports your beliefs, rationalizing and framing the data to fit your argument or point of view. After all, people in the “spin room” in a political setting are generally pretty smart for a reason.
It turns out the better you are with numbers, the better you are at spinning those numbers to conform to and support your beliefs
Blind-spot bias—an irrationality where people are better at recognizing biased reasoning in others but are blind to bias in themselves
Giving that up is not the easiest choice. Ie Doing bets is not easiest choice. We tell ourselves stories and we might find that those stories are not real.
A good decision group is a grown-up version of the buddy system. Role of leadership team in holding each other accountable?
Powerful questions for learning groups:
“No sober person thinks getting home safely after driving drunk reflects a good decision or good driving ability” – Annie Duke “Thinking in Bets”.
“The quality of our lives is the sum of decision quality plus luck.” – Annie Duke “Thinking in Bets”.
“In most of our decisions, we are not betting against another person. Rather, we are betting against all the future versions of ourselves that we are not choosing” – Annie Duke “Thinking in Bets”.
“The benefits of recognizing just a few extra learning opportunities compound over time.” – Annie Duke “Thinking in Bets”.
“To change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.” – Unknown
“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” – Aldous Huxley
“Whereas confirmatory thought involves a one-sided attempt to rationalize a particular point of view, exploratory thought involves even-handed consideration of alternative points of view.” – Philip Tetlock and Jennifer Lerner
Originally submitted to “Leadership” track. Track purpose is:
“Organizations today are working hard to reinvent the workplace – and they need leaders at all levels to help lead them into the future. This raises many questions regarding execution:
The aim of this track is to answer these and many more questions on the role of the Agile Leader. When you attend a session in this track, you will find practical, real world examples of leadership in Agile teams and organizations. Not only will you have the chance to connect with other leaders, you will also learn ideas and techniques to enhance your leadership capabilities.”