Sorry, I broke Your Company

One day the journeyman went to the village to see how the people were progressing on their new housing project. He was astonished to see that everyone was using hammers to pound nails, stir the cement and perform other tasks.

He was astonished, and quickly took to the mountains where he confronted his master.

“Master, why oh why did you teach these people to stir cement with a hammer?” he pleaded.

“My young journeyman, when I lived in the village, the people had no shelter. They had wood, but no means to construct a shelter. I showed them how to use a hammer and nails to make a basic shelter.  Now they have evolved and need to learn new methods.”

I heard this story at an Agile conference a number of years ago so I can’t remember exactly how it went.

And so the story goes, “you damn consultants, you broke my company!” or “what?!?!? why did those consultants do that?!?!

When it comes to implementing Agile, the first consultant or company is most likely to become the sacrificial goat. They’ll work hard under a tight deadline because they sold a fixed price, fixed scope, spray-on-transformation, and they’ll do some of the right things but it takes the organization a while to internalize the change.  At some point the contract is up, or the consultant/company is fired and then the clean-up crew comes in.

I’ve been part of the clean-up crew before. It’s a lot easier! Sometimes.

I’ve also been the sacrificial goat sometimes. And it used to suck.

That’s right, it used to suck.

Now I’ve learned coaching is about helping people find the answer to their own problems and remaining detached from the outcome. When I (and my fellow Leanintuiters) work with people I create a coaching agreement. Sometimes clients ask to be told what to do (then they say “shut up consultant! YOU don’t know what it’s like here!!!!” ) but most of the time they want guidance, coaching and feedback so they can figure it out themselves.

Today at the Toronto Agile & Software conference I caught up with a lot of people I’ve worked with over the years and a theme emerged. Many of them said they missed me, and a few had stories about something I helped them with and they just wanted to say thanks.

Others who I didn’t work with but had Skype calls with or gave advice (WHEN THEY ASKED ME TO!) said the same. Thanks.

Perhaps the best feedback came a couple of years ago at an Agile open space where someone told me a year before that, I inspired them to bring Agile into education.

I. Was. Floored.

So to the people in organizations I’ve worked with over the years who’ve blamed me for breaking their company, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I tried to help you, and failed. From your perspective.

It used to bother me when I’d hear things like “it’s the coaches fault our project failed…he wouldn’t let me use my laptop at the retrospective“…and yes, that’s a true story. But now, it doesn’t. Some people are ready for help, some are not. I prefer to focus my energy on those who want to learn how to improve how they work.

And I want to focus my energy on helping people love what they do. Thanks Olaf for an inspiration keynote today. That, and connecting with old friends re-affirmed why I do what I do.