Wave 3

Dare to Challenge

Presenter Name: Jim Elvidge


Duration: 60 minutes


Audience Level: All


Session Style: Presentation


Description of Session:


Summary: The fear of change is a huge impediment to a person’s, team’s, or company’s transformation. It can result in a culture of inefficiency, mediocrity, stifled innovation, malaise, and talent flight. But the fear can be overcome with an agile mindset around challenging assumptions. This talk will practice the art of questioning our assumptions about everything. This ultimate exercise in open-mindedness examines organizational myths that impede agile adoption, pathological skepticism, and even the physics behind reality. Attendees should leave with a new-found worldview and courage to challenge.




• (Interactive) Start with posing a commonly held assumption (e.g. the existence of objective reality) to the audience. Take a poll on the level of belief (certain, strongly agree, weakly agree, neutral, weakly disagree, strongly disagree, certain not) of that assumption that will be challenged during the course of the workshop. Interactively draw a rough histogram of the results of the poll. (5 minutes)


• (Interactive) After a refresher on the five monkeys parable, discuss the social psychology behind the pattern, its evolutionary roots, and some of its manifestations in other culture spaces. Also note that what once served us well as a human survival instinct does not necessarily serve a company’s survival goals. Interactively discover additional negative consequences to the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” anti-pattern by brainstorming with the attendees. (15 minutes)


• Discuss a few examples of commonly held assumptions, ultimately overturned for the better. Three categories will be covered, including assumptions currently in the process of being overturned. (10 minutes)


* Science and Technology (domain of experts; very consequential to challenge - noting the correlation between the scientific method and agile organizational processes, and use of a vocabulary that is conducive to change)


* Nature of Reality (potentially highly consequential to challenge, this is to present evidence for the exercise in the first and last steps)


* Organizational Assumptions

- Customer is always right

- Quality is priority #1

- Conventional scrum practices

- Conventional management practices


• (Interactive) Poll the audience for examples of additional organizational myths and assumptions that they would like to call into question.(5 minutes)


• (Interactive) Present a set of techniques that can be used to overcome resistance within an organization (e.g., ROI, leverage points, small steps, education). Brainstorm on additional methods that can be used to help overcome some of the examples from the previous section. (10 minutes)


• (Interactive) Introduce the “Openness to Change” continuum. Place two contrasting companies on the continuum, using the audience “lean” method to place. Identify a range of “transformation readiness.” Consider personal compatibility with organization. (10 minutes)


• (Interactive) Finish with the same assumption posed originally and take another poll. Draw another histogram of the results and compare to the results from the start of the lecture. If there is a change, the message would be that if a group of people can be influenced to change their level of belief around a profound assumption in 60 minutes, imagine how they can influence beliefs within their company. If it doesn’t change, it would be testament to difficulty in changing beliefs in the face of strong evidence. Correlate the act of challenging assumptions to empowerment and relate the importance of the practice to a healthy agile adoption within an organization. (5 minutes)



Session Leader Background:


Jim Elvidge has had 25+ years of fun in the web, eCommerce, financial, communications and entertainment industries, including 15 years of international product and project management, executive leadership, agile coaching and training. Today, as a Senior Agile Consultant (CSM, CSP) with BigVisible Solutions, Jim focuses on helping companies transform to become more lean and agile in all aspects of their business. On the side, he dabbles in alternative theories in science and philosophy and has appeared on many talk radio shows throughout the world.



Session History:


I presented this topic at the Agile SoCal meeting on January 18 2012 to an audience of about 50 people.



Questions Answered by This Session:


• Attendees will discover some of the unexpected and negative consequences behind blindly accepting stale practices and processes.


• Attendees will learn some of the social psychology research behind the reason for a natural fear of change, including the mere exposure effect and familiarity principle.


• Attendees will learn the distinctions between and proper usage of commonly used words that lead to organizational myths, such as “proof”, “truth”, “belief”, “theory”, “evidence”, and “fact.”


• Attendees will learn about pathological skepticism, the realm of “experts,” including examples from the fields of science and technology, past and present. Learn how to identify it, and how to combat it.


• Attendees will discover mind opening concepts about the nature of reality fresh from the world’s leading research facilities.


• Attendees will learn about a new visual method for exploring willingness to change, organizational readiness for agile transformation, and personal/organization compatibility.


• Through exposure to all of these examples of the successful questioning of assumptions, attendees should develop a bit more open-mindedness to new concepts and a better agile mindset toward organizational change.


Session Leader Name(s) : Jim Elvidge

Proposed Duration : between 60 and 90 minutes


9 votes
Idea No. 66