Agree to Try

Before starting to implement any GROWS Method® ideas, you need to get everyone to agree that they will try their best to make it work. Instead of assuming implicit agreement, or mandating agreement, actually get the folks involved to publicly commit that they will try.

YouSuck.png

Everyone understands and agrees that real change is a process, takes time, and requires patience and commitment at all levels in your company in order to be effective.

Pain Points

  • You’ve tried adopting new methods previously, but it didn’t work out well
  • You’ve seen confusion on the team and in the organization about who is responsible for what
  • Management doesn’t trust the team
  • The team doesn’t trust management

Benefits

  • Build trust with transparency and accountability
  • Limit ego and territorial attitudes
  • Limit overt destructive behaviors, e.g., information hoarding and sabotage
  • Harness the power of participation
  • Turn failure and errors into learning and growth

Assessment

  • Organization leadership agrees to try these ideas (100pts)
  • Team members agree to try these ideas (100pts)
  • Individuals are engaged, participating, actively commenting and providing input (20pts)
  • No drama. Passion is encouraged. (20pts)
  • Ideas are evaluated against success criteria, not against a proxy or personal biases (20pts)
  • Individuals get attacked (-20pt)
  • Individuals shut down discussion, shouting over others (-20pts)
  • Individuals act out negatively (-30pts)
  • Organization leaders do not agree to try these ideas (-1000pts. Game Over.)

Application

✓ Critical ❑ Helpful ❑ Experimental

Adoption Experiment

Do the following steps to get started.

Setup

  1. Select one, smaller, single area in the company where developers want to try something new. Remember that corporate-wide roll-outs violate SmallBitesAlways.
  2. Have a meeting across all three organizational levels (Steering, Enabling/Enhancing, Making) where all participants acknowledge and understand the difficulties of the “suck curve,” ego and personal agendas.
  3. In the spirit of AnswersFromExperiments, everyone agrees on the conditions of this experiment: what will be tried, for how long, and what feedback to look for.
  4. All participants make a signed, public commitment to agree to these conditions and to try their best.

Trial

  1. Have the selected team try the new thing, as agreed
  2. Meet frequently and collect input from team members and others on how the adoption is going and make adjustments based on AnswersFromExperiments to improve the adoption

Evaluate Feedback

  1. Overall, check for anyone exhibiting destructive behavior, e.g., information hoarding, sabotage, uncooperative attitudes, negative outlook
  2. Responsibilities are shared, just like information
  3. People actively seek new information, and don’t rely on received wisdom or “business as usual”
  4. Corporate rewards (bonuses, recognition, promotion) recognize cross-functional collaboration
  5. Failures and errors aren’t viewed as disasters, but as opportunities to steer and refine processes and management
  6. Incidents are viewed as a lens into the system, not as a definitive cause or effect
  7. New ideas are embraced and investigated via experimentation

What Does it Look like?

An organization is a group of folks working together, and the GROWS Method® tries to make it easier for everyone to work together to achieve their overall goals.

The GROWS Method® is for everyone in an organization. It’s not just for leaders, or just for developers. It’s a corporate strategy for generating intellectual property in frequently changing, partial-knowledge environments. And because it involves everyone, everyone needs to agree that they will give their honest, best effort.

Transparency and accountability go both ways, from leadership to team members and back, throughout the organization.

So what does Agree to Try look like? Everyone involved in The GROWS Method® needs to publicly:

  • Commit to try these wacky new things to the best of their ability
  • Accept that change may be painful and slow at first, and initially feel awkward and unproductive
  • Realize that they have the power to ignore, de-rail or sabotage this effort, but agree not to

It may sounds hokey and perhaps naive, but many “change initiatives” fail on this one simple point: explain clearly what we’re trying to do, and ask everyone to agree to try it, mess and all:1

… if there is no mess and no confusion, we are not seeing any real change, just a bit of singing and dancing to the latest music in the charts.

You Start Small

Even though the GROWS Method® is designed for the whole organization, that doesn’t mean you want to start with the whole organization all at once. That’s a guaranteed path to failure. In keeping with OneThingAtATime, chose one specific starting point.

A small, pilot team is a great way to start, and honors the SmallBitesAlways Practice. You want that team’s leadership to be on board with the change, as far up as you can go; the higher the better.

You need a thin thread of agreement, right up the management chain. Just like the TracerBullets approach to thin, vertical slices of code, this forms a sort of management “tracer bullet.”

The idea of experiments in the GROWS Method® addresses common resistance, by proving value early and inexpensively. In order for that to work, all parties must enter in with at least an open mind.

You need at least one champion in the executive leadership to Agree To Try, so you can help foster and improve executive involvement.

Meeting “Resistance”

Many people, especially outside of the development team, react negatively to any mention of change whatsoever—especially a change that tosses out the familiar comfort of a known Plan with firm dates and deliverables.

But for most organizations, those medium- to long-range, explicitly detailed plans are a complete fiction. The inevitable deviation from the naive plan breeds hostility, distrust, and an ultimately negative environment for all parties. Instead of continuing to treat guesses as fact, we want to move toward an organization that deals with facts as they happen.

That’s much easier said than done, and requires a deep commitment to Agree to Try with the realization that things will be messy and fluid. Of course, things are already messy and fluid. Better to recognize that and use the correct tools to deal with it instead of trying to ignore change and feedback:2

“It may look like a crisis, but it’s only the end of an illusion.”

Warning Signs

You’re doing it wrong if you or your organization…

  • behaves territorially. You mark your territory like an aggressive dog, refusing to share power or information, and let everyone know if you weren’t included in the decision
  • when something new comes up, avoid it or kill it
  • is inflexible. You’ve got a policy for everything. If it’s not in the book, it doesn’t exist. This is the way we’ve always done it
  • are uncomfortable with uncertainty. In an iterative, incremental project, you will not know the project end date or even what features will be delivered in the next iteration. You cannot stand this, and will insist on fixed dates and costs right up front
  • treat developers as a commodity; a uniform, fungible resource. They are all alike You can’t trust them to think for themselves, you’ve got to make the important decisions for them
  • believe development is a linear process. You ignore unpleasant feedback. Rather than acting on it, you always stick to the plan, just like a politician in an ill-advised military quagmire

See also the discussion of Pathological and Bureaucratic cultures in InformationFlows.

If any of these descriptions are true for your organization—or for yourself—then you’re not ready for The GROWS Method® (or any change) yet.

How To Fail Spectacularly

Pit departments or projects against each other.

Demand agreement without supporting transparency or accountability from leaders or team members.

Any of the following statements by stakeholders is a warning sign that perhaps you are at Stage Zero, and not ready to begin:

  • “We can’t possibly do that here”
  • “We’ve never done it that way before”
  • “We did that once and it failed”
  • “That can’t work”

  (Create Psychological Safety) Next→


  1. Implementing Beyond Budgeting @Bogsnes:2016 

  2. Secrets of Consulting (Weinberg, 1986) 

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