Being Agile – Ontological perspective

Kari L. Granger (US Air Force Academy) shares her experience ..” I was in Iraq as the officer in charge of a unit, but for the first time under enemy fire, I realised that the knowledge I gained from studying leadership during six years of being educated as a military officer with a masters degree in Leadership, did not leave me being the leader I needed to be under fire. For example, knowing that in a frightening situation a leader should be courageous was very different from being courageous in that situation.

Reference (https://vimeo.com/65658787)

“Being Agile” is one of the top topic of discussion in many Agile forums and aspiration for many organisations. Various  aspects of being agile that are discussed in many Agile conferences, meetups and blogs. There are many opinions, views and perspectives about – “doing” Agile vs “being” Agile.  In this article an Ontological perspective about being Agile is shared.

Ontology is a branch of philosophy(in particular meta-physics) focusing on study and nature of ‘being’, this term is also widely used in social science, computer science /artificial intelligence, information science and in many other fields.

The term is derived from Greek words, “Onto” for existence and “logia” for study, science. The Latin derivative ontologia means science of being.

In general ontology focuses on the nature being. For example, let’s consider an apple. The existence of apple can be experienced by sight, touch, smell and taste.  In an apple juice, though the form is changed the existence can be experienced in the form of smell and taste. The “essence” or the being of an apple can be experienced.

In the case of living beings the concept of “being” is different, especially for human beings. Human beings  have wide range of beings in which they express themselves. Normally they are expressed as emotions like “being happy”, “being sad”, “being angry”, “being enthusiastic” and so on.  The being is not just the emotional state but it is much more than that. It is a combination of mental state (attitude and state of mind), emotional state (feelings and emotions), bodily state (body sensation), thoughts and thought process (logic and memory) in a given moment of time or in a given situation.  This also includes mind-set (frame of reference) and world view (model of reality).

In fact, one can’t write/read about “being” then it becomes “knowing”.

From an Ontological perspective, being agile explores the “being” as the ways of being for people and teams. For an effective transition to being Agile all aspects are important.

Unlike psychological models which are based on mind-set and worldview, ontological models are based on phenomenology (a methodical discipline deals with being and action as these are actually lived.  sometime referred as experiential learning). To access ones being tools/practices like mindfulness, reflection, and presence can be of great help.

Another way to distinguish being is to split any activity into doing, having and being domains.

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Suppose if you are preparing for an examination, first you take lot of actions (like you do all your preparation), it is in the domain of doing. As a result of your actions (preparation) you will get some results. It is either pass or fail in that examination or a certification. This is called “having” or results of your action (doing). Depending on the results there will be a change in our experience, you either become happy (if passed) or sad (if failed). You are “being happy” or “being sad” based on the results (having)  and action (doing).  This is our default paradigm.

The alternate paradigm considers the innate ability of human beings to alter their state of being. ontology-2

In alternate paradigm, you start with being happy, then take actions like studying and preparing for the exam. Finally as a result of your actions you get some results and choose appropriate ways of being to express it.

This alternate paradigm is used by many leaders and champions in their way of being.  It is like Roger Fedrer starts “being a champion” even before he enters the court , and plays the match to  the best of his abilities (doing) and (most probably) wins the grand slam (result).

This is not something you can use it like a formula but the alternate paradigm is definitely a possibility.

Once you are aware about the difference between “being” , “doing” and “knowing” you can start exploring the experience “Being Agile” and perform (do) agile practices and get extraordinary results (having) for you and your stakeholders.

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End note : Best way to experience the ontological perspective it to attend/participate in an event. I conducted a session in Agile Leadership meetup.  The slides are shared below

I would like to hear your views and feedback, write to me at rmithare@processwhirl.com or call me at +44 782 164 5866

 

 

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Power of Language

I have attended many workshops on presentation and communication skills during my early days of professional career and in these workshops one common statistics shared focuses on the channels of communications.  These statistics say that our communication is made-up of about 55% body language, 38% tone and 7%  on the actual words spoken.

Later when I was getting trained to become a professional coach, I learnt the crucial last 7% of communication i.e. the – the actual words spoken. Till that time all my focus was on improving my body language and tone.

I have often observed that some of the best coaches use certain words and speaking style frequently. It looks to me that they have mastered the art and science of communicating using the power of language. I have observed that some of the best coaches use phrases like “be on time” instead of “don’t be late”. I have often heard them saying “this sprint should be successful” instead of “this sprint should not fail”. Initially I used to think that they are just trying to say things in a positive manner by using sentences like “glass is half full” rather than “glass is half empty”. But it is not just that.

There is strong relation between the words we use and the reality we experience.  In metaphysics the concepts of reality is expressed in “language” only. All existence in this universe can be expressed only in language. Some philosophers argue that the reality that one experiences arises in one’s language. I agree to this part to a large extent.

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
― Ludwig Wittgenstein

To illustrate this point let’s do a small exercise to  try and understand the power of language.

Consider you get triggered by some person when they behave in a certain way. Now breakdown the whole scenario as below –

What is the trigger and result? When John checks-in the code without proper review and when I see the build failing. I become angry.

Notice the phrase “I become angry” – Now instead of using the word “become” try saying “I wound up being angry”.

What is the difference? By changing the language we actually create a new reality. Instead of the thinking you “become angry” you start to realize that due to certain triggers anger starts manifesting within you and you experience some emotions and behaviours.

Language is a very powerful tool and it has the power to alter or create reality. Artists and poets use it creatively to generate certain emotions and experiences. Lawyers use it to argue their cases. Therapists use it to heal people. Coaches use it bring out the best in others and leaders use to inspire people.

Hence you can change your words to change your world.

I close my article with my favourite video that demonstrates this power of language.

Ontological constraints in coaching ‘Agile Teams’

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I’m speaking at the upcoming Global Scrum Gathering in Bengaluru (27-29 Jun, 2016). In this article I will give some background about my 90 min workshop. The ‘ontological constraints’ is the topic close to my heart and I’m excited to share these concepts with all of you. These concepts are easy to understand but difficult to explain. I think these concepts have evolved along with the evolution of human beings. I find them very relevant in the context of Agile Software development which emphasis “interaction” among people.

Whenever there is an “interaction” among people these ontological constraints play a vital role in the overall outcome and experience of that transaction.

Let’s look at, what is Ontology?  Ontology is a branch of philosophy focusing on study and nature of ‘being’, now this term is also widely used in social science, computer science and in many other fields.

The term is derived from Greek words, “Onto” for existence and “logia” for study, science.

In general ontology focuses on the nature being for everything for example take an apple. The existence of apple can be seen, felt and can be tasted. In the context of managing Agile teams, I will be focusing on “way of being for people.”

To understand ‘the way of being’, pause for a moment.

Observe your mental state (attitude and state of mind), emotional state (feelings and emotions), bodily state (body sensation), thoughts and thought process (logic and memory). So your way of being is “what is going on with you internally in a given moment or in a given situation”

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Once you experience the way of being, you can now look at the ontological constraints.

To look at the ontological constraints you need do a small exercise.

Write down or make mental note of the following question.

What kinds of people or kinds of situations you find uncomfortable to deal with?

Consider that there are some invisible ontological constraints are at play here.

Share your thoughts here or write to me at  rmithare@processwhirl.com / mithare@gmail.com

Tweet at @mithareraghav  with #agilecoaching #SGBLR


I’m speaking at Global Scrum Gathering Bengaluru, 27-29 June 2016.  #SGBLR

Scrumalliance.org/sgblr

Happiness ! :-)

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Happiness is something that all of us seek. There are various definitions of happiness but deep inside all of us know the moments when we feel truly happy within.

Personally for me “happiness” comes as #1 priority and it ranks even before health and wealth.  Recently I read a quote that I completely resonate with

“Happiness is success, success is happiness “

Dimensions of happiness

We engage in many activities in order to be happy. Below are the activities we engage in to be happy.

Happiness = function of ( P, E, M)

Now let’s look at each of these components.

#1 P stands for Pleasure

There are many activities that give us instant gratification and give happiness, we can call them as pleasure and happiness.  For example

  1. Watching football
  2. Listening to music
  3. Eating our favourite dish

There are many actions we do to be happy. These include habits like smoking, internet surfing etc. Such actions that involve “instant gratification” give happiness.  But the problems is, at the end of the activity we feel like “I want more”. However when we repeat the activity, we notice that the level of happiness comes down drastically and at one point it even stops giving any happiness.

Another issue with activities that gives us instant gratification is they are addictive and at some point the activities become mechanical.

#2 E Stands for Engagement

When you are completely involved in these kind of activities, they also give happiness. The level of happiness is more than the activities involving pleasure.

For example

  1. Playing football than watching football
  2. Playing a musical instrument than listening to music
  3. Preparing a dish for family and friends than eating your favourite dish

In these activities you are completely involved, and there is some sense of accomplishment. You are in a state of “Flow” – It is a state of total absorption in an activity where the individual is so focused that nothing else seems to matter.

Compared to “pleasure” the activities involving “engagement” are longer in duration.

(please refer excellent work done by Mihaly Csikszentmihalay – FLOW)

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The optimal engagement comes when your ability and the challenge is optimal. When the challenge is bigger than your ability to do the activity then you experience some stress/fear whereas when your ability is more than the challenge then you experience boredom.

The problem with “Engagements” is it involves lot of time and requires initial investment. To enjoy playing guitar or violin you should invest your time in learning the instrument, then practice playing the instrument.  You need to have certain level of skill to experience the “FLOW”.

So far we covered pleasure (p) , and engagement (e).   The next aspect of happiness is activities involving meaning.

#3 M stands for meaning

Meaning involves engaging in activities with a purpose – a purpose bigger than self and caring about others. When you are involved in these kind of activities your level of happiness is not only higher but is also long lasting.

Prof. Selgman  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Seligman) authority on positive psychology reportedly conducted this experiment with his students.  One day instead of his regular class he took them to a movie and when they came back he asked them to rate on a scale of 1-5, the level of happiness they felt.  All students rated whatever they felt.

Next week again instead of his regular class he took them to a near by community school where kids from underprivileged background were studying. They spent the afternoon playing with these kids.  Again when they returned to college he asked them to rate on a scale of 1-5, the level of happiness they felt. He collected the data.

After six months towards the end of the semester, he handed over two forms, one was titled “Movie” and the other was “Visit to community school” and he asked the students to rate the current level of happiness with respect to these two events. Many of the students had forgotten that they had gone for a movie but everyone remembered the visit to the school.  The ratings after six months for  “Visit to community school” were much higher than the that for a “Movie”

The activities involving meaning will not only give higher level of happiness but it is also long lasting.

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I can share from my own personal experience.  We run a trust called Kruti( www.mykruti.com ) and couple of years back we did a photography workshop for kids from lower income group families .I still have beautiful memories about it.

Even after so many years, when I see the Kruti videos, I feel very joyful remembering the time spent with kids and their unconditional love, editing the videos, selecting the music and compiling the movie etc.

We can see that when we engage in activities that give us meaning and engagement automatically our level of happiness goes up.

Let’s be happy !