The Art of Possibility

It’s been a little while since I have written a blog. I guess I have been off the radar for a bit, but I am back now. Since we last spoke I have been to the Scrum Gathering Paris and had an awesome time. I was so encouraged to hear about the great journey they have had at Spotify, and it shows what the art of the possible really is. My work family (RippleRock) were proud sponsors of the event and we hosted a Marshmallow Challenge on the second night. I love that game! I also love eating marshmallows Smile


I also attended the Agile Business Conference where I presented ‘The Style Challenge’ with my good friend Ben Cooke. It was it his first conference or debutant as I like to call it Smile He did a fantastic job and I look forward to his next submission.

I will be drawing my conference season to an end this week by attending my first ever Modern Management Conference. I am looking forward to seeing all my fellow Kanban enthusiasts and maybe 1 or 2 from my time in Sapanca getting accredited.

On the Kanban front Dan Brown and I have launched the Kanban Coaching Exchange. We had an awesome first session and over 40 people attended. It’s fantastic to see so many people giving up their free time to come and develop themselves and learn more. Don’t forget about the Agile Coaching Exchange also! We had the highest numbers ever come and hear Roman Pichler talk about Product Ownership. From my experiences with Scrum this is one area that many organisations really fall behind on. If you missed the session you can pick up the slides here, and we will shortly be releasing the video. Did I mention we are now starting to record our sessions Smile

I wanted to talk to you today about the art of the possible. I was heavily influenced in the subject by the book ‘The Art of the Possibility’ by Ben & Rosamund Zander. Ben is the conductor of the Boston philharmonic orchestra and his wife is an executive coach.

Even though I am an Agile Coach I still sometimes get caught up in the politics and processes of an organisation, and I found myself in this situation not so long ago. This could be through not challenging the status quo or working around a process that maybe is no longer valid or just getting approval for doing something. The book was suggested to me by a colleague I was working with at the time and did initially think it sounded a little bit like a self-help book. I was so far off the mark because it actually helped me reframe my whole mind-set and look at the world differently. For those working with me at the time will remember my ‘No Regrets ‘mission. For the curious amongst you, it was about challenging everything we do and making the change towards better practices and agility. I was not going to ask for permission. I was just going to do it and if I got my arse kicked, so be it. I had the organisations best interest and goals at heart and so armed with that I was ready with new invigorated ideas, enthusiasm and passion. Did I ever get my arse kicked? As if! No one is brave enough for that.  Smile with tongue out

So what’s it all about?

To explain it all fully here I would need to type out the book, and so I advise you to read it for yourself. To help you all out though I thought I would provide a high level summary of the chapters to wet your appetites.

  1. “It’s all invented” In everyday life we make assumptions about pretty much everything. We make these assumptions many times without really acknowledging or understanding it. By our nature we focus on ourselves. We need to learn how to read and look outside of the assumptions and think bigger than what is in place already.
  2. “Scarcity thinking” – Glass half empty or half full?
  3. Self-fulfilling prophecy – If you assume that people will do well and help them to see how they can, they will. Zander gives every student an “A” in his class, and simply asks them to write a paper to tell what they will do to deserve that A. This gets the students focused on excellence, and takes away the tension that gets in the way of real results.
  4. Mind-set – “being a contribution – you are a gift to others”. How could that change what you do – to focus on the external perspective?
  5. Involve everyone! Zander asks his players to write down how he could improve practices and performances, and pays attention to the suggestions genuinely viewing leadership from all levels.
  6. “Don’t take yourself so seriously – to lighten up”.
  7. ‘Be present to the ways things are’  Many of us are disconnected from reality. By getting back to it, we can see more possibilities.
  8. ‘Give way to passion’  Going with your feelings allows you to be more real, and to go to new heights of accomplishment. Allow yourself to let go.
  9. ‘Light a spark’ See you role as creating a spark of possibility to be lit that others can see. Act as a catalyst for yourself and others.
  10. Be the framework!
  11. Create a vision – “frameworks of possibility”
  12. ‘WE’ – Focus on being inclusive and considering what is best for all.

Final Thoughts

All good systems need to be re-calibrated from time to time and I don’t see us being any different.
I recommend you get this book and read.  it will change your perspective! (note: I am not on commission)

Ask yourself these questions today

‘What assumptions have I made today?’

‘Were they right for the context I used them?

‘Is there a better way?’