Sat, 08 Oct 2005
Blaming and lecturing
Satir's models of
among those who worry
about software team dynamics. I'm uneasy about
them on two grounds.
One is that the
categories they draw strike me as too big. Consider the
communication stances. The model identifies three "things in
the world": Self, Other, and Context. People take bad
communication stances when they (try to) ignore one or more of those things. For
example, a Placating
person will ignore Self in favor
of Other and Context.
My difficulty is that there are so many Others and
pieces of Context ready-to-hand at every moment (even if you're
talking to one person about one thing) that I'm uneasy about the
ignoring Context or Other. That probably means ignoring a lot
of the Context or Other, but the parts you don't ignore are
probably awfully important. (And, as a teensy
bit of a postmodernist, I'm not 100% sure it's always that useful
to think of a unitary
self, so even ignoring Self is maybe not such a
Now, I expect the model has been expanded, but my
informal encounters haven't shown me the elaborations. Perhaps I
will at the AYE
The other source of unease is that Satir's models are grounded in
family therapy. That, it seems to me, often leads to
overconcentration on the negative. Function becomes
the absence of dysfunction, joy becomes the absence of
frustration. One becomes "congruent" by ceasing to ignore one,
two, or three of the things in the world.
For example, in the change model crisis kicks off change.
Change must push through resistance. Again, that's certainly
often true (and consultants must often deal with resistance). But
that's not the way all change happens. Some people like
change, and others are agnostic (the change threatens nothing
they particularly care about). My impression is that a lot of the
elements of XP were more motivated by a harkening back to an
idyllic time at Tektronix Labs than by stark necessity.
(A preference for Satir may be a product of selection bias. Back when
I was a pure testing consultant, I - like an awful lot of consultants
- got called almost exclusively into companies with problems. There,
the Satir model is
so often appropriate that it must be easy to see dysfunctional
family life everywhere. Now that I'm consulting in Agile, I more
often go to companies that are doing perfectly OK and want to do
better. That promotes a sunnier view of life.)
But that's not what I mainly wanted to write about. In the
communication stances model, the ignoring of Other leads to Blaming
behavior. If I model my own behavior that way, I'd say Blaming is
not often the result. What I do more is Unstoppable Framing
and Advice-Giving. It's figuring out what the problem and its
context are, plus throwing out all kinds of potential solutions.
That's different than Satir's Super-reasonable behavior, which is
aloof, reasonable, and intellectual".
I'm not cool or aloof; I'm usually passionate and
determinedly optimistic - "hey, how about this. It would
turn the problem on its head and make it a neat opportunity."
That's helpful behavior except when it becomes
more about me and less about the Other I'm supposedly helping, when
it becomes a way to shift the issue away from what the other person
needs to what I'm good at doing: problem-solving, idea generation,
and talking. I'm using the Context as a way of making my Self
comfortable. The solution (there I go again) is to make sure to let
the Other guide the conversation.
I bet Dawn (who's witnessed more of this from me than anyone else has) would
describe it as stereotypically male behavior. It probably is
statistically more common among males. But I'd be willing to bet
it's an occupational hazard for consultants.
So, by Box's
criterion that all models are wrong, but some are useful, Satir's
model is useful. I don't use it much, though.
## Posted at 18:31 in category /misc