From Be to Do and back to Be - DoBeDoBeDo



Frank Sinatra sang ‘Strangers in the Night’ in 1966. It became a popular song that marked Sinatra’s return to the limelight in the popular music business. Towards the end of the song he chants, 'Do-be-do-be-do', and this is the tune that Paul Whitcomb (a fellow Generative coach) and I sang during a collaborative coaching session with him one sunny Sunday in North London. 


Paul and I spent time together talking about coaching. As we talked, it became apparent that there were parallels in what we wanted to explore. So we agreed to create a space where we could look at some deeper concepts to do with the second skin (the notion of a receptive but also protective outer layer that we all possess when we interact with each other in the world), to see if we could create a deeper connection between us using some Generative Coaching techniques and also, coming to the fundamental point of this article, to consider the concept of being and doing.


As we were working together, I became very conscious that the field that we were in was so similar, to the current world of Agile, and the Agile mindset.


To those of you who are familiar with Agile, you will be aware that Agile is a mindset based on 4 values, 12 principles and a whole bunch of different practices. I think the graphic below demonstrates this very well (with thanks to The Arbinger Institute).



Doing Agile

There's a lot of talk within the agile community about being agile and doing agile. And this refers to the fact that often, the pressures of work can lead us towards focussing on the doing part of agile. This can mean that people spend a lot of time directing their attention towards a tool like Jira or Azure DevOps or a framework like Scrum or Kanban.  


I'd even say that sometimes, Agile consultants can get quite prescriptive. I often see experienced Project Managers who are under pressure to deliver to a fixed date, but they also are under pressure to show that they're delivering their project in an agile way.  

Unfortunately, I have not seen successful outcomes in these scenarios. Usually, the 'agile transformation' becomes a ‘tick box’ exercise, where people look to demonstrate agile ways of working but there are no behaviour changes taking place at all. 


There's lot of doing but not a lot of change.


Unfortunately, Agile Coaches don't always help here. In fact, there's a danger that they might even make things worse. This is usually because the Agile Coach has experience in a specialist area and so that person evangelises the benefits of that specialism to their client, possibly without spending time with the client to understand their context and situation.

When this happens, this moves the client away from the true spirit of agile and toward a specific framework or application of something. It misses the whole point about what agile is. A way of being. A mindset if you like. A philosophy. A way of life even.


Being Agile

Agile teams follow practices and behave in ways that support the Agile principles:

  1. Regular incremental delivery

  2. Constant feedback and interaction with customers

  3. Adaptive and continuous planning

  4. Focus on value

  5. Teams self-organising

  6. Collaboration

  7. Continually improving


So, don’t focus on the doing but do focus on the being bit. This is what agile is all about.


Agile Leadership and Culture


Often the problem is that, because agile is seen as a team level thing, Senior Leaders don’t think it has anything to do with them. As a result, problems start to arise in the middle layer of management. As Ken Schwaber said, “Agile development will not solve any of your problems – it will just make them so painfully visible that ignoring them is harder.”


This can mean exposing political challenges within an organisation. These can be tricky to resolve. Particularly the higher up the organisation you go. A lot of this comes down to challenging political power and authority. 


I haven’t found a way to simply resolve this, and I’ve read a lot of books and worked with a lot of people to explore different approaches. It all seems to come down to attitudes to change, an openness to learn and better ourselves. 


And an openness to take a coaching approach. By this I mean moving from command and control to a more open, ‘I don’t have to be the expert’ approach. This is akin to Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline –The Art of Practise of Learning Organisations but also Claire Grave’s work on Spiral Dynamics and Peter Drucker’s notion of the Knowledge worker. 

Peter Drucker, defined a knowledge worker as ‘someone who knows more about their work than their boss.’ In this age, we can all recognise this in our work environments.


So, what does all of this have to do with Generative Change?


Generative Change is a term created by the International Association for Generative Change (IAGC). Here's a link to their website. https://generative-change.com/


Mission

The mission of the IAGC is to bring Generative Change work to the world. We want to see a world where coaches, psychotherapists, leaders, teachers, trainers and entrepreneurs are living principles of Generative Change and are creating a world to which people want to belong.


The IAGC was founded by Stephen Gilligan and Robert Dilts.  


Robert Dilts is well known for his work on Logical Levels (amongst other things as he has written numerous books). This term refers to a series of levels that can be applied to an individual or group of individuals. These levels create a potential roadmap of change for a coach whether at the individual, team or organisational level. The levels go from environment (what the environment is like? where somebody is within that environment) via behaviours, capabilities, values and beliefs all the way through to identity (for an individual, a team or an organisation overall). This should be starting to paint a cultural picture when you work across all of these levels. Click here for a more detailed description, Logical Levels


Below is a picture of Dilts talking about this topic on his generative coaching programme.



The term ‘Logical Levels’, was adapted by Dilts from Gregory Bateson's anthropological work that can now be applied to the life of people in any system, and indeed the life of the system itself. It can be described and understood at different levels: environment, behaviour, capabilities, values and beliefs, identity and purpose. There are also some links here with the Requisite Agility movement, https://community.requisiteagility.org/


Agile Logical Levels


I have now taken this work and applied it to the world of Agile. Rather than showing it as a hierarchy, I am showing it a series of three circles as below. The idea is that for us to work effectively with agile we should start from the inner circle (the values) and work our way out from there rather than, what can happen, which is to start from the outside and work inwards. The trouble with the latter is that the move inwards never happens.

But if you start from the middle you will always move outwards. This is because of the nature of the fast-paced world we live in and its focus on delivery results. The doing will always be there. And so, will the being, but often the being gets pushed into our un-conscious.



This comes back to the notion of being agile rather than doing agile. So, in the middle we have the agile mindset. This is 'being agile'.


The outer circle is the day to day reality of life. This is 'doing agile'


And then the middle circle is the glue connecting the being and the doing together. I see this as being driven from purpose. In generative coaching, we say, "and what is your intention in 5 words or less..." This helps to create the connection between the being and doing and it drives our behaviour.


And now, we can look at the generative aspects of this in more detail. In a lot of ways generative coaching is about 'tuning the mind' down and just being. Connecting to our bodies and observing what is happening in the present moment in a neutral and non-judgemental way. This helps us to raise our awareness and become more connected to our deeper selves and each other.


The inner circle - Mindset


Here we are connected to our inner selves and present in the current moment. We are aware of what is happening in that moment, aware through all our senses. In generative coaching we talk about a COACH state. This is:

  • C - entered

  • O - pen

  • A - ware

  • C - onnected

  • H - ospital


This refers to our state at a given point in time. The better our coach state, the better placed each of us, is to do good work. Of course, we are all human and so none of us will ever be, permanently in a COACH state (we are not robots). But the point of this work is to be self-aware and when we fall out of coach state (a CRASH! as generative coaches call it) we can work to get ourselves back to coach state.  


Click here for more details on this, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/empowering-generative-change-jon-sleeper/


Another important aspect of this generative work is to create a somatic representation of ourselves in certain situations. Below is a sketch of my own stance for when I am in my best COACH state. I'm standing firm, rooted to the earth. That gives me my centre and my source of life and strength. My legs are straight, knees slightly bent to give me some agility. My back is straight but not too firm and my head is upright but relaxed, slightly tilted to the sky. My arms are open and 'I'm here', available and attentive to the needs of whatever is happening around me. 


This is a good place for me to be and it enables me to do my best work. I like it in this place.



The outer circle - Processes


“Oh dear! I shall be too late!" say's the rabbit to Alice in Alice in Wonderland. Alice then follows him down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. How often do each of us do something like this in our own lives?


This is the normality of everyday life. A lot of us seem to live busy lives, moving from one context to another whether within work or outside of work. We're busy doing stuff but what is that stuff that we're doing? And what value do we place on it?


When I stand in the place, I imagine the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. But this is when I'm working without focus. So, I'm not actually standing. I'm running. My heart is racing and I'm rushing to get stuff done. I spent a few years of my career in this space as a Project Manager focused on achieving the next delivery for my project. It was like running to stand still on a treadmill.




If I can start from the middle, the mindset, then my work is more congruent with my purpose and my own self. I'm much more likely to do work that is valuable to me and others in my environment. But to achieve this, I need to know what it is that I want.


Middle circle - Intention and Behaviours 


The middle circle is the connection between Be and Do. Neither Be nor Do achieve much in isolation. By adding intention and behaviours, both being and doing can become highly productive and, also rewarding. It's a win-win situation for everybody involved.


As I stand in this place my somatic representation of this is to be standing with purpose, one leg in front of the other, facing in the direction that I want to go. My arms are forward as I get ready to move. I know what my positive intention is, I can state it to myself and others and it creates motivation for me to move forward and do.


Generative Agile

And the final part of this is to bring it all together in the sketch below. This shows four boxes. The first one is the current state and the next is the future state. This is a standard coaching representation of a change and a goal to move from one state to another. The generative coach adds further parts to this though. The generative coach helps the client to look out across the environment, to understand what resources are out there to support the client, but also to identify obstacles and to bring them into the field also. These obstacles are there for a reason and we don't want to shut them out. They make us who we are, we want to embrace them, to welcome them into our world and to see if they can add to the resources that we already have.


The sketch below is a mock-up of the world of modern digital community. I hope we can use this to bring us together, to collaborate and together, to generate a new approach to evolutionary change that encompasses the agile logical levels.




Generative Agile


And the final part of this is to bring it all together in the sketch below. This shows four boxes. The first one is the current state and the next is the future state. This is a standard coaching representation of a change and a goal to move from one state to another. The generative coach adds further parts to this though. The generative coach helps the client to look out across the environment, to understand what resources are out there to support the client, but also to identify obstacles and to bring them into the field also. These obstacles are there for a reason and we don't want to shut them out. They make us who we are, we want to embrace them, to welcome them into our world and to see if they can add to the resources that we already have.


The sketch below is a mock-up of the world of modern digital community. I hope we can use this to bring us together, to collaborate and together, to generate a new approach to evolutionary change that encompasses the agile logical levels.



Thanks for reading

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