Self-Organizing Teams and a Magic Question when you Get Stuck

I’ve been reading Galina’s post about self-organizing teams, and while she illustrates her thoughts with a picture of a unicorn, she has several thoughtful ideas about self-organization, including a realistic appraisal of what is reasonable and what is unreasonable to expect from a self-managed team.

Ever been in a romantic relationship? Congratulations; you’ve been on a self-organized team of two. Did you guys magically achieve consistent harmony, no matter what the situation, through the sheer force of your luuuuuuv? No, of course not; you had to communicate, and you had to rehash familiar territory over and over again.

That last part sucks, no? Here’s a tip for when when you are feeling stuck and keep talking past each other:
I’m concerned that I don’t fully understand your point-of-view, so I’m going to say what I think your p.o.v. is and I’d like you to please correct me where I’ve gotten it wrong. Then we’ll trade places.

Here’s why this works:

  • We repeat ourselves because I want to hear you but I want to be heard first. Making the turn-taking explicit (and giving them the first opportunity to be understood) breaks that cycle.
  • We repeat ourselves because we fear we aren’t heard, so the reflecting makes your listening tangible.
  • We repeat ourselves because we fear we aren’t understood, so accepting the correction (I assumed you were concerned about the budget, but it sounds like the deadline is a much bigger concern for you. Do I have that right?) helps us to move from adversaries who have opposing points of view, to allies searching together for a win-win solution.


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