Positive Incline Mike Burrows (@asplake) moving on up, positively

November 25, 2014

Understand motivation for change

Filed under: Kanban — Tags: , , , , , , — Mike @ 2:36 pm

One piece of feedback I’ve received a few times on step 1 of STATIK (and therefore on chapter 18 of my book Kanban from the Inside also) is that “Understand sources of dissatisfaction” sounds rather negative. What about sources of satisfaction, pride, strength, and so on? Are those unimportant?

It’s a very valid comment, and with David at this week’s Train-the-Trainer class in Cascais, Portugal, we renamed this step “Understand motivation for change”. Ironically, this name existed already as the title for the accompanying class exercise!

We made the change to the Foundations deck right there in front of the class. Other decks and my book will be updated as soon as is practically possible.

As it happens, I am very interested in the positive (the naming of my blog is no accident). My favourite retrospective format—a format that would work well in the context of a STATIK workshop—is the Stanford d.school’s “I like / I wish / I wonder” (“IL/IW/IW”) or “I like / wish / What if” (“IL/IW/WI”) which sometimes I abbreviate to “+/-/?”. In one simple exercise, we find out both what we’d like to change, what we’re keen to preserve, and what needs digging into further.

STATIK requires us to do this from two perspectives, internal and external. As my friend Markus Andrezak puts it, we need both self-awareness and empathy. Let’s strike the right balance between the positive and the negative also. It’s not all bad!

Source: Markus Andrezak


  1. ‘change’ to me is usually is more or different or better etc…a derivative of the past. This may be the language that our customers might be comfortable in expressing.
    However, I’d challenge our ‘listening’ to listen for what’s underneath the change…the commitment…what’s of deep interest…

    Comment by Latha Swamy — November 25, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

  2. Hi Mike,

    I really like this move. In trainings and workshops with my clients I already adapted the STATIK-1 step towards a resource-oriented first, from which it is easier to detect improvement opportunities. This is aligned with your proposal for better understanding the change context and makes use of Design Thinking tools such as empathy map or Alex Osterwalders Value Proposition Canvas – start better understanding stakeholders and their needs, do it in an empathic way, try walking in their shoes, what are the jobs they need to fulfill, what are there gains and pains and how are we leveraging this?

    Starting with resources first, we follow the solution focused approaches influenced by Steve de’Shazer, who stated “problem talk creates problems, solution talks creates solutions”. Applying solution focused techniques during interviews we first look at the full half side of the glass and start seeing, what else could we contribute to satisfy customer needs, what could we do more of. Not using the word “problem” from the beginning, focus on understanding (empathy) sets the right path towards creating options for improvement.

    Comment by Mike Leber — November 25, 2014 @ 6:10 pm

  3. Wonderful twist! Reminds me of Russell Ackoff’s “If you get rid of the thing you don’t want, you do not necessarily get the thing you do want.”

    It is also why I reversed the ‘problem statement’ in Pattern Languages to “wish/like/wonder” statements. To make the nuance clear, I’m using the term Pearl Language rather than Pattern Language, since pearls are little gems of practical wisdom. See http://paralanguage.org.

    Comment by Martien van Steenbergen — November 25, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

  4. What if the organization does not see or have motivation to change? But looking through the kanban lens there are very real changes that could be made. I personally like step 1 as the sources of dissatisfaction because people love nothing more to complain about what they perceive as wrong, going poorly, or what could be better. The question itself starts the feedback that is needed to improve and change things. It gives me the opportunity to be empathic and then follow up with the question “what are you/we going to do about it?” Now I have given power back to the person to whom I’m speaking with.

    This method I took from a class for strategies for raising my daughter called Love and Logic. It has worked more times than not all because of asking the question, “what are your sources of dissatisfaction” or any mix up of it. It works wonders and I personally would hate to see it changed.

    Comment by Jay Paulson — November 27, 2014 @ 9:28 am

  5. Hi Jay, that’s a good comment, and I’ve written previously that I don’t like to see change implemented without clear motivation. Be reassured: “sources of dissatisfaction (internal and external)” remains a key focus of this exercise; it’s just contextualised with a little more balance.

    Comment by Mike — November 27, 2014 @ 11:59 am

  6. This change makes the first step of STATIK easier to explain. Still I also liked the old phrasing, because there wasn’t the danger to translate it as “understand the problem to solve” but nailed it down to real existing persons being dissatisfied. Sounded a little bit more humane and less coaching standard to me. But I have to admit, this is gold-plating 😉

    Comment by Jens — December 1, 2014 @ 11:51 pm

  7. Hi Jens, I make that same translation myself! The details of the exercise don’t change.

    Comment by Mike — December 2, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

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