If you do not know it, admit it – the power of not knowing

A colleague told me that he asks his employees what three things are they struggling with the most on a regularly basis. His experience: the problem of one colleague is often easy to solve by another colleague. Personal experience, different thinking patterns and different level of involvement makes that one can give the other that little push in the right direction. However, helping each other starts with sharing our problems and uncertainties. Unfortunately this is not possible in every group or organization.  A lot has been written about successful teams. You’ll probably know Meredith Belbin’s definition of team roles and Edward the Bono’s six hats. These models provide insight into the team composition. However, they do not say anything about the culture within organizations or teams. Unfortunately, since culture in large extent determines how team members fill their role.

The book “Getting naked” by Patrick Lenconi shows how his lead character gains effectiveness by being vulnerable. This fits nicely with a trend I see: that we can be more ourselves in the workplace. It’s okay to have weak spots and it is okay if you do not have all answers. More and more we realize, that it is not about being perfect, it’s about performing as a team. And you do that by using each other’s strengths, utilize diversity and compensate for each other’s weaknesses . Within Agile and SCRUM we often fund ourselves in situations where the team is responsible. The hero is not the one who gives the impression to know everything, but the one who dares to ask for help.

During my studies I was once automating a research environment. In a meeting the teacher asked “You do refer to the red machine, do you not?”. My research partner and I doubted, but afraid to strike a goof nodded yes. One hour after the meeting the teacher stood in our office. He had walked over to the other side of the complex and had determined that the machine was if fact… blue . “If you do not know it, admit it.” He advised us stern.

If you do not know it, admit it

The one who dares to request for help contributes to the team’s success. Experience shows that a question of a team often triggers the others to think . Potential problems are discovered and resolved in an earlier stage.  Sometimes problems might seem personal because only one person comes up with it. Many problems however, have their origin in the organization. They will then be put forward by one team member, but during discussion it becomes clear that others are also affected by the problem. So that makes it worth to solve them.

When I look at the problems I often encounter, these are often related to the organization. Tasks that you carry out independently, are rarely blocked by large difficulties. you might to overcome some problems, puzzle about the best option. But usually you’ll come with a solution. The challenge is bigger if you have to motivate people in the organization to do something for you, if people need to change their behavior or method or if they need to be convinced. Many books have been written these topics.  Useful as they may be, the best fit solution, you will get by exchanging ideas with your team. First, however you have to get the problems on the table before you can resolve them. So next week I will go and make a round along my testers to share with them the tasks I am struggling  with, – bearing in mind ‘ he who does good, is met well’.

About derkjandegrood

Derk-Jan de Grood, works for Squerist as senior test consultant and agile advisor. As Trainer, Consultant and Agile Coach, he is involved with improvements and agile implementations. Derk-Jan is the author of several successful books including TestGoal, Grip on IT and the Dutch Testers association’s jubilee book on future trends in testing. In 2016 he published “Agile in the Real World”, a book on SCRUM. Derk-Jan won several awards including the prestigious European Testing Excellence Award in 2014
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1 Response to If you do not know it, admit it – the power of not knowing

  1. Pingback: Five Blogs – 17 October 2013 | 5blogs

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