Diagnosing organisational problems with I-Messages
Typically conflict between people or teams is a symptom that indicates there something’s up. The tool I use for that situation is based conversation patterns. With this tool you will be able to come to a bigger picture on what is really going between people.
There is very strong assumption behind this tool need to be accepted first: people are not problems on their own. A behaviour may be a problem, environment, lack of skills or even belief may be problems, but not a human being.
In case of issues causing a conflict and lots of negative emotions people tend to express their statements in a specific way – they talk about others. Take a look on some real-life examples
- PM: Developers are always delayed
- DEV: PO must know what he really wants
- PM: The problem is team’s velocity
- DEV: Requirements are not specific enough
- PO: Developers spends time on useless refactoring or something
- DEV: Business people are always changing their minds
- PM: They didn’t tested all features
I have interviewed lots of people and mostly I hear same messages: He is…, They should be…, She don’t… and so forth.
But what invariably surprise me most is that all of them seem to be true. Really! Spending whole day interviewing developers I came to conclusion – Damn, what the crap they deal with?. Same talking with business people I often think God, what a hopeless situation!. Every story I have heard make sense in its context.
I imagine this kind of communication something like that
The more individuals I talk to, the more chaos appears in my mind. It is really hard to understand what is going on basing on those stories.
Then I finally understood – all those people talked about themselves. They expressed their needs and expectations, but they do it in very indirect way. Talking with the You-Message makes other people the source of our problems and there are only two solutions in that situation: fight them or leave them.
What are the I-Messages? These are statements where one expresses oneself, eg. I want…, I don’t…, I like to…, I am lack of…, I need….
Be careful, statement I want you to stop is You-Message like not the I-one like. With I-Message you express just only yourself and nothing more, this is critical.
So, this kind of communication I imagine something like that
And some examples of transforming You- into I-.
|You-Message||might mean / I-Message|
|Developers are always delayed||I need to close projects on time
I don’t want to work under time pressure
I am accounted for time and budget
I want to be kept informed of any problems which may cause delay as soon as possible
|PO must know what he really wants||I don’t fully understand what to do
I need acceptance criteria for every user story I start to develop
I want to be kept informed about new ideas as soon as possible
I want to have an impact on the sales strategy
Notice that I-Messages express needs very clearly and it may turn out that all individuals want same thing eg. to be kept informed.
Putting people stories in the form of I-Message introduces lots of order to the communicational chaos. It’s easier to see what is going on and what is needed.