Joyful Change

Brian Marick challenged me for an expression of joyful change, especially related to software development, based on the teachings of Virginia Satir. As discussed in my previous post, he’s come to associate the combination of “Virginia Satir” and “change” with pain and the following:

…blaming… …placating… …anger… …guilt… …stress… …resistance… …denying… …avoiding… …blocking… …deny… …avoid… …anxiousness… …vulnerability… …fear…

This post is, in part, to demonstrate to him that the work of Virginia Satir is not focused on the negative. Mostly it’s to share, and rejoice in, the freedom we have to reach our goals.

The Five Freedoms

The freedom to see and hear what is here instead of what should be, was, or will be.

The freedom to say what one feels and thinks, instead of what one should.

The freedom to feel what one feels, instead of what one ought.

The freedom to ask for what one wants, instead of always waiting for permission.

The freedom to take risks in one’s own behalf, instead of choosing to be only “secure” and not rocking the boat.

This passage comes from Virginia Satir’s book, Making Contact.

It is the fifth freedom on which I want to focus, for this is the freedom of joyful change.  I can try new things, taking the risk that they might fail. If they do, then I own that failure. But that risk of my failure is balanced by the likelihood of my success. I weigh the balance and make my own choice.

I do not need the protection of others. I do not need someone else to make the decision and force a change on me, or deny a change from me. The choice is mine alone.

As long as failure is only a risk and not a sure thing, then there is also a chance of success. That success is also mine.

Success often does not come with the first attempt. Often we must fail a little. We may try small experiments, so as not to bet the farm on a single roll of the dice. We risk that which we can afford to lose. If we lose, we learn from it and try with this new knowledge. This is a strategy almost sure to produce success in time.

And what a sweet success that is. Success not handed to us by someone else’s choice. Success not borne of attempting the sure thing. But success achieved by our own efforts and intellect. Success that teaches us far more than any instant success.

And this success, and new knowledge, is all ours. Isn’t that a joyful thing!

2 Replies to “Joyful Change”

  1. I want to point out that the adjectives you quoted me as tweeting came from the first search result from Google for “Satir Change Model”. [] They were written by Steven M. Smith, who I believe is not some outlier guy with a weirdo interpretation of Satir. He’s mainstream enough to have been a host of the AYE 2010 conference.

    An ideal me would do a formal survey of leading expositions of the Satir Change Model for software and see whether (as the less ideal me has gathered from his informal reading over 20+ years) the overwhelming emphasis is on change being an overcoming of pain, fear, and unpleasantness.

    Yes, the model can be used with other adjectives. But let me make an analogy. There’s a book called /Why Animals Chose Domestication/. It points out that the dog (for example) made an excellent “choice” when it “decided” to ally itself with man. So did the horse, cow, llama, etc. There are more of these animals alive today, with a wider habitat, than there are of reasonably similar but non-domesticable animals like dingos, zebras, cape buffalo, etc.

    But that line of thought is not what comes to mind when one hears the word “domestication”. One doesn’t think of “animals exploiting or using man” but rather the reverse. That’s entirely reasonable given how many of the stories about domestication are told in that reverse way.

    Similarly, I think it’s entirely reasonable to claim a Satir Change Model description emphasizing joy has the same character of unexpectedness as a story of domestication that makes animals its center.

    Two other points:

    1. In your earlier post, you talked of applying the Satir model to my learning Clojure. Yet that was a totally different emotional experience than the project-in-crisis Smith describes. That says to me that application of the model is missing something really important.

    2. People do not write declarations or manifestos about freedoms or rights that *go without saying*. There isn’t a Sixth Freedom called “The Freedom to Breath” because the lack of that freedom is neither plausible nor at issue. The freedoms that *are* listed are those that people likely *lack*, which is a bad thing. That is, the list of freedoms points toward a better future from a crummy present. And thus it fits my gripe.

    Again: I have nothing against the Satir Change Model itself. But Jeez Louise, people do go on about it so. It’s so damn much in the foreground that it’s hard to see around it.

    I don’t even have anything against a therapeutic approach to coaching. I simply believe that Agile is not historically or fundamentally about (for example) congruence of self and context. It’s more about bullheadedly changing the context.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Brian.

    I think that people go on about the Satir Change Model, particularly in reference to projects in crisis, merely because there are so many projects in crisis and it’s one tool they’ve learned to help in that situation. People enjoying their adoption of a new technique or language aren’t looking for such tools. They don’t need them.

    As for the Five Freedoms, they’re not so much things people lack, but things that people forget to notice. It’s good to remind ourselves of the power and the joy we possess.

    I certainly agree that Agile is not fundamentally about congruence. But congruence is a strong aid to helping us change the context. Instituting change from an incongruous stance generally leads nowhere, at best, and sometime in the very direction we seek to avoid. I’ve certainly seen that in many organizations. And I’ve seen the Satir Change Model invoked without congruence. It doesn’t help.

    But congruence is not a foundation of Agile. It’s a foundation of human effectiveness when working with others. And human effectiveness is rightfully presumed by Agile.

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