SPA Conference session: Can Double Loop Learning improve effectiveness in difficult team situations?

One-line description:Using Double Loop Learning to deal with threatening or embarrassing team situations
Session format: Workshop (75 mins) [read about the different session types]
Abstract:XP and Agile have highlighted the importance of focussing on people over process. This session will provide an opportunity to practice critical reflection on how people deal with embarrassing or threatening situations, such as providing feedback on a team member's competence or addressing team members who fail to honour their commitments to XP/Agile practices.

The session will introduce the concepts of Argyris & Schon's Theory of Action which says that under conditions of embarrassment or threat most people exhibit a gap between how they say they act and how they actually act. Further, that in these conditions most people act in a unilaterally controlling way, focussed on achieving control of the situation, winning (not losing), ensuring that no one feels bad and that the discussion is 'rational' (feelings are not acknowledge).

This workshop will allow participants to test the applicability of the Theory of Action to difficult situations. The session will start with a role play from the workshop leaders, demonstrating examples of team member handling a difficult conversation with another team member. The participants will be asked to reflect on the effectiveness of this advice as well as how they would increase the effectiveness of the communication. The participants' advice will then be critiqued using the Theory of Action and the participants. There will then be an opportunity for workshop participants to 'direct' the role play based on their advice, as well as an opportunity for them to take a role in the role play themselves.
Audience background:- Curiosity about how difficult topics are communicated
Benefits of participating:First-hand experience of providing effective advice.
An understanding of Argyris & Schon's Theory of Action based on other's observed behaviour as well as the participants' own beliefs.
An awareness of how people may inadvertently create counter-productive situations that can be anti-learning
Materials provided:Possibly a hand-out allowing participants to score the observed conversation in terms of advocacy and enquiry.
Process:The session will start with a role play from the workshop leaders, based on advice from Agile blogs on handling poorly performing team members.
The audience will then be asked to critique the advice giving (in small groups, with a group summary), as well as offering advice themselves on how the interaction could be made more effective. They can do this by coaching the workshop leaders in their role play, or if they like, taking part in the role play themselves.
Detailed timetable:00:00 - 00:05 Overview of the session and how it will run
00:05 - 00:20 Initial Role Play - Providing feedback to a poorly performing team member
00:20 - 00:30 Small group sessions critiquing effectiveness of the advice
00:30 - 00:45 Summarizing feedback. Introduction of Argyris & Schon's model
00:45 - 00:65 Opportunity to coach role play and participate, with critique from participants
00:65 - 00:75 Review of effectiveness of the advise. Summary of possible approaches to improve effectiveness
Outputs:Possibly a typed transcript, if participants are willing (probably anonymised - participant A, participant B etc) posted to a blog.
History:Run in private only. Based on Argyris' X / Y Case Study format
1. Benjamin Mitchell
Equanimity Consulting Limited
2. 3.