Evolving Out of Feudalism, Becoming Self-directed

HH the Dalai Lama in the New York Times

HH the Dalai Lama in the New York Times

Back to how evolutionary Agile is, today His Holiness the Dalai Lama announced he is retiring from any political duties within the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.  Interestingly, some Tibetans have reacted by saying they want His Holiness to continue to make major decisions, and not to abandon his political role.  Quoted in the New York Times, Tim Johnson, author of the recent book, “Tragedy in Crimson: How the Dalai Lama Conquered the World but Lost the Battle with China,” says:

“Tibetan exiles have only reluctantly embraced democracy despite the Dalai Lama’s many urgings. Many would prefer that the Dalai Lama continue to make all major decisions. And he has had to push hard for them to accept someone other than himself as a political leader.”

When the Bhutanese King, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, moved that country to Democracy, I noticed on many Bhutanese forums that Nidup reads that Bhutanese did not want this.  In ExpressIndia, a Bhutanese minister is quoted as saying:

“But His Majesty said you can’t leave such a small, vulnerable country in the hands of only one man, who was chosen by birth and not by merit.”

I had a chance to have a brief conversation with Tobias Mayer yesterday, and we discussed the fact that some folks who join an Agile team similarly have difficulty adapting to an Inspect and Adapt approach and in being self-directed.  It can seem to be, in fact, easier just to be told what to do, to have someone else make our to-do list, and just to do it.  No debate needed.  It makes me think that it could be possible that at a certain point, Agile, like Democracy, could get messy.  There could be the very real possibility of inertia.

In fact, I observed this with one team.  The team was accustomed to a Great Creative Mind directing it.  That Great Creative Mind realized the risk of having a Great Creative Mind as the sole Creator on the team by becoming suddenly unavailable to direct the team, to be their… King.  We’d tried to roll out Scrum on this team and on doing so the team suddenly went into a spin-and-flounder mode.  I was not personally part of the team and am not sure exactly why this was.  Perhaps because the role of Product Owner was missing as the truth is, the team was not trained in Agile and really was just practicing the Scrum meeting.  Even though, I’d expect through talking together that synchronicity would naturally evolve. That the team would find their own King from within, or find they don’t need a King – or product owner.

I’ve been watching TV shows on Netflix about feudal times and magic, specifically The Tudors and Merlin.  In The Tudors it seems to me so far that the writers have made Cardinal Wolsey King Henry VIII’s project manager, in a sense.  Once the cardinal is deposed, according to this loosely-based-on-history version, the king has to reform parliament and his own council so he can “get things done” and manage the country well.  In Merlin, a young feudal King Arthur is protected by the hidden magical abilities of Merlin.  This story shows Arthur as more part of a team.

What’s interesting about both is how authority and leadership are presented for entertainment.  In the case of The Tudors, it gets ugly and at a certain point, there’s no one to like in the entire show.  In the case of Merlin, there’s a charm to King Arthur and his team.  But in both shows, the leaders are needed, a requirement for things to function.

When I took training with Ken Schwaber, in exercises I noticed my own tendency to want to take over and tell the other team members what to do.  Later in Jeff Sutherland’s class, I suppressed this tendency and found I perceived (note that this may just be perception) my team not to move forward.  Later, Dr. Sutherland re-formed the class teams, and I was part of a team that had an experienced ScrumMaster. She quickly became our team leader because she had that mastery.

And this is where I think there is a thread. The reason we don’t want to give up our Kings may not only be about wanting to be told what to do and avoiding conflict. It might also be that we want someone with mastery to lead so we can learn. In the case of the feudal model, that leader has been trained to lead.  Unfortunately, the person who receives this opportunity by their birth may not ever really find themselves able to to be true masters. As usual, more to explore on this point.

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2 Responses to “Evolving Out of Feudalism, Becoming Self-directed”

  1. tobiasmayer Says:

    This is a very interesting post, and makes an excellent point about how the “managees” are as (if not more) responsible for resisting change. This is something often not talked about, with blame so often aimed at middle management as the resistors.

  2. 2011 Agile – Dinner with Jeff Patton and friends « Says:

    […] to me, and bear with me, because I see this as yet another step in our human evolution beyond feudalism. And I’m not proposing we deny the individual and suppress the wonderful things the […]

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