This chapter struck several chords during both of my reads of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg. Staffan opens the chapter, Simplifying Cooperation, by pointing out that “effective communication gives you more discretionary time.” This is one of the principles underpinning most agile approaches. If you improve communication by making it as intimate as it needs to be you can reduce status giving and taking as well as at least some of the follow-ups and clarifications that seem to spin-off discussions.

One of the points Staffan makes is the impact of having an abundance mindset. Much has been written over the past few years about having an abundance mindset, Stephen Covey coined the term in his seminal work The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Habit 4, Think Win/WIn. If we believe that there is enough to go around then we can invest the time and energy to work together to communicate more effectively. The abundance mindset is not a slamdunk because it competes with the idea of scarcity that is exacerbated by the positional scarcity organizational hierarchies generate. Teams and individuals with a scarcity mindset will horde information as a form of capital. With the mindset of abundance, it is much easier to listen with empathy rather than listening to win points or an argument. Every good consultant, coach, and guide has to learn to listen for understanding before they open their mouths, anything less is guru-hood.  Guru tells others what they “know” rather than help others learn something new.

Another revelation from this chapter was the idea of relationship responsibility. The ideas contend that if you don’t understand the people you are working with, communication will be painful. Every “you” in a team owns developing an understanding of those they work with. More bluntly, hiding behind your monitor and complaining that no one understands what you mean doesn’t cut it. It is your responsibility (and by extension everyone’s responsibility) to build an understanding so that you can communicate effectively. Understanding generates empathy.

Another topic in this chapter that was new to me was the idea of deliberative rhetoric. The classic Greek Philosopher category in board games is not my strength (I am working on that). Staffan points out that Aristotle postulated three branches of rhetoric (forensic, epideictic, and deliberative — make sure you read this part of the chapter and also check out some of the articles by ThoughtCo as reference.) Channeling communication to focus on moving forward, deliberative rhetoric, leads to better decisions and less friction implementing that decision. As leaders and coaches our goal must be to steer conversations so that teams deliver value effectively.  Understanding the basic structures of rhetoric and communication are part of MVP for coaches.

The final surprise in this chapter is the Ben Franklin effect.  When I first read this section my brain jumped to the impact generated by quid pro quo. I was wrong, the Ben Franklin effect is nearly the opposite. Instead of the favor creating an implied bond of reciprocity, doing a favor for someone make you more likely to have a better attitude toward the person. Stated a little more simply, doing a favor for someone helps re-write your opinion of the person and starts to build a bridge that will improve empathy and communication.

Communication is integral to cooperation. Every one of us owns improving the communication. Part of that improvement should focus on using the right channel for the right communication, other improvements should focus on establishing empathy with those you are communicating with, and the list could go on. In the modern corporation, teams and teams or teams are the most common approach to getting work done. Improving communication and cooperation will have a material impact.

Last week’s experiment focused on evaluating each task as I put it on my short list for operacy.  One of the outcomes was that I broke work into smaller chunks which were simpler and more practical. I also found parts of the work that I did not have to do in order to satisfy the goal of the task (the agile definition of simplicity).  I am contemplating how to build the idea of operacy into how I approach and talk about user stories. This week, I am going to focus on using more deliberative communication as a way to help guide conversations.

I hope you have your copy of  Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg (if not use the link). Previous entries in this re-read:

Week 1 – Logistics, Game Plan, and Preface 

Week 2 – Introduction 

Week 3 – Monotasking In A Nutshell 

Week 4 – Cut Down on Things to Do 

Week 5 – Focus on One Task 

Week 6 – Never Procrastinate – 

Week 7 – Progress Incrementally