The Jester — Agile Management Hack №5
Do you feel you and your team are trudging in the mud? You know there’s an issue to be addressed, but you can’t find the fix, or worse — you may be working on the wrong problem based on old assumptions and habits. More often than not, you tried all the traditional techniques to figure out the solution, but only ended up in a politically correct situation where bad compromises were reached and no one dared to tell the truth.
Try the agile management hack — the Jester — which is designed to save you out of this kind of dilemma. The Jester is a role that can be taken by anyone in an activity during which this person is empowered to use humorous and provocative language to raise powerful questions in order to disentangle a situation through:
- revealing the true intentions behind politically correct business talks;
- bypassing the traditional chain of command to avoid bureaucracy;
- breaking analysis paralysis or overcoming indecisiveness and procrastination.
For example (see linked video for clarity):
- In a meeting, when everyone echoed a new VP’s speech about continuing the “great work” together, the jester asked: “Our previous VP lasted only three months. How continuing to do the same will play out?”
- In a discussion about how to gain support for an initiative from the management and HR through routine procedures involving workshops or quarterly meetings, the jester said: “If we do this the usual way we’ll get bogged down in bureaucracy. Let’s share our vision with them over coffee and grow our influence. Or drop it entirely and leave it to grownups who have the power to do it!”
- In a brainstorming session, when people were talking about how a new product model needed months to deliver and required a huge survey of 1500 employees to validate, the jester questioned: “So we’ll invest 1M$ in an analysis based on a ton of hypotheses, then wonder if we should actually move forward! It’s procrastination! Can we get feedback cheaper and faster?”
To practice the Jester hack, keep the followings in mind:
- Anyone can take the Jester role.
- The Jester uses a prop, such as a jester’s hat, to identify himself/herself and to de-dramatize talking about sensitive topics.
- The Jester lasts for a specific meeting.
- The Jester asks powerful questions and then lets conversation unfold.
- The Jester uses humorous and provocative language.
- The Jester must not blame someone personally.
Similar to the first four hacks — time-boxed decision making, emerging autonomy, storytelling, and making time — the Jester is nothing like traditional techniques, and it features certain unique benefits:
- Immediate: you can try it tomorrow. (Do you have the courage?)
- Emotional: it’s more than a technique leading to an outcome; it will also push you out of your comfort zone and may challenge your beliefs of what can and can’t be done.
- Visible: the Jester and its positive outcome will attract attention and may spread to other teams.
- Easy to prepare: the Jester does not require any training, approval, or authorization.
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Collet, B. (2020, Nov. 16). The Jester or How to Shake Up Your Politically Correct Meetings [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-Fk8ZFL948
Collet, B. (2020, Dec. 3). The Jester — How to Shake Up Your Politically Correct Meetings. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/jester-how-shake-up-your-politically-correct-bruno-collet-mba/