Tool: Embedded Mental Model

Mindset is not something that changes easily and is not “concentrated” in a single point, so to speak. Instead our mindset is “scattered” across the various practices we use and skills we posses. This requires appropriate treatment of the mindset as part of the the transformation. Over-reliance on Training brings in formal awareness but is incapable of creating any new instincts. This leads to a problem: when the organization runs into its first roadblock as part of the adoption process, they immediately fall back into their old thinking.

The opposite of that, the Embedded Mental Model approach, considers mindset distributed over various practices and therefore relies on growing the right mental models for every practice, including Continuous Integration, Agile Planning, Emergent Design, Lean Budgeting, Inspect and Adapt, etc.

Here are two examples of mental models useful for Continuous Integration and Agile Estimation.

Continuous Integration. 

As a developer, I understand that:

  • Getting my flow of coding interrupted to integrate with others is actually very beneficial
  • Code evolves properly as a result of collaboration, not individual heroic action
  • Integration only makes sense because there are integration errors; finding those early is what this is all about
  • In a complex software system, the most tricky problems are on the stitches rather than inside a contained area of code

Agile Estimation.

As an organizational leader, I understand that:

  • Estimation only decreases the amount of uncertainty to some level, but can never substantially eliminate it
  • Estimation is not a basis for commitment
  • Teams cannot be held accountable to their estimates of work
  • The ultimate goal of the enterprise is not to hit all their estimates, but to deliver maximum value. Sticking hard to the former negatively impacts the latter.

The idea of Embedded Mental Models is simple, natural and very familiar as most of human skills are acquired that way. When a 7-year-old boy is learning to ride a bicycle, his father is not arranging a two-day training for him, expanding on principles of cycling, revealing fundamental cycling values or showing case-studies. Instead, father and son work hand-in-hand and through trial-and-error the future champ learns the vital skill.