Why Getting Past “But…” is Important

You’ve probably read Getting to Yes and heard of Getting Past No, so why Getting Past “But”? Well, because “but…” is insidious, making it harder to get past than an outright “no.” The person who says “yes, but…” is ostensibly aligning with you. Ostensibly agreeing but for this teensy caveat—this objection that is a showstopper! It can be resistance in a subtle guise, seeming passive yet inherently active—the kind of action that is actively rationalized non-action. Or it can be genuine goodwill—indicating a real desire to orient with you, and active intellectual, creative engagement. The trouble, though, is that “but” can become a barrier. We need the attitude that looks beyond “but.” If we look only to “but,” only to the objections, the reasons why not, we stop there. We need to look to what we want to accomplish, then figure out how to get there from here. We need to look beyond “but” to get past “but.” Yes, this is the stuff of “kindling the collective mind,” engaging others in seeing how we would like things to be, then engaging their creativity in resolving how to get there.

I’m told “I agree with you, architects should play an active role in requirements, but reality in my organization is that the structure and process doesn’t allow that.” Yes, that reality is hard to change. And it will not, so long as the one person who could begin to make the change, the person who sees that the change is needed, doesn’t start to lead the change! First, to see the need, then to help others see a better future, then to enroll them in creating that better future.

This by way of an architect’s signature on an email I received this evening:

“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world.  Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves.  All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.”

George Bernard Shaw

Yes, change can be hard, and it can take a long time to even get to the point where people recognize the need for change. It took Madison five years to get the parties to the table to create change. Hopefully it can take us less time to restructure the status quo in software development. Our Getting Past “But” paper is one resource you have to help shift perception and expectation. The Agile Movement also helps underscore the importance of multi-disciplinary teams. If your organization’s approach to scale and complexity is to do just enough requirements and design upfront (for example, to spin off concurrent teams with enough context), you can still leverage the learning that the Agile Movement has embraced—multi-functional teams, iteration and stakeholder participation allow more concurrency to happen earlier, with better outcomes.

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