Is it possible to bring about positive social change using organization change models with homeless individuals?
I do not have an answer but propose a challenge to Agile coaches. Is anyone interested in creating a pilot program to offer leadership and individual growth coaching to individuals in a homeless shelter?
Yes, as an Agile coach you provide technical expertise, but I would argue that more of what you do is coach individuals on how to become better persons and how to be a team player. Organizations that transform to Agile, are not just implementing a new set of engineering practices; they are implementing a model that values the collective group above the individual contributors. It places high value on accountability and relationships amongst the people on the team. One visible manifestation of the model is the team’s ability to uphold its set of self-governing rules of what is acceptable within the culture of the team.
As many say, a team is only as strong as its weakest link. It is up to the team to recognize and provide ways to strengthen a struggling team member who is not making a positive contribution to their fullest potential.
Coaches bring techniques and listening skills to enable teams to support each other and bring about positive change. For a coach to be truly successful, they must gain the trust of the team and foster an environment where the team builds trust and positive relationships amongst each other. The individuals of the team must feel they are part of the team before they will feel safe to express opinions and reach their full potential as positive contributors.
I see parallels between Agile teams and society in general. To me, a society is a team full of individual contributors who holistically create the values, culture and norms of the society. As each society is composed of different individuals, the values and rules may differ. This is no different from two different Agile teams within the same organization having different team rules due to different individuals within each team. Similar to an Agile team, the society is as strong as its weakest contributors. In a system that values the collective group over individuals, the other members of the society support the weakest contributors and work toward strengthening them so they may be full contributors .
However, many societies value the contributions of individuals over the collective group. The purpose of this is not to debate whether this is right or wrong, but merely to bring to light an observation that this leaves a large population disenfranchised and feeling alienated. Once alienated, an individual may not have a desire or motivation to contribute positively. There are many outward signs in our society of this with homelessness being one visible sign.
Homeless people are often the bottom of society. They are the non-contributors. Now I understand there are many factors that lead to homelessness. I am not going to address those individuals with severe mental disabilities that render their ability to contribute a moot point, but I would like to address those individuals who are able body and of a reasonable sound mind and are homeless. I live in an urban area and like many others in my neighborhood, I am frustrated with the individuals who roam my street and alley, taking things that don’t belong to them to sell for their next fix. I see them begging for money on a daily basis in what appears as laziness to get a job. It is easy to dismiss them or even loathe their presence in the neighborhood.
As a coach, this is hypocrisy at its best. During the day, practicing team building and growing individuals who need help; at home, shunning those that need the most help. They are one of them, not one of us. But what is their story? Why are they there roaming the street? What happened along the way that caused them to give up? If they felt part of this team called society, would they feel safe to expose their vulnerabilities, express their opinions, and be open to learning skills needed for positive contribution to society? If they were able to find their purpose and discovered how they could contribute, would they take positive action for the greater good of the collective society? Would they value and uphold the team rules of the society and hold themselves and each other accountable? Can we as Agile coaches initiate this type of positive bottom up societal change with the same tools we use in our professional careers within the organizations we serve?
Are you up for the challenge? What tools in your coaching tool box do you think should be tried?