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Me, Hunting For Yabbits

Ever get the yabbits when introducing a new idea?

Oh, wait, maybe I better define my terms first.

Yabbitting is when people go through a sequence of resistance statements, where each statement begins with the words, “Yeah, but…”.

Like this: “Yabbit, our shop does shrinkwrap, so what works for some web app isn’t gonna work here.” or “Yabbit, we all work 80 hours a week, so we don’t need slack.” or “Yabbit, if you write tests + code, that’s more code than if you just write code”.

Let’s try again: Ever get the yabbits when introducing a new idea?

Yes, I thought so.

Aren’t Yabbits Annoying?

Yabbits can get a person down.

Worse, if the person has GeePaw-ish tendencies, yabbits can really bring out the sarcastic asshole:

“Wow, you’re right. No one ever mentioned that to me before. I should probably leave, now. Thank you. Thanks, thank you. You’ve saved me a lot of wasted time. Uhh, bye.”

But responding to yabbits like this is a grave error. (Trust me on this.)

A noob coach usually sees yabbits as a huge annoyance at best, and a wall of resistance at worst, but this is a big mistake.

Getting yabbits should please you. They sound like they represent resistance, but they actually indicate just the opposite.

The Economics Of  Thinking

How many times a day do humans choose one thing over another? Certainly hundreds, if not thousands or tens of thousands. Which socks? Left or right? Coke or Pepsi? and on and on.

Many of these choices are somewhat automagic: the answers to them have typically been made way in the past, and are not really ‘re-chosen’ every time the question comes up.

Others, on the contrary, are the result of full and thorough efforts to consider variant choices, project their results, and decide how we feel about them.

So some choices are virtually free, and others are quite expensive.

So what’s the most frequent choice made by a human?

It’s the meta-choice, of course. Whether you make a cheap choice or a pricey one is itself a choice. Cheap or expensive?

Yabbits Are A Heuristic

Yabbits are actually a tool for making the meta-choice. It works like this:

If an idea can’t defend itself against simple one- and two-sentence arguments, then it certainly can’t handle any serious ones, so I don’t need to investigate in depth.

Yabbits don’t always, or even usually, represent real resistance to change. On the contrary, they are probes, whose intent is to test an idea’s prima facie validity.

A person who offers you yabbits is typically more open to an idea than a person who says nothing at all.

Responding To Yabbits

The most obvious aspect of your response is just to note that, since yabbits are a good thing rather than a bad, you should prolly refrain from indicating displeasure.

Now, I can’t say you should smile when you get a yabbit, because that can easily look like smugness. But you can respond positively. Never hack at a yabbit. Instead, relax, and calmly show exactly how your idea doesn’t suffer from any trivial  flaws.

The rest of this page is just a set of common yabbits, pulled from various practices in the agile toolkit.

Notice that each one is just a few lines long. That’s on purpose: don’t overload a yabbit with a long response. That’s using big guns on small quail.

Yabbit, We Want 100% Load

Actually, no you don’t.

100% load means full stop for most of the team. Don’t believe me? Think about the last traffic jam you were in. The optimal load of cars for a highway is far less than 100%. More cars != more throughput.

What you really want is optimal load, which is the highest load for which actual throughput continues to rise.

Yabbit, It’s Just Until The Release

I always ask teams about their last release.

So what happened? You shipped the release, then everyone took two or three weeks off to catch up with their families, or take care of their mental or physical health? No?

For some teams, shipping on Friday means coming in Monday and starting the next release.

For many, maybe even most, shipping on Friday means coming in Monday and immediately jumping in to hot-patch mode.

Yabbit, No Pressure Means No Production

You mean, you hired a bunch of people who won’t work if you don’t constantly harass them? What a drag. Next time choose different people.

Of all the bizarre taylorisms in bad management practice, this one is the least connected to reality. We are called geeks precisely because we take so much joy from our work.

You don’t have to force geeks to do geek work, you have to get out of their way.

Yabbit, How Can We Assess Merit?

This one tickles me, too. The idea is that the marathon and village principles seem to work against the easy assignment of rewards to individuals. If we pair all the time, rotate pairs all the time, and all sit together and work, then how can management tell who to reward and who to punish?

You can assess merit by a) working with the individual, or b) watching the individual when she is at work, or c) asking the people she works with.

It is trivially the case that everyone on a team has a complete ordering of merit for everyone else on that team. Gather the orderings (not the votes, the orderings) anonymously, and you will certainly see a pattern. Use that pattern as the basis for your assessment.

Yabbits Are Your Friends

It is easy to think of yabbits as temporary distractions from the real game of changing behavioral patterns, but that’s a mistake. Answering yabbits won’t change anyone’s mind, but it will build confidence and support for your ideas.

Yabbits Are On The Road To Success


3 Responses to “Shhh. We’re Hunting Yabbits”

  1. Joshua Lewis says:

    I agree that getting a response, even it is ‘negative’ is better than no response. It shows that the people actually care/have an opinion about what you’re discussing. At least that gives you something to work with.

    I know it’s not the main thrust of the your post, but the discussion on choice is interesting. I’ve just read Switch by Chip and Dan Heath and in it they discuss that people have a finite amount of ‘will power’ with which to make decisions. Thought I’d mention it since the post reminded me of the discussion, and you might be interested in it.

  2. […] resistance to change was recently summed up by Mike “GeePaw” Hill as a case of the “Yabbits.” Yabbitting is when people […]

  3. […] resistance to change was recently summed up by Mike “GeePaw” Hill as a case of the “Yabbits.” Yabbitting is when people […]

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