Recently I’ve done lots of workshops introducing Clean Language to Agile coaches, facilitators and trainers. When I ask why they signed up, many of them share the same metaphor: they wanted more tools for their facilitator toolkit.
Of course, as we soon discover, each of them means something slightly different by that phrase. No two toolkits are the same!
But I’ve started to notice that my own response is fairly consistent. When I hear, “I want more tools for my facilitator toolkit,” I tend to start trotting out simple, easy-to-use Clean-Language-based models. Clean Feedback. One-Minute Motivation. Feeling To Metaphor.
I can teach a bunch of these in a day, even more in two days. It’s obvious how they can be applied. Participants leave feeling that they’ve got what they came for. I get nice feedback. Job done.
Or is it?
One of the metaphors I like to use is that Clean Language is like a Swiss army knife. It’s useful in loads of different situations: wherever humans communicate. When you really get that your questions direct people’s attention, and what that means at an emotional level, you always want to have Clean Language on the tip of your tongue. To stick with the Swiss army knife metaphor, it’s always in your hand or in your pocket – it doesn’t often get put away in the toolbox.
Another idea is that Clean Language is like one of those clever combined knife sharpener/knife block things, that sharpens your existing tools every time you use them, making them more precise and effective.
My question to myself is whether the simple models help people to get the essence of Clean Language. With experienced coaches and facilitators, I think they do. These guys already share Clean’s underlying belief system, so they don’t need lots of activities about that kind of thing. The models help them to get hands-on really quickly, which helps them to learn effectively.
With more “traditional” thinkers, though, the models can get in the way. It would be very easy for such people to mistake the models derived from David’s work for the work itself. That means they’ll miss the nuances that make it so fascinating – and their facilitator toolkit will end up being rammed full of cheap tools that are easily broken and discarded.