Speaking Truth To Power: A Foundational Skillset
As complexity increases, are you (too often) shouting into the wind? Do you see icebergs ahead yet fail to convince others to avoid them? Are your architecture-focused discussions more exhausting than productive? Does the accountant understand the value of your work?
The thinking and communication skills we've developed on the job often fail us when we face more-complex challenges. That is why we are learning DDD. Rather than double down on code-specific solutions, we are developing different, more effective conceptual approaches.
Yet, there is an underlying skillset the nourishes and supports our ability to practice DDD or any approach that challenges traditional "power" structures. In this workshop, we'll focus on that skillset.
We'll explore the four fundamental truths:
- Conway was right: communication architects software and systems
- Uncertainty is always a factor
- Fred Brooks was right: conceptual integrity matters most
- Continuous learning is essential: the modern hero is the person who weaves everyone else's expertise into a cohesive, trustworthy wholeAnd we'll explore four fundamental practices:
- Argumentation: creating strong and valid solutions based on sound reasoning
- Structuring collective reasoning: thinking well together- Recognizing conceptual fallacies
- Cultivating the right types of energy: aka thoughts are only part of communication
In this talk, I'll link to practice materials to try at home.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Good evening, good morning or good day or good night, whatever the time is at your place. Um, we're here with one of our latest sessions of today, and I'm pretty excited to have, uh, Diana Italian here talking about speaking truth to power. Uh, so you will start the video now and everyone in YouTube can ask questions and we'll be there in the chat to answer them. So have fun.
Speaker 2 (00:28):
Talk about speaking truth to power. I am Diana Montanian I'm most often on Twitter. If you'd like to continue the conversation, um, the principal architect and co founder of metrics group.
Speaker 2 (00:46):
So we're going to talk today about situations in which you experience yourself screaming into the wind. Maybe it's not so strong for you. That's very much how it feels to me. Maybe you're still shy or you're uncertain about what it is that you want to say, but in any case iceberg, you see or know the potential of an iceberg, and you would like to steer the ship in another direction to enable the potential avoidance of a situation or improvement of a situation that is has benefits, or it makes people more comfortable, but either way, you'd like to be able to change course what I mean, in speaking truth to power, what I mean by power is a person group or process that's empowered by a system structure to make impactful decisions. So for example, in an organization, generally, there's a hierarchy and people up the top of the hierarchy make more and potentially impactful decisions, but there's also the government and there's a law and there's particularly difficult. People who get away with behaving in difficult ways. And therefore it can be tricky to, to speak to them about things that, that they're not, they're not wanting to hear.
Speaker 2 (02:22):
So this is a practice of all the things I'll say today. This is the most essential is that it is something that we practice and we will practice until the day we die. And so I want to encourage you to begin today as we're talking to do some practicing. Uh, so the first practice would be, or the first, my first question is what is an iceberg for you right now? Where is there an area in your life that you are screaming into the wind where you'd like to be able to speak truth to power in a way that changes direction while you're considering that here are three things that I don't mean when I say speaking truth to power first is persuasion. So persuasion is an art form and there are very many techniques that might be useful. But when we say speaking truth to power, we know there is not necessarily truth in advertising and into are not simply trying to change.
Speaker 2 (03:28):
People's thinking for the ability to change. People's thinking we are in fact, interested in constructing and crafting what is true. And I don't mean seeking personal power. So the game of Thrones, uh, maybe a game of power, but it is not a game of truth. And so we are not focused on gaining power so that we speak power to power, but instead about the crafting and cultivation of the truth that we are going to speak. And I don't mean it's easy. There is no talk that can give you the three tips of speaking, truth to power, and then easy breezy. You'll be able to go right out and do it. In fact, as we've said, it's a process, but it's also a challenging practice. And one of my favorite systems thinkers, Donella Meadows says that leverage points are points of power. So leverage points are places in the system where you could make a change and that change would have a tremendous impact, would liberate a lot of what is more valuable and more vibrant.
Speaker 2 (04:43):
And generally when we are most compelled to speak truth to power, it's usually because we have some sense of those, of those leverage points of those ways in which, um, the ways in which system structures are inhibiting good decision making, for example. But Danella also says that we know from bitter experience that because of counter intuitiveness, when we do discover leverage points, hardly anyone will believe us. And so I had a Buddhist teacher that said that power is the wall that we are asked to keep speaking to that. Oftentimes it's not that there is a person who is doing a bad thing or people are trying to cause harm. Oftentimes there's just places in the structure in the way of doing things or in the way of thinking about things or in the way we've set up our cultural structures. That the thing that you're trying to say is lost in the gaps is lost in these places where we've gotten used to going in one direction and you want to go in different direction, but that direction really isn't visible. It's not really on people's people's radar. And so it can be very counter intuitive when you first start talking about it, that you're saying something valuable. Yeah.
Speaker 2 (06:13):
So three things I do mean, I do mean structure. The communication Conway's law says that organizations, which design systems are constrained to produce designs, which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations. So one way of interpreting this, of course, is that the way you talk about the code is how is it the technology is the technology you will build, right? The way you structure communication. But because we know that power is, um, reinforced by or created, tends to be created by system set support it. Then the same thing is true about any way that we're communicating, the way that we communicate about something is going to be mirrored in exactly what then happens. Not just what we say, but how we structure the communication. So we are going to talk later about a way to structure, communication, or structure, the way you speak truth to power that will help you to get an end result that is closer to what you're trying to get.
Speaker 2 (07:31):
So I do mean that being right is not the goal. And if it, I mean, it can feel good. Of course, that, you know, we were right about something and we own other people too, to recognize that, but this is an exercise in truth seeking. And, and unless we're talking about a fact, we're debating a fact which then you just go look it up, right? There's no need to have a lot of energy invested in something that you can verify, but otherwise uncertainty is always a factor. And so you're wrong too, right? People are seeing things in a habitual way. And so are you. And so the goal isn't to win the goal is to find the best possible solution or articulate the best possible solution under the circumstances when conditions are uncertain. And this is also important for you to understand the circumstances, right? So the best possible solution under the circumstances when conditions are uncertain.
Speaker 2 (08:42):
And I do mean conceptual integrity. And because there are, again, generally you are talking about things that are sort of in the gap of people's awareness, when you're speaking truth to power, or you're filling the gaps in, in your own, in your own awareness, what you're really doing is bringing, bridging those gaps. So Fred Brooks says conceptual integrity is the most important consideration in systems design. And what he means is this sense of it. Being able to have the system hanging together, having cohesion, and generally when we're speaking truth to power, it's because it's lost conceptual integrity. It's because a way of looking at things does not jive with another way of looking at things and some harm is being caused in, in that, in that gap. And so when we are developing, um, developing our view, what we're going to speak, what we're doing is synthesizing knowledge, experience and good judgment into arguments based on valid reasons. So we're synthesizing knowledge, experience and good judgment into arguments based on valid reasons. And this is the definition of argumentation. So argumentation is the process of coming to conclusions when there is uncertainty. And of course, I don't mean this, right? I don't mean an argument, right? I don't mean he said, and she said, instead, I mean the best possible solution under the circumstances when conditions are uncertain, the process of crafting, constructing, and developing this.
Speaker 2 (10:39):
So as we say, this is a practice and I'm definitely encouraging you to practice today with this is what is your claim? When you think of your iceberg, what is your claim? What is your assertion? What is the thing that the, that if it's heard will have a positive impact. So I'm going to give a couple, a few examples. So if you want to mute while I'm giving examples to think about it, feel free. Um, the first is from literature. It is a truth. Universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. So Jane Austin whiteboard tests are a strong measure of a candidate's technical aptitude.
Speaker 3 (11:33):
Speaker 2 (11:35):
Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a president from office. I like this one because should I ever be on trial? I am going to, I'm going to use this one. We should on encapsulation rather than expansion of the core sauce.
Speaker 2 (11:59):
So, because the last one is the one I agree with. That's what we'll focus on for our next section. And that is why is this? So, so three to five reasons why your claim is so and so I would encourage you to just come up with whatever's on the top of your head, because it is the process of strengthening and working with these reasons. That is what the practice of argumentation is. So if we look at, we should focus on encapsulation rather than expansion of the core software, my three reasons are this will enable us to build modern software patterns without rewriting all the legacy code. We can deploy the highest priority business goals quicker by integrating sources of content and establishing communication between them other similar systems. And I'd given an example, have adopted these patterns and succeeded at accomplishing similar goals.
Speaker 2 (13:09):
So it sounds simple. You make a claim, come up with reasons, but it's really hard. It's very hard. And every time you've looked at something from a particular point of view, of course, there is plenty of other points of view to, to examine. And there are two paths in argumentation. One is, is it deductively valid? And this is, is it true? Can we know for sure that it's sound right? That this is sound because we know for sure it's true. So these are things that you do your homework to know, right. To make sure that what you're saying or the other path, and this is the one where more often on, is it inductively strong? And by that is, does it follow? So I don't have three random reasons, my reasons follow and strengthen each other. And they also follow my claim. If we do this thing, I can see how these other things are. So are related. We form a package, we strengthen the connection between our claim and our reasons and the stronger it gets, the more likely it is to be cogent or convincing that people, people experience it as, as well constructed as it hangs together.
Speaker 2 (14:39):
And we usually have a third one, and that is, does it matter? So there are many arguments that we could make about that are valuable to, to make, but at the moment they are not the, the, maybe the best place to put attention. Right. And so you also need to include some reason or some indication in your reasons about why this is important. Now, why is this important now? Or why is this important compared to other things that are vying for time and attention? So there's the facts, right? Is this, so there's the inference? Does it hang together? Is it strong? Do they follow and the weight do, does it matter now? So if you take a look again, then at your, um, at your claim and your reasons are your facts, correct? Can you think of, you know, what do you need to do maybe to check up on them? Does your reasoning follow right? Is there maybe something you'll need to add? Um, and do you, do you have a reason why it matters? Why it matters comparatively and why it matters now?
Speaker 3 (16:02):
Speaker 2 (16:03):
So we're not usually doing this alone, right? It's, it's for relatively straightforward things, perhaps, but generally we're drawing on other people's thoughts and experiences as well. And it's not just me talking to one other person. Right. But these it's an organizational change that, that I'm encouraging. And so how do you structure it when you're doing it collectively? So a first essential factor is point of view that understanding both the point of view that you're coming from, right? What values, what matters to you and also to people who see it differently and understanding what, what matters to them, what is valuable to them and understanding as you're strengthening, using that understanding to strengthen your reasons, or to be able to articulate an alternative point of view that you might not agree with, but you can represent why there is a place of disagreement. That's much more valuable than direct disagreement. I think a so and so thinks B, and this is the part where we see things differently. So this is, as we said, synthesizing knowledge experience in good judgment, other people's knowledge, other people's experiences, other people's good judgment with your own into arguments based on valid reasons.
Speaker 2 (17:39):
So there are three poisons when you're doing this, there is no way to overcome the poisons. So it's, it's three things that are, I don't have strategies necessarily for overcoming, because in that instance, you can't be practicing argumentation. Argumentation requires people to be engaged, right. To be willing. And so, but there are some antidotes, some, some things you can do that begin to loosen the kinds of blocks that we run into, um, over time and also improve your style significantly. And when you, as your style improves, you will tend to run into the poisons less often. And the first is hierarchy, right? So we know that power and control and the structure of power and the, I make a decision and you enact and you enact the decision and the antidote to, to when that's, that's very entrenched is strengthening the reasons together, right? So that when you're engaging with other people, you're engaging them not to.
Speaker 2 (18:48):
Yes, no. Do you agree with this? But to, to have them have them help demonstrate where a fact could is, could be stronger or an inference could be stronger, or a, uh, a piece of information in the fact, right. Uh, could be stronger. And the goal is together to come up with the best possible solution under the circumstance, as opposed to debating yours versus other people's on the second is to talk to the hand. If somebody says, I don't care what you say, then argumentation, isn't happening. Change. My mind is not argumentation because that person has no responsibility to consider, um, what is being claimed or, or reasoned. And the antidote to this is an improvisational practice of yes. And, and that is when an improv team is doing sketch comedy, right? So that's not written, there's no script. They always follow this rule, which is whatever anyone else does or says, they say yes, and take it in a different direction because otherwise it will fall apart.
Speaker 2 (20:07):
This is true of meetings as well. Like, and any kind of discussion as soon as somebody is saying no. And that is my first reaction to most things. Nope, no, no. And instead a breathe into yes. And yes, yes. I either I don't have to agree, but I'm acknowledging yes. I acknowledge I, this is what's happening in the room and I'm looking for ways to be able to then go back to strengthening the reasons move and to strengthening the reasons and the third and a very, very common is that it seems that people are disagreeing when in fact they mostly aren't. Um, it's just, they're using different words or they're looking at things from a different point of view with their words that they think they're talking about different things, and this happens much more than I would have imagined that it did. And so the antidote for that is to define everything, especially is anything you're sure everybody knows what it means. So agile is a really great example, that word, because there are many constant discussions about how you practice agile and most of them come from the fact that when people think about agile, they are not thinking about the same thing or they have, they're trying to solve different problems with one tool. So it's important to define what you mean, especially when they're very common words.
Speaker 2 (21:47):
So if we're going to structure collective reasoning, what is the structure and the structure that I recommend, I call it a TDE top-down elaboration. It's the traditional, why, what, who, how, when, and it's essential to do this, even if you're not going to convey all of the parts. So professionally, I tend to do at least a one page of this, about any kind of decision that other people are going to engage with me in. But just having an understanding within myself, when I'm going into these discussions of this structure enables me to structure the discussion, right? And as we go back to Conway's law, it being able to structure the discussion is what will help define the outcome of, of the discussion. So the first is Y and Y is by far the most critical, because if you've not connected on the why, if there's no agreement on the Y, then the rest of it mostly is now going to get hurt.
Speaker 2 (23:06):
And I have a very, um, uh, of a story about, about the value of this, that I once began a very big initiative, um, with an organization. And what I, my claim was we need to replace the foundational system that is the most business critical system, and we need to replace it. It's reached and reached or reaching end of life. And nobody wanted to hear this. The like three of us, three of us had faith in this and no one in the Jose world of no. And so we worked very hard while also understanding what it would take to replace the system. We worked very, very hard on articulating the why and understanding the why and validating our, our, our reasons or anything we said was it, was it true? And a year later, by the time I went to present to the CEO and CFO to have funding for this, for this initiative, the CEO said that I, I think, and everyone that I've been speaking to thinks this is the most important thing for us to do right now.
Speaker 2 (24:27):
And that came from a, uh, speaking truth to power experience over a long period of time in which we just kept strengthening, um, strengthening the claim, strengthening the reasons, making sure they were true until eventually, um, people did see and understand why it was so, and then there's the what, so the, what is, is what change, what activities, what will people do differently that will enable the Y, right? How does the Y actually manifest? And then there's the who and the, who has a number of levels. One of the most valuable is who can help you understand the, why strengthen your reasons, understand the, what, uh, who is impacted by this, who is pressing against, uh, against it. And why are they, what are they motivated by?
Speaker 2 (25:31):
How? So, this is generally, um, one in my world, many of these conversations always wanted to talk about how right. So for engineering teams, it's really common to the argument is the how right? If we understand the, how, then it moves forward. And so cultivating the practice of why, what, and who can be very helpful to convey the value of how, and then also, how is helpful to ground your argument in something that people really can, can experience it's momentum, right? So it may be I in, in replacing the system, for example, I'm not going to get into all of the details or solve all of the problems upfront, but I am going to show that I have the strategy for some of these, these, for how we'll deal with some of the challenges or solve some of the problems. It can be. For example, if I am talking about a particular tool, I would also know what the options for that tool are and what some of the trade offs are.
Speaker 2 (26:44):
So I call it just enough, how, but how is it very grounding thing to add? And when ish, if it's valuable now, if it's very valuable to pay attention to now, there is some time component, right? Something about the particular time or a deadline or something happening or changes in the system. Something makes it valuable now. And so you want to be able to articulate those. And then as a whole, why, what, who, how, and when strengthen your claim and your reasons by giving it a point of view, that's going to connect it in a way that is resonates more with people, depend people looking at it from different points of view will be able to understand what you're trying to say. Even though they're starting from different points of view.
Speaker 2 (27:41):
So this would be wonderful if we were good at it, but we're not, we are not good at this. Uh, our minds, um, have lots of patterns in which something feels true to us. It seems true to us. And it is absolutely not true, right? It's just patterns of mind. And when I come across those patterns, this is what I feel. I have this monkey symbols feeling something is wrong. Something, this is not hanging together. Someone will say something. I have no idea what to say back, but it just doesn't come. And this is because my own mind is steeped in these conceptual fallacies as well. So they, they, they feel wrong to me, but my mind does not immediately give me information about why they are so let's practice them. Yeah. So we're going to do a quiz. You can write the numbers. If you're watching this live in the YouTube channel today, you can write the numbers of your, of your guests, or just say them out loud in like watching jeopardy.
Speaker 2 (28:56):
Okay. Of course, Arthur suggested that he loves to overcomplicate everything. Of course, Arthur suggested that he loves to overcomplicate everything that's ad homonym to the man. So maybe Arthur does like to overcomplicate everything, but that doesn't mean he's wrong by dismissing the person. I've not actually done anything, uh, said anything relevant about the person's argument. This is beta, but nobody has reported many problems with it. So it'll work for us. That's appeal to ignorance. So just because we don't know of any problems doesn't mean there aren't any problems. We didn't have good tools or enough time. So we're not responsible for the outage that's appeal to pity so that it might be true that you didn't have good tools or enough time. It doesn't necessarily follow that you aren't responsible for the outage, right? That connection would need to be strengthened. You want to use Joomla.
Speaker 2 (30:19):
So ad populum just because something is popular or not popular, doesn't mean that it is not the best solution under the circumstances. If graph QL times out, it sends a front end, timeout ever the front end timeout, the front end got a timeout error. Therefore graph QL has timed out. If graph QL times out, it sends an error. The front end got an error, therefore graph QL timed up. It's affirming the consequent that if graph QL times out, it sends an error is true. It doesn't necessarily follow that if the front end got an error, timeout is the only thing that happened.
Speaker 2 (31:03):
Lack of Kubernetes is our problem, which you know, is begging the question. Cause it's the last one. There, this happens in technology a lot where we say our problem is that we don't have the technology that we're missing a technology. And therefore, when we get the technology, we won't have the problem anymore, but of course, lack of Kubernetes. Isn't the problem. What is the problem that Kubernetes would solve? So the last section I want to talk about is, again, this is hard, it's hard, and it's constant this speaking to the wall of power. And there are, there's a great need for us to be able to nourish ourselves as we're going through this, renew our energy, because it's exhausting to do this. And because it's easy for us to then begin to use crutches and other things to, to gain our energy, which actually don't make us more effective.
Speaker 2 (32:11):
So the first thing, and to my mind, the most essential thing is self-awareness. So you can't be speaking truth to power if you're not aware of your truth. And, and you're not aware of what you're thinking, and you're not able to integrate other people's thinking into yours. And so I journal every morning, it's a very important part of my practice. Um, but it's certainly not the only way meditation going for a walk, talking to other people who mirror back and, and who understand and who understand you also, even more importantly, you've got your own baggage, right? So we're often when we think we're speaking truth to power, we're yelling at our parents or our Xs or bad boss. Like we're, we're not really engaging with what's actually happening, we're reacting. And so we need to sort that out and we need practices that help us do so intuition.
Speaker 2 (33:13):
So often when we experience leverage points or gaps or places in which there's an iceberg. And no one seems to see it. It's an intuitive knowing before it's a cognitive noting, and it's very tricky to find structures or ways for me, it is anyway, I don't have any words. I just have intuition and it feels like everything I say is wrong until I finally figure out how to articulate it. And so practices that enable you to not have to be knowledge driven all the time, but be able to be able to, to speak metaphorically or develop the kinds of, of inner connections that give you words quicker. I find this very challenging, but very valuable because if I ignore my intuition at my own peril, but I over listen to it at my own peril. There's some kind of balance there, empathy, of course you can't, uh, engage with what other people think and feel if you don't care, what other people think and feel, but also empathy for yourself, right?
Speaker 2 (34:20):
Bringing back to yourself, um, the kind of warm hearing that you're trying to get when you're screaming into the wind and you're not getting anything back for that. And so bringing empathy for yourself and for others is a very, uh, warming way as well of being able to neutralize what often arises when, when there's power and what power doesn't want to hear, right, is that if speaking truth to power is easy, when it's what power wants to hear, it's hard when it is something it doesn't want to hear. Right? And so then empathy is a great adjunct practice to, um, to make the journey more comfortable.
Speaker 2 (35:08):
And last that your mind is your body, right? And there's, there's a, there's a constant connection between the thinking and the communicating and what's happening in your body. And for me, I want to eat ice cream as a way of managing this. Or before I go into a particularly tough meeting, I think, Oh, if I have a cup of coffee, I'll be really wrapped up. But in fact it is real food and, you know, fruits and vegetables and all the things we already know, but it's, it's what gives us the type of energy to be able to do this in a way that, um, that lets us take a breath and less us. Yes. And unless that's engaged with people, um, without becoming overwhelmed. So we try not to, it's not, it's ideal not to overwhelm the body and the mind before you're in an overwhelming situation, also go outside. So we've, we, we are a system among many systems in, among a planet that is a system itself, and there's much more to connect with in people. And it can be very renewing for us to, to let go of whatever contracted experience we're having and put ourselves in an expansive one before coming back again.
Speaker 2 (36:27):
And last is to renew through engaging with people in something that's more collaborative. If you're in a situation in which you're speaking truth to power, and it is it's, you're deeply engaged in it over a period of time. Then you also want to make sure you have, you have times in which it's easy when it's easy to do things and accomplish things with other people so that it doesn't feel like speaking truth to power is all there. There is. And that also renews your, your energy. So that's the end of my talk today, and I'm very grateful that you came to, to join, uh, online and please feel free to find me on Twitter if you'd like to keep connecting.
Speaker 1 (37:18):
Thank you for that, Diana. Um, let's see. She's still here. She's frozen.
Speaker 2 (37:35):
Speaker 1 (37:35):
Yes, there you are. Hey,
Speaker 2 (37:38):
Sorry. It was, the chat was so interesting.
Speaker 1 (37:44):
So you, uh, you propose doing a hands on session, uh, on a meetup for this case. Can you explain and see if people want to join?
Speaker 2 (37:52):
Yeah. So, um, I'd really love to work together on some of our icebergs on some of the, the, the challenges that people are facing and the ways that they're trying to develop their, um, their communication, their claim work with their intuition. So we talked about having a followup, um, workshop for people to join, and we can model some of these and, and work on them together. Very exciting to me. So I hope people will, um, be great if they keep an eye out for that. Yeah.
Speaker 1 (38:30):
So if you want to just leave a reply on YouTube or on Twitter and thank you very much, Diana, I think it was really inspirational. I really enjoyed it. I need to rewatch it 10 times. Probably.
Speaker 2 (38:45):
Yeah. It's it's it's um, yeah, it's kind of a lot, it's a lot at once, which is so I'm grateful for the opportunity to potentially practice together. So
Speaker 1 (38:53):
Yeah. We're grateful that you're here, so thank you. We're getting ready for the, yeah. We're getting ready for the ending keynote.
Speaker 2 (39:01):
The big keynote. Everybody go, everybody go see that.
Speaker 1 (39:05):
Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. It was Rebecca with Julie, with Woody and with Paul. So it's going to be fun. Talk about sustainable experimentation for sustainable architecture. So see you in 20 minutes, hopefully.
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