A Commonplace

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7/10/2017

The Three Languages

I'm indebted to Dougald Hine) for giving me this idea - although I had read about something very similar in a post by Venkatesh Rao. It's the idea there are different languages with which you talk to different people in a project. Dougald identifies three languages, Rao spots a fourth, which we'll talk about a bit later.

The three languages that Dougald talks about are:

Two things are going through my mind as write this.

One is a quote from David Allen - the Getting Things Done guy. I'm sure he got it from somewhere else - "When they jump you in an alley, it's too late to train." People who go to public schools maybe (the English meaning of public school - i.e. not public) get this kind of training by default. But how does everyone else train for this? What would training look like? I think I really need to put this training course together - for my own benefit, if for nobody elses.

The second thing is how this relates to Patsy Rodenberg's idea of the "Second Circle". Briefly, her idea is that there are three types of communication.

It seems that each of the languages that Dougald Hine talks about - the in language, the out language and the up language tend to one of these circles:

In language tends to be Second circle - if a team is functioning at all. The "storming" phase that occurs after the "forming" of a team - according to Tuckman - is a period in which members of the team lecture each other (Third circle), or keep quiet (First circle), even though they have things they'd like to say. But a team that's functioning properly has to be talking in Second circle. There has to good two-day communication and discussion about what's happening right now.

The idea of Agile: stand-ups, retrospectives, pair-programming is to increase the trust of the members of the team in each other and improve the quality of the conversation, moving it into Second circle and keeping it there.

Out langauge tends to be Third circle. A company, an organisation, tells its customers things. Although, with the advent of the internet and social media, some of the most successful companies have managed to turn their relationship with their customers into a dialogue.

Up language tends to be First circle - with its corresponding Down language being Third circle. This is the most difficult and dangerous thing for a project, and for an organisation. Information needs to be exchanged. There needs to be some second circle communication.