Walking A Mile In The Shoes Of The Third Entity

“Walk a mile in my shoes huh
Walk a mile in my shoes
Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes”
– Elvis Presley

At a recent Agile coach retreat, thanks to Mike Kaufman, I was introduced to ORSC or Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching. A model for coaching people, teams or organizations. Unlike one-on-one coaching, ORSC shifts the focus from an individual to the relationship systems that individual is part of. One of the concepts we learned was “The Third Entity”. The Third Entity is that which lives outside the individuals in a relationship system. The individuals within a relationship compose the First and Second Entities. Picture the Third Entity as the synthesis of all the relationship outcomes of a system. In organizations, think of the Third Entity as corporate culture – the collective consciousness of an organization. To experience the Third Entity at the retreat, we participated in an activity that involved rotating through all three entities in mind and body. It was an opportunity to experience first-hand what it felt like to be physically in the shoes of each entity. This enabled those with relationship challenges to gain alternative perspectives and deep insights into the nature and motivation behind the interactions between the First and Second Entities.

Could I enlist The Third Entity to help organizations change?
When I think of organizational change and more specifically, the leaders desiring change, it troubles me how some leaders approach change. They see change as a top-down initiative. Conjured up in the minds of a few sages and thrust upon the masses like alms to the poor. Those sages then wonder why the change hasn’t progressed past the slogan covered t-shirts and mugs.

To illustrate, let’s imagine an organization wishing to change to Agile ways of working. If the leadership group is the First Entity and the masses are the Second Entity, what would the Third Entity hear? Let’s listen in…

First Entity describing why the change to Agile is necessary:

  • “Everyone is using Agile – I don’t want to be left behind.”
  • “Agile will help us deliver this project faster.”
  • “The pace of change has increased exponentially.”
  • “We’re being asked to do more at the same time.”
  • “Agile is now a mandate for the organization, so we have to do it.”
  • “We will create five scrum teams and here’s the standard Scrum process we want them to follow.”
  • “Agile will increase collaboration.”
  • “Agile will improve quality.”
  • “People using Agile have higher opinion survey scores. They look happier.”

Second Entity responding to what it hears from the First Entity:

  • “The pace of change may be faster but so what? I don’t see how that impacts us.”
  • “Why do we need to be faster? I haven’t heard any complaints from our clients.”
  • “Improve quality?!? We haven’t had a production outage in years!”
  • “I’ve been asked to be a Product Owner but I don’t know what that means.”
  • “I don’t want to give up my cubicle to sit in a room with everyone else.”
  • “This sounds like another management fad. I’ll just lay low and wait for it to blow over.”

Third Entity deciphering what it hears:

  • There is no compelling reason for change. Worst yet, the leaders are initiating change because they’ve been told to; not because they want to. They love the sound of the benefits realized by others but aren’t clear why?
  • The masses lack context for why the change is necessary. Confusion ensues as new roles are introduced without understanding or insight. They feel change is being done to them, not with them. Another program de jour?

Without intervention, the change is doomed.

What options could the Third Entity suggest?

  1. If you’re changing because you’re being told to – STOP.
  2. Have you talked to your clients recently? If not, do so and find out what they love and what they loathe.
  3. Leadership could take the opportunity to convert their leadership case for change to an organizational case for change by involving the masses in co-creating a unified case for change.
  4. If you’re one of the masses, ask yourself what the change could mean for you professionally and personally.
  5. Go visit with those already using Agile. Ask questions, reflect upon the answers. Uncover your why.
  6. Start with a small experiment by dipping your toes into the pool of change. Is it too cold or too hot? Will you swim or will you sink?

Which option will the First Entity and the Second Entity like to start with?

Changing perspective mentally and physically may be just what’s needed to bridge the relationship gap between dissonant entities.


While looking for a quote to include with this post, I found the following song –  Elvis Presley – Walk A Mile In My Shoes. What a soulful way to describe the possibilities of walking in another’s shoes. Have a listen. I trust you’d agree.

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