Bunny Ears

Distracted, I found myself roaming the aisles of the local Wal-Mart.  Halloween had just passed, and here I was out of town, and in a pickle.  I was engaged as an application architect on a team looking to redesign our process for new customer setup.  The team was used to their current system, which was decades old, and in dire need of an overhaul.  My assignment was to help the Business Analyst facilitate sessions with various business stakeholders to help uncover the essential requirements for their new process and application redesign going forward.  The problem we could not get past was being trapped in current state thinking. 

I roamed the aisles trying to forget the conversations of the day.  But I was haunted and panicked.  I was running out of time.  I needed some inspiration to figure out how we would break the mental trap and begin a fresh conversation about the business requirements.  There had to be some way out.

At that moment something caught my eye.  It was loud and pink and obnoxious.  Best of all, it was half-priced, on clearance after Halloween.  One pair of fuzzy pink bunny ears were left on the peg.  I scooped them up, sprinted to the checkout counter and headed back to the hotel.

The next day when the group met I told them we had a new rule.  Anyone was free to talk about requirements for our new process and application.  However, anyone caught describing requirements using current state data entity names, application form and field names, or worst of all existing batch processes or cobol modules would have to wear the bunny ears for 10 minutes.  And trust me, those were some silly looking ears...

I got some powerful looks and intent stares.  I explained how we had to get past our current state deadlock.  The business agreed to humor my strange request and we began our conversation.  Naturally someone tripped up right away and fell into current state thinking.  Reluctantly, she plopped the bunny ears on the top of her head.  She was not looking happy.  At that point something changed.  People were pausing before they spoke, considering the words carefully.  I was starting to hear sentences like, "I know this is bunny ear thinking, so let me think of this another way" or "I am in danger of bunny ears ...".  One individual ranted, "I don't care about the damn bunny ears" and began expressing her new ideas in terms of the old system.  Apparently she was struggling with forming her fresh ideas about the new system without using current state vocabulary; the group helped her by morphing her language away from the old vocabulary.  She then became quiet and playfully put the ears on.  As the day grew on, the group continued to make progress and we had many lively discussions on the new system process and application.  

I returned the next day to the conference room, without the bunny ears.  They were no longer needed.  I keep those bunny ears on the corkboard in my  home office as a reminder of the power we all have to break out of current state thinking and the ability to dream of a more compelling future.