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Re: [XP] Programmer resistance to "successful" technologies/processes/frameworks

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  • Dale Emery
    Hi Manuel, ... Consider running a Temperature Reading, a meeting in which you invite team members to express important stuff that often doesn t get expressed.
    Message 1 of 529 , May 1, 2007
      Hi Manuel,

      > Do you have any advice on how to stop people complaining
      > and to start acting? Do you think it's possible?

      Consider running a Temperature Reading, a meeting in which you invite team
      members to express important stuff that often doesn't get expressed. One of
      the parts of a temperature reading is "Complaints with Recommendations."
      The idea is to give not only a complaint, but also a recommendation.

      More about Temperature Readings here:

      Here's one story about how I stopped complaining and started acting. In
      1990 or so I got interested in process. Before that I was interested only
      in coding, but our process was a mess and quality suffered. And that left
      me either cleaning up the mess or living with it. In response, I complained
      about our process. I must have badgered my boss for a year to do something
      about the process.

      One day he said, "Okay, I'm putting you in charge of doing something about
      it." No, no, no! That's not what I meant! But I rolled up my sleeves and
      got to work doing something about it, with modest but noticeable good

      Another story: Okay, I still complained about the larger organization. I
      complained often, and I complained well. A group of a dozen or so of us
      developers took afternoon breaks together every day, and that gave me an
      audience. One day on the way back from break, Jack said, "You sure know how
      to bring a conversation down."

      That stopped me in my tracks. In an instant I realized that the only real
      effect of my complaining was to make everyone else as miserable as I was.
      In the next instant I realized that that was my /intention/ (unconscious but
      real): to validate my own stuckness by convincing everyone else to feel
      stuck and crappy, too. And as Jack said, I was really, really good at that.
      What a horrible feeling that was to realize how I'd been treating my
      friends. And myself. Bleah.

      So I vowed at that moment to stop complaining and instead, whenever I felt
      the urge to complain, figure out what I want and what I can do about it.
      I've mostly kept that vow.

      I now make a living helping people solve their problems. Mostly people call
      me to help with people problems. And most of the time they think the
      problem is the other person. They put significant effort into inviting me
      to validate their blame--that is, their complaints about other people. But
      if it's really true that the problem is the other guy's fault, then that
      leaves my client at the mercy of the other guy.

      So my challenge in those situations is to find something that the client can
      do to take a step toward what they want, rather than continuing to blame,
      which keeps them stuck. And finding something that they can do almost
      always involves first identifying ways they are contributing to the problem.
      It's very tricky business, because people often see contribution as fault.
      If contribution is fault, then they're more reluctant to acknowledge their
      contribution, because then they'd blame themselves. A nasty self-sealing
      feedback loop.

      Ultimately, the solution is to build up a relationship in which I can, as
      directly and blamelessly as possible, help them identify their contribution
      to the situation. Jack had that kind of relationship of deep mutual trust
      with me, and that's what forced/allowed me to acknowledge the truth and the
      horrible implications of what he was saying. With my clients, I get a head
      start on that relationship because they call me only if they already have
      some respect for me. And my next goal is to further negotiate a
      relationship in which it is legitimate for me to explore how the client is
      managing the problem. I owe a great deal to Peter Block's book "Flawless
      Consulting" for that.

      The most challenging situation is with people who haven't asked me for help,
      in situations where someone is complaining and I want them to stop. In
      these situations, the problem is mine and not theirs. I'm going to have to
      stop complaining about their complaining and do something about it.

      If the complaints are ongoing, and if I'm repeatedly bothered by them, I'm
      probably contributing in some way. Am I inviting them to complain?
      Colluding in their complaints ("Yes, you're right, Fred /is/ a jerk")?
      Encouraging complaints just by lending a sympathetic ear? Taking on their
      problems as my own?

      If I can identify some way I'm contributing, that's great, because then I
      can stop contributing in those ways. Lots of things I can do instead. I
      can ask what they want from me. I can offer to help. I can ask them to
      stop complaining to me. I can stop taking their complaints to heart (so
      that at least I don't feel miserable). I can hand the problem back to them:
      "Oh, that certainly sounds like a problem for you," then go about my
      business. I can cut them off when they start complaining.

      Lots of other possibilities, depending on the specifics of the situation.
      Most important is to identify my own contributions to their complaints,
      because my contributions immediately suggest things that are within my power
      to change.

    • Murali Krishna Devarakonda
      ... You are right, of course. But my list was only intended to illustrate and discuss the idea - not to discuss the list itself. I really wanted to focus on
      Message 529 of 529 , May 6, 2007
        --- In extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com, "Kelly Anderson"
        <kellycoinguy@...> wrote:
        > On 4/29/07, Murali Krishna Devarakonda <muralikd@...> wrote:
        > > Over the last two decades, I've seen resistance to practically every
        > > "successful" technology-framework-process-whatever first-hand.
        > > Yet, to simplify , why do programmers "zealously" resist change-
        > > particularly in those cases where we can now say with hindsight that
        > > it was for the better, i.e. "successful"?
        > Just because something is eventually successful, does not necessarily
        > mean that early adoption means early success. In fact, you could
        > probably make an effective argument against early adoption of
        > development tools/methodologies. Look how much has been learned by the
        > bleeding edgers, and use what has been proven to work is a reasonably
        > successful way to go for many endeavors.
        > -Kelly

        You are right, of course. But my list was only intended to illustrate
        and discuss the idea - not to discuss the list itself. I really wanted
        to focus on "successes" and discuss what goes on in the minds of
        programmers who resist the *idea* behind the product that eventually
        becomes a "success".

        I'm going to post my thoughts on this in another thread.
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