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Re: Agile Management

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  • Bethany Andres-Beck
    ... The connection I see is that both look for a different means to resolve conflicts of desire other than brute force. Martial arts as they are usually
    Message 1 of 58 , Jul 3, 2008
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      >I've always been puzzled by the connection some people see between
      >agile development and martial arts.

      The connection I see is that both look for a different means to
      resolve conflicts of desire other than brute force. Martial arts as
      they are usually practiced tend to focus on physical conflicts, but
      the philosophy goes beyond that. Like all
      philosophy it is a correspondence, a lens that may be helpful to look
      through in the face of a problem, rather than a list of prescribed

      >It still seems to concern getting ones own way, and arranging that someone
      >else does not get their way.

      I don't know very much about other marshal arts, but that's not what
      this is about. Aikido is about finding ones own way, fully realizing
      it may not be what you think it is, amongst other people who you
      recognize are trying to find their own way. Your goal is never to just
      to keep someone from getting their way. When it does involve other
      people, it's to provide a path they could take which minimizes harm
      first to yourself and then to other people.

      There is that level of selfishness in Aikido, in that the goal isn't
      to save the world or to make everyone happy. It is very much a
      philosophy of self defense. It seeks to answer the question, "in this
      conflict how can I behave to change the situation so that I am not at
      risk?" and offers the answer, "by shifting the
      energies/desires/physical bodies involved." In order to work with any
      of those you have to understand the forces at work, both theirs and
      yours. It happens to do it in ways that may lead to a deeper
      resolution (since how else can you be sure you won't be at risk again
      tomorrow, or in thirty seconds when the person gets up off the ground?)

      This is where I see a connection between this philosophy and software
      design. If any conflict, and there are plenty of them in software
      production, are to be resolved this philosophy suggests that the
      resolution is about changing the conflict, not having one side win,
      and it says that the way to do that is through personal behavior, not
      by making assumptions about the other parties or expecting them to
      change without having a motivation to do so. The old man didn't begin
      by saying, "I bet you are angry and drunk because your life is
      miserable; you should fix that and then you wouldn't hurt people."
      Instead he produced something of his own life, his own humanity, and
      then offered the man the opportunity for empathy, another path for the
      emotions fueling his anger to travel.

      If someone is angry because our software doesn't work to the
      specifications they need the answer isn't to say "you didn't tell us
      you needed that", because it doesn't solve the problem. It also isn't
      to take it personally, or to give up my long weekend to attempt to fix
      something that might or might not be fixable. Instead we can discuss
      the deeper issue, the communication failure, communicate clearly what
      is possible in the six hours and ask what specific problems these
      failures are calling. Are they going to get what they thought they
      wanted? No. They may get something good enough, or that addressed
      the particular problems. Am I getting what I thought I wanted? No, I
      wanted the program that satisfied the requirements as I understood
      them to be good and appreciated. I am getting what I really want,
      though, which is to not have this failure take over the rest of my
      life. They are getting what they need to do the immediate job.
      Neither of us is happy, neither of us is miserable and both of us are
      now more aware of the other person's perspective for when something
      comes up in the future. More importantly, neither of us is actively
      angry or destructive and the work is getting done.

      >Even the linked story about the subway car seems to show that
      >compassion and listening was an alternative to fighting.

      The philosophical point, I believe, goes deeper than that. The point
      was that compassion was exactly the same thing that could have, and
      should have, motivated the physical resolution. This application of
      compassion wasn't a passive or peaceful thing, it wasn't just someone
      showing interest in the man as a human being, it was a means to an
      end. That old man saw something that needed to be changed and
      aggressively discovered what was motivating the situation, how he
      could connect to the humans involved, redirect their energy and,
      bonus!, have them engage with the underlying issues instead of what
      they thought they wanted. The young man was trying to be reactionary,
      thinking that when he was attacked he could turn the attackers energy
      against him, which misses the point. His real goal was for the drunk
      to not be angry and hurting people, but what he thought he wanted was
      to personally prevent him from hurting people. As long as the drunk's
      goal was to hurt people and the young man's goal was to physically
      stand in the way of that they were in an unresolvable conflict. The
      old man's goal (understand the energy and redirect it into a less
      harmful path) wasn't in conflict with the drunk's goal (he could stay
      angry as long as he wanted to), and so it could lead to a resolution.
      Progress is only possible when the forces aren't directly in

      The practice of Aikido is as much about what you do after someone is
      on the ground as it is about getting them there. You don't solve
      problems through the physical practices; you bring the situation to a
      place where the conflict can be addressed. The physical practice is
      as much about knowing your own energy, both mental and physical, as it
      is about learning the techniques.

      Software isn't about winners or losers, and neither is Aikido. Both
      are about achieving the best possible outcomes from difficult
      situations, and hopefully changing the preconditions that made the
      situation difficult in the first place.

    • Chris Wheeler
      On Mon, Jul 7, 2008 at 10:09 AM, Ron Jeffries ... No, me neither, it was mainly me thinking out loud and pushing on a whole
      Message 58 of 58 , Jul 7, 2008
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        On Mon, Jul 7, 2008 at 10:09 AM, Ron Jeffries <ronjeffries@...>

        > Be that as it may, I don't recall any posts here that have had the
        > violence side in mind. The mind set, and the "deflective" character
        > of Aikido, yes. Violence ... I'm not seeing that.

        No, me neither, it was mainly me thinking out loud and pushing on a whole
        bunch of different ways to view the analogy.


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