Take a particle from it’s box. Now take a few more from each of their boxes and collocate then into a single box. They are at times bound to collide into one another. The smaller the box, even more-so. Now take a team of people and put them into a time-box. To get any where the team needs to move in the same direction, coordinate, and establish some agreed upon destination all while making concerted effort to move. There is bound to be collision, and some will call this conflict. What if instead it was merely agitation towards alignment – would the terminology make it any less opposing? What about the state of the particle? Did it trust the particles around it? Did this particular particle not bond or perhaps was in a high energy state that made it very volatile, radioactive and cause some decay…
Assuming even none of these problems, and as part of an agile effort we have a loose collective of particles. I have seen two particles – or people argue and I had to interrupt them both with a laugh… they were really agreeing with each other (quite vehemently) but neither paused to consider the context from which the point came. The perspective individually allowed for both of them to be right… How?
Thinking and Communicating Context
Are we at the same perspective or level? – details, tasks, stories, epics, product, portfolio. Maybe role, team, program, organization, community. Possibly impact, resources, scope, priority, knowledge, risk. What about minutes, hours, days, weeks, sprints, months, quarters, years? The aforementioned argument had two different time contexts in mind. Both had two quality concerns but one was for today, the other was for for the next several sprints. It was a false dilemma that both their solutions would be mutually exclusive. Check out a list of errors in logic sometime. Poisoning the well, hasty generalization, shotgun argumentation and Nirvana fallacy are common enough. Both people were absolutely so focused on delivering great software that they overlooked a few things that might have made their collaboration easier.
Needs Drives Behaviors.
I always like people. There are some behaviors I don’t care for. Some thinking can be changed… some can’t. Is it responsive behavior, or deeply ingrained personality, – what level of thinking is it? At times I want to drive back to the motivation, and though I cannot always address it, if I understand what is going on, I am far less fearful and far more effective at suggesting and taking some course of action to make it better. At times this is my imperfect perspective at what is happening and why – but then I tend to over think things at several different angles. Some movement forward is as important as the right direction. I look to myself to balance things gently, observe if they have gotten better or worse.
And In All This Communication – Did We Forget To LISTEN?
This is the other side of the coin. There is a GREAT book by Mark Goulston called Just Listen. In it he also describes the various layers to our own mind. From the reptilian, reflexive, primitive to the higher functioning and cognitive. Some times we are so bent on ourselves and proving a point that we forget the simple courtesy of allowing others to speak to their concerns. We loose the ability to influence others if we were to stop, shutdown, and disengage. We also forfeit our own opportunity to grow.
When many people get together and have a passion to create the best software possible, they can always have collisions.
Mutual respect for everyone’s craft, expertise, and human being. By ‘being’ I mean our ability to learn and grow. A human been, as one college professor liked to say, has assumed room temperature. Allowing someone to grow by necessity includes a certain amount of forgiveness, of forgetting. Things and people moving at the speed of agile – need themselves to be dynamic, and would be unfair to hold them to a static view. Just like for the organization – it is the rate of change we are measuring. So in all of this we remember every once in a while to keep our heads up. Heads down activity all the time does not always allow for continuous improvement or learning. Taking the time to make the software, the tools, processes, team, or organization better. There needs to be some balance in all of this.
When these are opportunities we should take hold of them. Looking ‘oppositionally’ at each other across some problem chasm is never as effective as standing side by side – looking in the same direction and solving it together. That latter achievement together will build trust, and allow us the chance to collaborate at a dozen different levels.
And at last – if you have to let off some steam – Find creative ways to wash over it. I have known teams to use Rockem-Sockem robots, Fuzeball, paintball, or a lan party to get past something pent up and laugh. Any interrupt to our communication is just another impediment to be gotten around and moved past.