Toms Talk At Xp Immersion Three

From XpImmersionThree

The Paradox of Process Improvement

A good process will tell you to do what a good manager and staff would do anyway. -- TomDeMarco.

Is process improvement relevant at all?

There is more to good management than improving CMM.


Every time a piece of software is installed someone gains and someone loses power. We need the cooperation of the losers, and we are in the middle.

Show stopper

What happens if you write the spec so someone loses. That is why the spec ends up wishy washy. At that point we blame the writer for being a bad writer.

We can't build wishy washy code so programmers have to deal with conflict resolution.

Vague specs identify conflicts.

An interesting point that Tom made was the inadequate learning environment that exists for managers on the job. He used, as an example the half days training a new manger receives on MicroSoft Project. Mangers are taught the mechanics of managing; Budget mechanics, Schedule mechanics, Task coordination, Reporting, etc. Nothing to tell you how to do these things. Management Training focuses on the easy stuff, when the hard skills are the only ones that matter.

It is unusual to have a peer support system for managers as exists for developers. He gave an example of a TeamManagement? ( ManagementTeam ) approach which created this support system, among other interesting attributes. Could team management be the practice that facilitates the scaling of XP to 100 developers? I think its a great place to start.

One of Tom's slides looked something like the drawing below (sorry for the Visio hack :-). As I recall it, he described hearing of a team with a management structure that was basically a binary tree. Given the apparent oddity of it, he met the team and found that in practice, the middle managers acted as a single team towards the developers. They communicated heavily, enjoyed peer support, and supported all of the developers on the project. It was only one slide of many, so there was not too much other detail given. There is more discussion about this at ExtremeManagement. -- LowellLindstrom

Management the Untaught Skills

On praising... make an I statement, don't be judgemental.

On trust... the common school of thought is that you gain trust by demonstrating trustworthiness, nope. Give trust in advance of demonstrating trustworthiness.

On listening... if you are having the same argument over and over, someone feels like someone is not listening.

I haven't heard Tom's talk but am very interested in it. I wonder if he's thinking along the lines of ExtremeManagement? -- PeterMerel

I doubt he was thinking about ExtremeManagement per se, but I believe that much of his emphasis of creating a better learning and support structure for software managers is consistent with what XP is trying to do for programmers. -- LowellLindstrom

On praising... make an I statement, don't be judgemental.

What if you are in the position to judge? --

Nobody is in a position to objectively judge the value of another person. I statements provide an accurate way of stating your opinion while taking responsibility for it. If you further restrict yourself to stating your opinion of a particular behavior, quality, or accomplishment your praise will be more effective. For instance when praising a child: "Wow, this room is very well organized, you must have been very persistent to have done all of this." is very effective while "good girl" is actually counterproductive. There is a book called "PunishedByRewards?" that goes deeply into this topic. -- PhilGoodwin

Another excellent book is HowToWinFriendsAndInfluencePeople. If you haven't tried it, do!, you'll like it. -- RobHarwood

Phil, I was going to write that I disagree mildly with what you wrote above, but I noted that your example doesn't follow your advice.... it follows my advice ;-) I have found it more powerful to state praises in the objective view, and criticism in the subjective view. E.g, as you did, objective view: "This room is well organized." For criticism, the subjective: "I am not comfortable with ..." The personal/subjective phrasing weakens the impact, because it only applies to one person, ergo, better for criticizing, while objective phrasing sounds like it is agreed upon and settled, ergo, better for praising. Cheers -- Alistair

That's a good observation. However, I think that narrowing the scope by being subjective can also serve to make a message more personal and therefore more powerful: "That was very courageous. I really admire courage." I also think that labeling the particular attribute is more powerful than labeling the whole person because it is more focused and therefore serves to more directly drive a particular behavior. -- PhilGoodwin

Right. Good example again. "That was courageous." stated in absolute terms indicating the universe would provide consensus. I don't think the "I admire courage" part adds much, because the listener already has their internal opinion as to whether courage is strive-worthy or not. If it is, the "I admire" part is redundant, if it is not, that part is conflicting.

The exact same reasoning applies to criticism: "That wasn't courageous" is stronger than "I didn't think that was very courageous." In criticism, we like the weakened version, so the person won't think the universe is about to hammer them.

I developed these ideas by watching a guy speak, who was tremendously ineffective at these things. He always went to the trouble to make his compliments personal instead of objective, and I could virtually see that water down the compliment. I later read an excellent book about raising children (can't recall it this instant), which introduced the notion that compliments are a BAD thing... it all had to do with that internal opinion I was alluding to. Ergo, replace "You are a good girl, you tidied this room." with, "My, this room sure is tidy!" - - the "good girl" comes with her internal dialog. etc.

I'm sorry if it seems we are in disagreement, I think we are in close agreement. cheers -- AlistairCockburn

In The Continuum Concept, Jean Liedloff makes the point that it is your expectations that have a powerful effect on children. So, if you say to your child something like 'Wow, what you did was just fantastic!' and make a big fuss about it the main thing child hears primarily is not the praise but your surprise, and deduces that what they did was not what was expected. So they try not to do it again since its was clearly not what hey were supposed to do. So is not that complements are a bad thing but that you have to strike a balance between being surprised and being blase. -- StephenHutchinson

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