Sunday, March 22, 2009

Slow motion and a soundtrack of my life

All I really wish for at this moment is the ability to make the world move in slow motion and a soundtrack to go with it. How cool would it not be to have your own personal soundtrack for those action packed "bigger than yourself moments"! Like when you run for the bus (or enter an important meeting), everything slows down, you hear the soundtrack from The Rock pumping and as you step down in the water pool in the middle of the street you can see how the water spashes...

I have wished for this for a long time and at least gathered a library of soundtracks to accompany me. The latest in my compilation arrived last Friday: Echoes of War. Music from WarCraft, StarCraft and Diablo is now following my steps wherevever I go! Orchs beware!

The Art of Listening

During my career I have had the opportunity to work for a lot of different managers, project leaders and CEO's... unfortunately most of them were terrible leaders. One thing I have found that all of these terrible managers have in common is that they might listen to you but they don't hear what you are saying and the feeling of not being heard is truly a team killer.

So what is the art of listening then?
  • Just listen
  • Do not give explanations (unless they are asked for)
  • Do not interrupt
  • Do not go into defensive mode
  • Confirm what you've heard and...
  • Ask what you can do (don't offer help unless it's asked for)
That seems pretty simple, but I've met very few mangers that were proffiecent in the art of listening.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vital play

Last month I wrote a post about game play and how I wanted work to be more like that. I've spent some more time thinking and recently stumbled across this TED video about play and why it is important. It turns out that not only is it stimulating and fun but also vital for our brain and perhaps even our survival! A under stimulated being will sooner or later be depressed and this actually results in a shrinking brain!! Ouch! 

Before we continue let me just clarify what play is. The state of play occurs when no particular purpose exists for our actions. If purpose is more important than the act of doing it is probably not play.

Now why is play important then? For one thing it is the medium to link our brain to our body, this is how we learn. And play can exist in many forms such as social play (the want to belong), ritual play (sports), storytelling, imagination etc. etc. But I also believe that it is in the act of play that we get as most creative. Where we let our constraints go and dream up new ideas. Without it, a small amount of depression enters and we stagnate in our development as beings. Most of my ideas pop into my head from nowhere and then tag along for a while. But it is when I interact with others and play around with the idea that it takes off and becomes something more. And I can feed off that energy for weeks! (and if you want a money making angle on it, that energy is fueled straight into my work).

So keep on playing! If not for us (mankind) then for your own sake, and for your brain… and because it’s god damn fun!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Keep you code nice and tidy

Just wanted mention a nice little post about TDD and what might happen when you don't keep your tests nice and tidy. Or as Wendy Friedlander puts it:
However, the moment the tests slow, the practices start to slip...
  1. Writing code and verifying it works by launching the app, then creating the tests
  2. Making the test pass before verifying it failed.
  3. Not running all the tests before check in.
  4. Not refactoring because it takes too long
  5. It stops you from working close to 5 because you don't want to wait for the build
  6. Not adding tests at all because you don't want to break the build and don't want to wait to find out
  7. It ruins all the fun.
Check out the rest of the post at Wunda's World

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Creative doodles

I just so happens that I have to team mates which doodle a lot (one just doodles, the other insists on drawing small people as in the picture below). Naturally they are, like me, highly creative people. Well, according to an recent article in Wired this might accutally aid them in remembering what I'm going on about. By doodling they distract the brain just enough to stop it from going off into...                  ... some daydream. I wonder if my habit of chewing on my pensils has the same effect. =/

Monday, March 9, 2009

Changes... to what, to whom?

I had a discussion with an old friend last evening, the kind of dicussion you should have over a pint or two. The subject was change and the question what; what do we try to change, behaviour or personality? (It might be obvious, if for no other reason then because trying to change peoples personality is morally wrong. Who are we to deem what is the right one.) According to my friend (and many others) personality do not change after the age of ten. I certainly remember some of my reactions from kindergarden which would be the same today. Thus, we change behaviour and by logic follows, that if behaviour can change, then we can succeed no matter who is involved. This also means that a person hiring do not need to hire the best, but rather make sure that the organisation promotes the type of behaviour we want and that the people inside lead by example.  

Another thing we discussed was if it was worth striving for building the best team, or if we should simply accept that we have what we have and try to create the best working conditions by improving processes and tools. Talking to a collegue today he put me straight. We never strive for building the best team or creating the best process. Instead, we take small steps, always improving to create a better team or process, because there is always room for improvement (and so for more consultancy ;)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Focus on the right stuff

Why is it that we, ok, I keep on focusing on the wrong stuff. I held a short 40 minute seminar this week on Team Dynamics and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Directly after I rated my performance as ok but not more than that. It could have been more passionate, I could have been more snappy and I could have been better... as always of course. Then I read the evaluation forms... I shouldn't. On a scale of one to four 25% gave me two, the rest gave me three or four. Which part did I focus on? The 25%! My "ok" took a huge fall down to "crap". Luckily, my team mates did not let me crash and burn and instead pointed out the fact that at least 75% actually got something out of the seminar. Thanks guys!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Gathering Data

The other day I was attending a strategic product development meeting at one of my clients and I decided to gather some data during the meeting. I decided that I was going to count the number of statements people made and how many questions went unanswered during the meeting. After the meeting I was asked for some feedback on how the meeting went and I decided to share the data instead of my conclusions. The result was amazing!
Instead of having a lot of people trying to defend themselves againt my conclusions I got a lot of thoughts and reasoning about what the data might mean and when I shared my conclusions I discovered that I didn't really have any but instead had a lot of theories about why the data might mean. All in all, it was a great experience for me in that it actually opened my eyes to the importance of actually observing and not jumoing to conclusions right away.

Personal Insight

I had the fortunate experience of receiving some fantastic feedback from a friend of mine the other day. This is a guy who I've known for a lot of years and a while back he became a project manager at his company. At that time he asked me a lot of questions and I talked about my views on leadership, not really thinking that much about it since it is something I talk a lot about.

This weekend he told me about his current project and how he managed it and he obviously felt proud about a lot of things and I listened to him and was kind of surprised to hear that we shared a lot of views on leadership. Suddenly he told me that most of his leadership style was inspired by me and my tips and tricks as well as some of the books I had recommended. He ended his heart felt feedback by saying something that really made me think, he said: you talk about things from your own perspective, there is always a personal experience connected to all the theories and models you share - that makes me listen carefully to what you say and it makes it easy to belive in what you say.

Of course it made me feel very good and I thought about his words all weekend and I realized that this is the way I learn about things... I find a problem in my own, personal or professional, life and apply the models or theories I read about to it. That makes it easier for me to understand it and it also makes it possible for me to decide if it is something worth keeping in my mind. It also gives me a vehicle to convey that model or theory to others, simply by walking through my own learning experience with them.

I probably need to think a bit more about this and see if I can wrap this insight in some neat model for others to use, maybe there already is one out there?