Archive for September, 2009

Facilitation Antipattern: Negator

Coping and Communicating, Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Sep 30 2009

Motto: That’s wrong.
Belief: It’s my responsibility to point out what’s wrong with other people’s ideas. I live in my black hat*.
: Points out the flaws and faults in everyone else’s approach. Does so without offering any balancing positives or alternatives.
Characteristics: Negative, sometimes superior, destructive, achieving satisfaction by negating others’ ideas.

The Negator sees their lot in life as poking holes in everyone else’s ideas and plans. While this is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, when exercised without the balance of alternatives or one’s own ideas it becomes a negative of its own.

The Negator may seem to be contributory and helpful at times, as their suggestions come across as helping you to see risks and dangers*. However, this behavior pattern, when exercised to the exclusion of balance, can become seen as the person’s identity, rather than one pattern of behavior among many.

* See Edward De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats”


Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Sep 27 2009

I went to see the new version of the movie “Fame” this afternoon with my wife and daughters.

I will say that I loved the movie, and plan to see it again.

It raised some interesting feelings and thoughts for me, which tie into a talk I gave at St. Edwards University Career Symposium on Friday.

I should mention that when I was growing up in New York, I applied to and auditioned for the High School of the Performing Arts, on which the movies have been based.  I didn’t make it.  I didn’t have the talent or skill necessary. Watching the movie led me to wonder what would happened had I gotten in.

There are some great messages in the movie. Jennie’s monologue about success toward the end is a wonderful piece of writing.

What it brought up for me was that many of the things that helped to determine the direction of my life and career have been pretty random.

I moved to San Francisco after college, because that’s where my two best friends settled after driving across the country.  I met my wife, started graduate school, got a crummy job, fell into the computer industry, moved to Silicon Valley, had children, started my martial arts studies, had a heart attack, changed my view of life and the world… and all because my friends ended up in San Francisco.

Professionally, I left that first job at Control Data and went to my first startup in Silicon Valley.  That led me to other startups, my own company, my move to Austin, and ultimately my job at ThoughtWorks.  None of these things could have happened without the others preceding them, and yet it all seems so random.

So here’s the thought for my readers: are there ANY decisions you’ve made in your life that have NOT helped to determine the path of your life? Whether big ones like which school you attend or who you date or marry, or little ones like whether to go to the movies this afternoon.

After all, going to the movies today may shift my perspective on something else, which will influence a decision I’ll make, which will lead me…  well, you get the idea.

Every interaction I have with someone else has the potential to change their life or mine or both. While this is an awful responsibility, it’s also an awesome opportunity.  It shouldn’t freeze me. It SHOULD lead me to think about the things I say and do and how I say and do them.

I had an interesting small example of this when I was at Agile2009.  Walking to dinner with a group of people, most of whom I’d never met either physically or vitrually, I began introducing myself.  There were these two fellows from Finland.  As I introduced myself to the second, he said “Doc?  Doc LIST?”

Who knows what impact things I’ve said have had on him, or could have on him.  The fact that he knew who I am was pretty stunning. Thank goodness he seemed happy to meet me. ๐Ÿ™‚

Remember my name.

I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly

I feel it coming together
People will see me and cry

Is Agile a mystery?

Agile & Lean, Musings | Posted by Doc
Sep 02 2009

Over the past few weeks, in between preparing for Agile2009, I was preparing to deliver some Agile training to a company’s product owners and project managers. I was told that they’d been doing various Agile practices for as much as a year.  This made me curious as to why we’d be delivering a course on Agile Fundamentals.

After all, if they’ve been doing stuff for a year, I thought, shouldn’t they have some of the fundamentals firmly in mind?

Nonetheless, skepticism firmly in hand, I prepared myself to deliver to what might be a knowledegable and, perhaps, challenging group.

Much to my surprise – although it shouldn’t surprise me – these folks have piecemeal knowledge of certain practices, and seem to mostly lack a solid grasp of the underlying principles of Agile. While I don’t think that the Agile Manifesto is a bible, I do think that it’s both required reading and deserves some thought. The implications are profound, once you start thinking about them and trying to understand what they mean for an organization.

How can it be that people have been doing standups and iterations and estimating and story cards for 6 – 12 months, and don’t have a firm grasp of the why of what they’re doing?

Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe most people don’t have any need to understand the philosophy or principles or subtleties of what they’re doing, and are happy to just learn the what and the how.

I’m still a bit baffled. The subtleties of what makes Agile be what it is are what excite me. Yes, I do get excited about pairing and standups and iterations and IPMs and retrospectives and all the other stuff we do. And I also get excited by the understanding and the “cultural shift” (as one attendee put it) that goes along with Agile adoption.

After all, Agile is clearly not just about the practices and methodologies. It’s about the discipline and the attitude changes and the mental shifts in things like code ownership and transparency. How can you go from the dark ages of Waterfall, individual code ownership, controlled communication, and defensiveness to Agility without being affected by all of those changes in profound ways? How can you make the shift from maybe-doing-unit-testing-a-little-bit-after-the-fact to TDD/Test-First and not see that there’s more going on than just the practices?


I guess the opportunity to share that excitement that comes with the transformation is part of what drives me to do coaching and training and facilitation.  If I can see just one person get it, then it’s all worth it.

It seems that you can take the man out of motivational speaking, but you can’t take the motivational speaking out of the man. ๐Ÿ˜‰

%d bloggers like this: