Tell Tale Signs Of Insanity

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense?

Edgar Allan Poe is one of my favorite authors.   His “Tell-Tale Heart” is the story that hooked me to all his writings.  I love the way the narrator reasons the killing of the old neighbor.  After all it was his over acuteness of the senses and not madness.

Einstein defines madness as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
Regardless of how you define madness, I think we can agree that if you want different results you need to do things differently.

The teams I describe in my previous post were as resistant to change as many of the other teams I have coached.  I had to work hard at getting them to understand they needed to dig deep to grow into a self organized team. One of their issues was speaking up and not following the whim of one. They followed out of frustration, giving up because they saw no point in arguing further.  It is madness to think that without changing this behavior there would be a different outcome this time.

Forcing a dialogue…

At each opportunity I coached the individuals that needed to speak up. I constantly would refer to them for their opinion. This of course would frustrate the one who needed to be heard and liked the sound of his voice.  This individual was a technical lead wanted to make decisions on his own.

I tried pulling him aside to coach him to understand the effect on the team, but it fell on deaf ears.  So I ran intervention when it was called for to ensure a dialogue amongst the team.  I forced the team to make decisions and move on their plan.  This caused even further frustration on the part of the lead, but the rest of the team began to feel empowered.

 A visit to the principals office.

I was pulled into the manager’s office after coming out of a very long frustrating meeting one day.  He needed me to know that the lead had just come in to complain about the previous meeting.   Let me fill you in on that before going any further.

The meeting that went amok!

Everyone was sitting, pulling out their laptops and getting ready to start, when the lead stood up as usual and started release planning. The rest of the team sat in confused, an argument ensued.  This meeting was not for release planning, but for coming up with a technical design.  When I asked him “why are we discussing this?”, he stated “someone had to”. That let to my next question, “isn’t that someone else’s job?”.  In fact, that person had a meeting set up for that discussion. So as politely as I could I got up and said we are not having this conversation and stated why the team was there.  He turned his back and started to write on the board.

Then I did the unmentionable…”Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed!

Yes, I erased the two bullets he started to write and he stormed out.  As I found out later, he went straight to the manager.  He complained about me erasing his release plan (a whole of two bullets) and that I refused to let him discuss this with the team.  He asked how I want him to handle it? My reply was to please send him to me to address any problems the lead had with me.  We should be able to work things out.

He never came to me with his problem.  In fact, he seemed to avoid me for a while. I think he needed time to face his problem.  His feelings of uncertainty and his unwillingness to be part of the team.  As he quiet down the rest of the team seemed to pick up more momentum.  Weeks later as the team was trying to find a way through technical issues he came with another team member.  He stated “I think I have a solution that may save us time”. What did the rest of the team think about it,  I asked. He replied that the team agreed that he and the other team member should work on it.  I quickly asked, can it be done in one sprint? The reply was yes, if the other team member helped him.  Right before me was a totally different person.  One who exchanged ideas with others and was willing to ask for help.

His idea did work and saved the team a lot of time.  Time they used to thoroughly test and update release notes required by the organization.  Now you are probably thinking what happened to “working software over comprehensive documentation”? Reality happened. This organization was required to be SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley) compliant and certain documentation needed to be in order before release. Although the team included release notes as part of their definition of done, they needed to be approved.

So it’s your turn again,  what experience have you had with SOX? Does your team have a technical lead?  Leave a comment below!

“It is not a bolt to be tightened into place, but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea.”

John Ciardi