Falling in love_with_bad_news

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“(Or, how to become an information magnet, instead of being the last to know.)” …

“(Or, how to become an information magnet, instead of being the last to know.)”
"The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which
men prefer not to hear." --Herbert Agar

When we put up information radiators, gather metrics, and ask
questions, we're always hoping for good news. But being actively
curious about the bad news is what lets us be creative and solve
problems. We'll talk about ways we humans tend to get in the way of
our ability to gather "bad news," how to develop the habit of finding
out what's really going on, and how to use "bad news" once you get it.

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  • I’m Angela Harms, LeanDog, boat.\n\nDoes everybody work in software? \n\nHow many coders?\n
  • a couple of important aspects of agile mastery: \n\ninformation gathering & continuous improvement\n\n
  • I’m told I’m a little like Agar. Journalist & rebel, 100 yrs ago.\n\nHe liked to talk about stuff that can be hard to hear. \nSome folks like that; some, not so much. :)\n\nIt’s true that the most powerful truths can be the ones we avoid, isn’t it?\n
  • The thing is, we need bad news. \n\nWhen we put up information radiators, gather metrics, and ask questions, \nwe're always hoping for good news.\n \nBut being actively curious about the bad news \nis what lets us be creative and solve problems. \n
  • I'll say that again.\n\nBeing actively curious about the bad news \nis what lets us solve problems.\n\nAnd that’s the good news.\n
  • Seeing all news as good news is a mark of an agilist. \n\nIt’s what lets us creatively solve problems.\n
  • We rely on bad news, all the time.\n\nDevelopers new to tdd, just learning:\nsometimes experience a jolt of fear, \nongoing discomfort w/red tests. \n\nBut then they begin to love them.\n\nWe learn to love red tests because they document a missing quality\nlike a recipe that has a big light that tells you what’s missing.\nWhen red because something’s broken, tells you what. \n\nLearning to love red tests, again, key to mastery.\n\n\n
  • Karl Popper was a philosopher of science. \n\nHe pointed out that the scientific method can only disprove \ntheories, not somehow verify their truth. \n\nIn other words, all we have are tests that can try to break things.\n\nSuccess, then, means lots and lots of “bad news”. \n
  • Which is actually good news. \n\nTests that can fail are trustworthy. \nLike that friend who will tell us what we don’t want to hear.\n\n(I don’t ask my hubby if I have spinach in my teeth. \nHe thinks I’m perfect. Can’t even see it. He’s a lousy test.)\n
  • The story says that Thomas Edison, when asked how it feels to have \nfailed over and over, said: \nnot failed, learned 10,000 ways not to. \n\nEdison had right idea, welcomed ‘bad news’. \n\nWe humans tend to get in the way of our ability to gather "bad news." \n\nI’m going talk about \nhow we get in our own way\nand how we can get out of the way, \nso we can use information to make things better.\n
  • Rather than cite studies -- we can google those later -- I’m going to\nask you to work a little bit. Imagine yourself in the place of my friend. \n\nYou burned down your house. You were young. You’d seen older folks use gasoline to help a fire along...\n\nNow you have to tell your spouse. \n\nHow does the fear affect you? \nHow does anger affect you? \n\nAnger & fear & blame block creativity.\n\n
  • His wife is one of those people who knows, habitually, that making it about fault would get in the way of figuring out what to do next.\nThey got into problem-solving: insurance, housing. There was stuff to mourn, but even that mourning was easier without blame.\n \nShe realized she cared not just about the house she lost, but also about him, his growth as a person, & what they were creating together .. home, marriage, life together. \n\nAnd now, they’ve solved those problems. They have a nice place to live, a sweet baby boy, jobs they love, and a strong marriage. \n\nAnother friend burned down her house--yes, really. Her story is less happy. Her family spent a lot of energy on blame. Rebuilding has been a struggle, never right.\n
  • This is totally not my son’s collar bone -- only cuz I couldn’t find the pic. But the point is:\n\nStuff happens. \n\nAnd when the news comes, that stuff is done.\n\nThe build is already broken. \nThe project is already behind. \nThe budget is already blown. \nYou’ve already hired the dev who can’t be persuaded to do tdd.\n\nYour sweet baby has already fallen out of bed.\n\nIt’s done, and you can’t undo it.\n
  • We can’t change what’s done, but we can choose our response.\n
  • Will we notice the problem right away?\n\nOr have we created a culture of hiding problems, avoiding the pain as long as possible?\n\n
  • Will we get started on solutions right away? \n\nOr will we play a game of passing around blame for a while?\n
  • Will our solution come from our best thinking? \n\nOr will stress and fear constrain us, limiting our creativity?\n
  • co-worker solved config problem. “shouldn’t have taken this long”\nI want to deeply challenge that thinking\n\nwe only know what we know, \nhave resources that we have, \nare as well-rested as we are,\n\nThose are things we can change in ourselves, \nbut only in the present, not in the past.\n\nWe can only ‘should’ from this moment looking forward, never from a past moment.\n
  • When we’re hoping for good news, we even go so far as to try to manipulate the news. \n\nWe try to drive our metrics.\n
  • What do we do to get this...\n
  • to become like this? \n\nWe want ‘good news’ and we sometimes shoot ourselves in the foot.\n\nHere’s why. \n\n\n\n
  • Think about body temperature. Too cool, maybe thyroid problems. Too hot, maybe infection.\n\nMetrics alert us to problems & tell us if problem is fixed.\n\nWhat if we push the indicators? \nuse electric blanket or ice bath to change temperature. \n\nThen we have killed the very thing we were using to measure health.\nWhen the metric becomes the target, it becomes ineffective measure.\n\n[Check to see that we’re clear on this.]\n
  • Metrics are useful. \n\nBut the person who gets the most out of metrics is the person who wants to learn what's really going on, not the person who just wants the metrics to say “everything’s fine” or who is using metrics to decide whether somebody’s in trouble.\n\nThe person who gets the most out of metrics is the one who is “in love with bad news”.\n\nEver watch House, MD? Give him bad test results, and he’s happy, because now he can start fixing.\n\nInformation is the fuel that powers Agile.\n\n
  • \n
  • Doesn’t worry about whether news is “bad” or “good”, and doesn’t look for someone to blame.\n\nAn information magnet is bored by blame.\n\n
  • ...and starts looking for explanations. What is really going on here.\n\n...doesn’t consider “cuz so-and-so sucks” an explanation.\n\n
  • ...comes from a place of curiosity.\n
  • \n
  • none of this is new. \n\nbut we hear it and agree, then go back and say “should have done it differently”.\n\n(me, too.) \n\nI want to close with a serious invitation to do some things differently this week.\n
  • Shoulds only work going forward, not looking back.\n
  • Spending time assigning blame, creating fear, limits our creativity, \n\nand keeps us from learning & creating cool new stuff.\n
  • Cultivating curiosity and empathy help us understand situations and metrics better. \n
  • Keeping yourself focused in the present, \n\nstaying in creative problem-solving, \n\ncan help your team learn to do the same.\n
  • To be the information magnet, be sure you’re welcoming \n\n& inviting all the feedback (including “bad news”) you need.\n
  • here’s how you can reach me later\ndiscussion? questions? comments?\n

Transcript

  • 1. Falling in love with bad news (Or: how to become an information magnet, instead of being the last to know.) Angela Harms twitter @AngelaHarmsangelaharms@LeanDog.com
  • 2. falling in love with bad news (Or: how to become an information magnet, instead of being the last to know.) Angela Harms twitter @AngelaHarmsangelaharms@LeanDog.com
  • 3. “The truth thatmakes men freeis for the most partthe truth which menprefer not to hear.” —Herbert Agar
  • 4. I have some bad news.
  • 5. I have some bad news. And, of course, some good news.
  • 6. The good news is thatthe bad news and thegood news are all the same news.
  • 7. FAIL
  • 8. “Good tests kill flawed theories;we remain alive to guess again.” — Karl Popper
  • 9. Good tests also leavesolid ideas standing.
  • 10. It’s already broken.
  • 11. Some things,we can affect.
  • 12. Some things,we can affect.How long will it be before we notice the problem?
  • 13. Some things,we can affect.How long will it be before we notice the problem? How quickly will we get started solving it?
  • 14. Some things,we can affect.How long will it be before we notice the problem? How quickly will we get started solving it?How creative will we be in our solution?
  • 15. <<— didshould —>>
  • 16. Metrics
  • 17. Metrics
  • 18. Metrics
  • 19. Metrics(the useful kind)
  • 20. getting the bad news
  • 21. an information magnet
  • 22. an information magnet withholds judgment
  • 23. an information magnet withholds judgmentassumes we’re doing the best we can
  • 24. an information magnet withholds judgmentassumes we’re doing the best we can is genuinely open & curious
  • 25. an information magnet withholds judgment assumes we’re doing the best we can is genuinely open & curiousfrees the team to bring its full creativity to bear in solving a problem
  • 26. an invitation
  • 27. an invitation...to take seriously the idea that we can only act now, not yesterday
  • 28. an invitation...to take seriously the idea that we can only act now, not yesterday ...to disempower the stories that eat away at our creativity
  • 29. an invitation...to take seriously the idea that we can only act now, not yesterday ...to disempower the stories that eat away at our creativity ...to open yourself up to using all available information
  • 30. and to notice ...to notice when you’re letting ‘shoulds’ look backward, instead oflooking forward, toward improvement
  • 31. and to notice ...to notice when you’re letting ‘shoulds’ look backward, instead oflooking forward, toward improvement ...to notice your body posture and expression, when you asksomeone for feedback or information
  • 32. Thanks. Angela Harms twitter @AngelaHarmsangelaharms@LeanDog.com