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I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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Entries in things i have learned (123)


Sometimes I'm a Slow Learner

Someone once asked me how I deal with resistance to change in an organization. My reply was “I don’t find resistance to change to be a problem. It wasn’t until much later that it dawned on me that I handle resistance to change by not seeing it as a problem. Instead I see resistance as a carrier providing information about a person’s thinking process, and I use it as an opening for more dialogue.

Norman Kerth, Project Retrospectives

I read Norm’s book perhaps a decade ago, and I’ve spent at least that long learning from Esther Derby and others about fostering change in a congruent manner. And yet I have struggled for that entire time to consistently put into action this simple idea: It is incredibly useful to greet resistance with curiosity rather than disagreement.

Something, however, seems to have flipped for me during the last few months, and I find myself doing this more and more. I suspect it’s because the project I’m heading up at work is taking a moderately radical approach to tackling long-standing issues, which means that I’m frequently encountering episodes of resistance. Something probably triggered my curiousity in some of the initial conversations, which meant that I was listening instead of arguing. That helped me learn about potential implications of the approach which I hadn’t considered, which then allowed me to make more robust plans to address those potential problems. And because my brain saw a positive result from getting curious about sources of resistance, it reinforced that behavior.

I suppose the lesson here is that if I wanted to build the habit of treating resistance to change as a source of information, I should have generated a bunch of resistance a long time ago.


I Am Always Learning

Since November I’ve been working on one of the biggest projects of my post-coding career: Helping our Product Development organization digest and process the results of our annual employee survey. This survey is a strong part of our tradition; it was first conducted in 2010, and eight years later we’re still doing it in largely the same way. Of course, in 2010 we had 14 people in the department, and now we have 150, so it makes sense that we need to do a few things a little differently. Because the tradition is so strong, however, we need to be deliberate and careful about making changes to the process, and we need to do so in as transparent a way as possible.

A key piece of that happened yesterday, when we wrapped up the first major phase of the project with a status report of sorts to the entire department. It was well-received, and I’m excited to start on phase two. Here are a few things that I’ve learned along the way that I plan on taking advantage of as we move forward:

  • Creating space for employees to talk to each other about issues raised in the survey was useful
  • Treating the survey responses as “objects of discussion” helped make it safer to talk about difficult things
  • The model we used for looking at the data help people make sense of what they wanted to happen
  • The same things were perceieved both positively and negatively by different people… and talking about that was valuable
  • Groups of three to five people are awesome
  • Scheduling is hard

None of these things should have surprised me, and yet…


All Heraldry, All The Time

Two weeks ago, my weekend was full of bacon. This weekend it was full of heraldry. One was tastier, the other was more instructive.

My primary activity in the SCA is heraldry, particularly what we call administrative or book heraldry. Since last August I’ve been the kingdom officer in charge of the registration process for names and armory, which is both awesome and daunting. I’m actually rather new to these things, but I picked a lot of stuff up quickly and I didn’t run away fast enough when my predecessor realized she was rapidly approaching burnout. As I have said about my musical abilities: I have talent but not a lot of repertoire. Particularly because of my office, I feel like I’m expected to know more than I currently do about all aspects of heraldry. So this weekend, at our biggest single event dedicated to classes, I was all heraldry, all the time. I learned about heraldic tabards and flags. I taught a class on conflict checking for armory. I ran our monthly decision meeting.

Meanwhile, Gwen was off taking a five or six classes that I would have loved to have been in, including one on tablet weaving and another on sausage making. There was a double-handful of knights teaching various armored combat techniques on the pell. I have been wanted to get authorized as a rapier marshal, and there was a class that is required for that being offered. And every time I walked across the open field in the middle of the site, I saw people practicing unarmored combat, a form that I’ve been wanting to explore — to the extent that I have the equipment for it, sitting unused under my bed.

Gwen and I joke often that we want to “Do All The Things!” or “Make All The Things!” or “Learn All The Things!” This weekend was a reminder that I can’t; or at the very least, I can’t all at once. I need to slow down, pick the most important things to do right now, focus on them, and not feel bad about the things I’m not doing. Most importantly, I can’t let feeling bad about the things I’m not doing prevent me from enjoying the things I am doing. I need to be patient with myself and grateful for the opportunities I am able to take advantage of. As my friend Ryan said, “Opportunities do not stop coming as long as you keep moving forward.


Monday is the First Day of the Rest of the Week

Mondays, as it turns out, are the perfect day for me to write. Mondays usually involve me catching up from my busy weekends, clearing my head so that I can tackle the upcoming week. Writing helps immensely with that, by bringing closure to what’s done and bringing focus to what’s coming. Mondays are usually days when things are just gearing up, rather than being in the middle of the whirlwind. Writing can happen that mental space, much better than it can on a Wednesday or a Saturday. Mondays are when I lay out my hopes and dreams for the week. Writing that happens on a Monday lets me tick off a big checkbox on my to-do list at the beginning of the week, which fuels the fires of getting more done.

Where am I at now? This weekend I fought in the Crucible at Caid’s Spring Crown Tournament. I got in eight fights in the round-robin phase, which were great. Gwen got video of all of them, so I have some good information about what I need to work on. I even won one of them, which was one more than I expected to. I got to spend time with people who I admire, and I got participate in the pageantry of one of the SCA’s oldest traditions. It was a good time.

Last week I help run one of our biggest semi-annual events at work, and I got a lot of encouraging feedback about changes I’d pushed for. I also found out that I’ll be presenting at two (and possibly three) professional conferences this year, which has me very excited.

What’s on tap? I’m teaching a class on Thursday on making non-alcoholic drinks for our local SCA chapter. I’m also going to be doing improv on stage at the VIC for the first time in about two months, which makes me happy. And I’m going to sleeping in my own bed for ten nights in a row, which is far cooler than it sounds. And you?

See you next Monday.


Listening To Myself

Living authenticity. Admitting vulnerability. Following your fear.

I’ve been circling these ideas for months now. They’ve got a certain power over me, and they’ve been a through-line in the tangled constellation of thoughts I’ve been been having in the waning half of this year. I don’t have a Grand Unified Theory of “Being Your Real Self By Embracing Those Things You’re Afraid Of” but I think its little brother is following me around.

In the last twenty-four hours I’ve read half a dozen blog posts from people whom I admire in which they talk honestly about problems they’re facing, doubts they’re confronting, fears they’re acknowledging. In those words, I see a courage that I admire and that I aspire to. I see people being who they really are, honestly admitting their fears, honestly assessing the difficulties they are facing (and not whining about them). About eighteen months ago my brain stumbled across what I believe to be my personal motto: “With intensity and integrity.” That is how I see these people living. They inspire me to do the same.

This blog is supposed to be a place where I’m reflective in exactly that kind of way, and I’m conscious of how little I’ve been doing that. I keep telling myself that I’m busy Doing Stuff, which is a Good Thing, and so I don’t really need to let people know what I’m thinking. That misses the point, really, which is that writing here is really for myself. Yes, if I’m willing to honestly assess where I’m at and write truthfully about that, other people will find something in those words that they can take for themselves. But the person I’m really shortchanging by not writing here is me.

I want to tell myself that I’m going to stop doing that, and yet I know that I can’t say that with certainty. It’s a thing that I feel destined to struggle with. It will do what it has always done; it will come and go in cycles. I’ll ride a wave of writing a lot for a while, feeling good about what I’m doing. Something will happen, a routine will change, a rhythm will change, and the momentum will go the other way for a while. But there is one thing that I now realize will be constant: When I’m not writing and I feel like I should be, I’m right.

Time to listen.