What Is Your IQ?

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In another part of the country, Jason and Tom are working on a virtually identical project:

Jason: Tom, the customers are really screaming about having to convert their databases with every release. I think I've found a way to eliminate a conversion for the next release. Is this a good time to walk through my design?

Tom: Sure, show me what you've got.

Jason walked through the design.

Tom: Well, the way you have it set up, we'll have to write another call every time we access this table.

Jason: Ah. That's true. When I did the analysis I saw there would be an extra call. Can you tell me more about the impact you think that will have?

Tom: Well, I'm worried about writing and testing those calls. We're already on a really tight schedule.

Jason: Can you tell me more about that?

Tom: The project manager is sweating the deadline. We just got hit with a big new feature, and we don't need one more thing to make us late.

Jason: Oh, so your concern is that the extra coding and testing will make you miss your project dates.

Tom: Yep, I don't see how we can add this to the plate.

Jason: I see. Well, what if we talk to the project manager about the tradeoffs and see if we can shift something around to make this work?

Tom: Well, all right. I'll agree to have the conversation with the project manager.

Okay, so maybe Cindy would need Prozac to be this mellow. But most people will hear more and be willing to cooperate when they feel like you have heard their concerns and understand that your goals intersect with their goals.

Here's what Jason did:

  1. When Jason approached Tom, he checked to make sure it was a good time to walk through the design before he started.
  2. Jason stated his goal explicitly, and tied it to something they both cared about, customer satisfaction.
  3. When Jason heard Tom's objections, he asked for more information rather than starting to explain his position.
  4. He acknowledged Tom's concern, and obtained Tom's agreement that he'd heard the concern correctly.
  5. He showed his willingness to help Tom overcome that concern by talking to the project manager.

So what's your IQ? What strategies do you use to work through and with people? When have they worked best, and when have they backfired?

About the author

Esther Derby's picture Esther Derby

A regular StickyMinds.com and Better Software magazine contributor, Esther Derby is one of the rare breed of consultants who blends the technical issues and managerial issues with the people-side issues. She is well known for helping teams grow to new levels of productivity. Project retrospectives and project assessments are two of Esther's key practices that serve as effective tools to start a team's transformation. Recognized as one of the world's leaders in retrospective facilitation, she often receives requests asking her to work with struggling teams. Esther is one of the founders of the AYE Conference. She co-author of Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great. She has presented at STAREAST, STARWEST and the Better Software Conference & EXPO. You can read more of Esther's musings on the wonderful world of software at www.estherderby.com and on her weblog at www.estherderby.com/weblog/blogger.html. Her email is derby@estherderby.com.

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