Red Squirrel Reflections
Dave Hoover explores the psychology of software development

Dave Hoover
dave.hoover@gmail.com

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Mon, 10 Oct 2005

Marathons and Software, re-posted

For most of this year I've been running a few mornings a week with my good friends Cheech Moore and Jeff Pringle. Yesterday Cheech and I ran the Chicago Marathon. It was an amazing experience, mostly because Chicago is such an awesome city. Surrounded by 40,000 runners and a neverending throng of cheering spectators, the adrenaline rush was incredible.

Two years ago I wrote a short piece comparing marathon running to software development. I figured I'd re-post it in order to keep this blog entry somewhat on-topic.

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Thu, 23 Jun 2005

Speaking of Narrative Therapy

I was invited by Tim to help out with a workshop at XP2005 about teams and teamwork. Tim asked me to talk a bit about narrative therapy, the method of family therapy that I focused on in graduate school.

This was a surreal invitation for me.

From the first time I read about the relationship between Virginia Satir and Jerry Weinberg in The Psychology of Computuer Programming I've been interested in introducing ideas from narrative therapy into software development. And from the first time I felt a familiar philosophical foundation in Extreme Programming Explained, I've been interested in introducing ideas from narrative therapy into the agile community. My problem has been that I don't have enough experience in either software development or therapy to do an effective job of integrating them. Fortunately, I didn't realize this at first, and I ended up encouraging a few geeks to read Narrative Therapy: The Social Construction of Preferred Realities.

Anyway, similar to my last public speaking experience, I was pretty much a disaster, a bumbling, fumbling, jumble of words stopping and starting as my thoughts abandoned me. I had hoped for a smallish group and was pleased to have nine people attend the three hour session. Laurent and Ivan popped in for a while. Steve Freeman, Rachel Davies, Vera Peeters, and Michael Feathers were among the excellent group of attendees who stuck with me and began asking the insightful questions that got me back on track. I'm excited to hear what they take away from the book.

Thank you Tim for giving me such an excellent opportunity.

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Tue, 01 Mar 2005

Crisis Acceleration

In their excellent Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development, Jim Coplien and Neil Harrison pointed out...
"...changes at this [the organizational] level do not come easily. It may take years, or perhaps even a crisis, to shake the foundation of the organization--it's value system." page 311
Whenever I hear "crisis" and "change" in the same breath, I think back to a child and family therapy technique called raising the bottom. And I ponder anew how this concept could be applied appropriately to software development.

Agents of change are well aware of how difficult it can be to affect change in others. But they also know that the fastest route to significant change is a crisis. They have a challenging problem with a tricky solution.

The good news is, we have the solution. The bad news is that humans tend to dislike this solution (a crisis) even more than change itself. Even worse, no one wants to be the cause of a crisis, because those people tend to be targets of blame. But what if we could openly and responsibily accelerate an organization or a team into a crisis in order to bring about change and avoid a more dangerous crisis down the road?

The classic example of a crisis acceleration: Parents who cut off their drug-addicted child, leaving him to fend for himself. The parents would have already engaged the system around the child to help him have a controlled landing. They coordinate with the police, the school, therapists, friends, relatives, as much of their child's system as possible. What sort of parents would do this? Parents who are convinced that their child is going to end up dead in a gutter. They would rather have their child hit rock bottom on their terms.

Food for thought...

"It may look like a crisis, but it's only the end of an illusion." --The Secrets of Consulting

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