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Complaint-Free Iterations

by Geoffrey Wiseman on Apr 17, 2008 |
No software project is perfect, nor is the organization in which the project takes place.  When your software project goes wrong, do your team members complain, or do they take corrective action?  The Complaint Free World project encourages people to take notice of how often they complain, and reduce the frequency of the complaints, aiming for a goal of twenty-one complaint-free days. 

The Complaint Free World site FAQ describes the basic concern:
Surely, it makes sense to express pain, grief or discontent occasionally but most people do so constantly. In so doing, they are talking and thinking about what they do not want in their life and, thereby, attracting more pain, grief and discontent. Instead, think and talk about what you are grateful for. Talk about what you DO want and not what you DON'T want.

CBC Television's coverage of a Complaint-Free World wisely includes a segment of Monty Python's Four Yorkshiremen, for whom complaining seems to be a sort of entertainment.  The FAQ references but does not cite studies that "have shown that complaining about one’s health actually tends to make a person’s health worse."

A group on Revolution Health provides a sort of support-system for people wishing to become complaint free, and suggests the following steps to that goal:
  • Wear a Complaint Free purple bracelet or rubber band (and switch wrists if you complain) 7 times per week
  • Think of something you complain about. Write down what would happen if it were resolved positively once per week
  • Complain/switch your bracelet fewer times today than you did yesterday 7 times per week
  • Write down how many days you've gone without complaining in your Goals on-the-go booklet at least once per day
  • If something upsets you, speak directly and only to a person who can change the situation at least once per day
  • Check in with a complaint-free partner or with the group’s message board at least 3 times per week
  • A complaint can be an excuse not to act. Take action toward an important goal before going to bed once per day
  • Actively show gratitude by telling someone in your life how much you appreciate them at least once per day
If your team occasionally drifts into a negative mindset, consider getting some purple bracelets and start aiming for a complaint-free iteration or two.

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Nice Idea! by Mishkin Berteig

I think this could be nicely tied in with appreciative inquiry. It would change the nature of retrospectives for a lot of teams as well.

Re: Nice Idea! by Tobias Mayer

I agree. Complaining is incredibly boring, for everyone. In the retrospectives I run with teams I always (and continuously) ask the question: what are YOU going to do about it?

During the last section of the retrospective all team members pair up and make commitments to each other for positive change -- just small things, that can be achieved in a week or two weeks. They actually write these down on 3x5 cards, sign them and have their partner sign them too. It is the partner's job to ensure the commitment can be met, and accepted (think acceptance criteria). The cards are displayed on the wall by the story board. This keeps the focus on positive resolution, and away from whining and complaining.

Nice post. Thanks.

good idea by James Richardson

nothing like bringing religion into IT. I'm sure it will all work much better with God (whichever one suits) on your side.

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