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Andrea Goulet & M. Scott Ford on the Marriage of Communication & Code

| Podcast with M. Scott Ford Follow 0 Followers , Andrea Goulet Follow 0 Followers by Shane Hastie Follow 25 Followers on Oct 23, 2017 |

This is the Engineering Culture Podcast, from the people behind InfoQ.com and the QCon conferences.

In this podcast Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, talks to Andrea Goulet & M. Scott Ford about their journey working together as a married couple and business partners, learning to collaborate and communicate despite having vastly different communication styles and viewpoints.

Key Takeaways

  • Effective communication is a competitive advantage
  • The system that you produce will only be as good as the communication structure you have in place while you build it
  • The importance of learning to speak each other’s language – the terminology of development and business is different and it is necessary to take the time and effort to learn the different language
  • The concept of “inception layers” relating to how intensively someone is concentrating on an activity and their level of openness to interruption
  • The value of writing a daily journal in a wiki to share what’s been happening and make progress and learning visible 
  • 0:32 Introductions & background
  • 2:15 Effective communication as a competitive advantage
  • 2:40 The challenge and frustrations of working with someone who doesn’t see things the way you do
  • 3:05 Improving communication by looking at available frameworks and applying them to interpersonal interactions
  • 3:25 Legacy projects are inherently complex and have lots of dependencies, and effective communication is crucial to success in working in those environments
  • 3:50 Conway’s law applied to communication among people in the office
  • 4:20 The system that you produce will only be as good as the communication structure you have in place while you build it
  • 4:45 If you don’t fix the communication problem that gives rise to the technical problem, then it is likely to come back in a different guise
  • 5:00 The challenges of communicating when people view a problem from different perspectives and have different learning styles - forest vs trees / “ecosystems vs twigs”
  • 6:15 Technical training content is typically biased towards detail thinkers and not effective for big-picture communicators
  • 7:15 The business value of having bridged these gaps and being able to see problems from both the detailed technical and the big picture perspective
  • 8:10 Going to couples therapy to learn to communicate with each other
  • 8:55 The positive power of feeling like you have been heard by another party
  • 9:40 Where there is a shared leadership situation it’s imperative that the two leaders communicate really well with each other
  • 10:12 The importance of learning to speak each other’s language – the terminology of development and business is different and it is necessary to take the time and effort to learn the different language
  • 11:05 Why empathy matters and how it is often only paid lip service to
  • 11:40 Empathy requires both deep listening and perspective taking
  • 12:05 Empathy is not just a feeling state – it is a conscious cognitive exercise
  • 12:25 Empathy as the glue that keeps people together – the genuine desire to understand each other’s viewpoint
  • 13:35 The concept of “inception layers” relating to how intensively someone is concentrating on an activity and their level of openness to interruption
  • 14:05 How a small language tweak around inception enabled clearer communication and reduced frustration
  • 14:20 Explaining how layers of abstraction and complexity relate to the concept of “inception”
  • 16:00 Making the cost of interruptions visible as well as indicating the level of interruptability at a moment in time
  • 16:55 Defining and agreeing on the meaning of the different inception levels
  • 17:25 Motivating through urgency doesn’t work for software teams
  • 17:50 Calm the chaos – the goal is to prevent fires, not to constantly be fighting them
  • 18:05 Ways to avoid chaos through good communication
  • 18:30 The practice of writing a daily journal in a wiki to share what’s been happening and make learning visible 
  • 19:05 The value of retrospective documentation influenced by the idea of an engineer’s journal
  • 19:50 The daily journal as a blog for communicating what’s happening and the state of work
  • 20:40 The story of team communications on the Apollo space missions and the value of “comm loops”
  • 21:20 Finding projects that have been really successful and model the communications mechanisms used on them
  • 22:172 The act of writing helps shift short-term thinking into long-term memory; change fast thinking into slow thinking
  • 22:40 The journal as a tool to prevent management nagging
  • 23:00 The engineering journal as the “water cooler” for remote teams, building deeper connections and trust
  • 23:50 Experimenting with different styles of writing up the journal – once per day and constant stream of consciousness
  • 25:38 What’s involved in extracting the value from the journals and seeing the patterns which may emerge
  • 27:03 The need to make reading the journals a part of the paid time for people – it’s part of the work, not something done in “spare time”
  • 28:15 Creating a safe environment and avoiding the “Facebook effect” by the leaders modelling vulnerable, honest communication in their journals
  • 29:10 Sending the whole team on empathy training to give common language and shared perspectives
  • 29:35 The value of a ‘permission slip” to give yourself permission and be OK if something is preventing full engagement in work
  • 30:30 Preparing a series of webinars titled “Empathy for Engineers” aimed at helping technical contributors build and enhance the critical communication and teamwork skills
  • 32:25 Presenting the ideas of empathy and communication as frameworks which fit in a context and making them available without needing to understand the deep psychological background to them
  • 32:55 Overcoming the cultural conditioning that “technical” people are not good communicators by demystifying the skills
  • 33:20 Nurturing a supportive environment which encourages personal growth in many areas and overcoming imposter syndrome
  • 33:35 Breaking the “technical people” stereotypes – everybody is more- or less-technical in different areas
  • 34:40 Pairing people with different skillsets together and allowing them to build empathy for each other 

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About QCon

QCon is a practitioner-driven conference designed for technical team leads, architects, and project managers who influence software innovation in their teams. QCon takes place 7 times per year in London, New York, San Francisco, Sao Paolo, Beijing & Shanghai. QCon San Francisco is at its 12th Edition and will take place Nov 5-9, 2018. 140+ expert practitioner speakers, 1300+ attendees and 18 tracks will cover topics driving the evolution of software development today. Visit to qconsf.com get more details.

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