Book Report: Communication Gaps and How to Close Them
I attended a session with Naomi Karten at the AYE Conference last Fall, so I knew she had a lot of good things to teach me. In spite of those high expectations, I was blown away by this book. In fact, the only negative thing I can say is that there’s material for two or three books in here. Having read through it once, I know I’m going to have to re-read it in sections.
None of this information is really new, of course. Learning how to solve communication problems is one of those things I have to learn repeatedly. I already “know” the Satir Interaction and Change Models. I have a passing familiarity with MBTI. I’ve previously encountered KÃ¼bler-Ross’ stages of grief. But while I “know” this stuff with my head, Naomi knows it. And she can describe things so simply, using little stories to make the points easy to understand. If only it were as easy to put into practice.
If you’re working on or managing an Agile Software Development team, or want to do so, you owe it to yourself to read this book. I put so many post-it® flags on the pages that it looks like lace. Things like this:
Unfortunately, focusing on the technical aspects of change–to the exclusion of its impact on people–guarantees that your change effort will be an interminable jackhammer of a headache. You can’t effectively manage change without paying attention to the human factors.
How do you deal with the human factors? Build trust. Prepare people. Talk to them. Listen to them. Empathize with their reactions. Involve them in the effort. Explain the experience of change. Reassure them. Tell them what you can–and when you have information that you can’t divulge, say so. Explain the reasoning behind your thinking. Don’t expect immediate acceptance of your ideas. Treat people’s concerns with empathy and respect. Be persistent without being pushy. Communicate early, often, and in multiple ways. In other words, follow the guidelines in this chapter and throughout this book. Above all, use your common sense. It will help you through the rough spots.
This is a fundamental part of adopting Lean or Agile processes. And if you can’t get the “Individuals and Interactions” part right, the technical parts aren’t going to be enough. I cannot stress this too heavily. Dealing effectively with other people is tough for many people in the software business. Often we went into software because computers are a more tractable problem. But no matter how cool our tools and processes are, the real issues are people issues.