Author: George Dinwiddie

George Dinwiddie is a Software Development Consultant and Coach with over twenty years of experience creating software ranging from small embedded systems to corporate enterprise systems. With a strong interest in lifelong learning, he has pursued more effective ways of creating software at the technical, interpersonal and organizational levels. As principal of iDIA Computing, LLC, he helps teams learn more effective software development techniques while accomplishing their current projects.

Another Visualization of the Satir Change Model

Some years back I had a conversation with Bas Vodde about the graphical way that the Satir Change Model is usually represented. If you search on the internet, you’ll likely to end up at Steve Smith’s description, which is very good but shows “performance” as if it’s a measurable thing. While at the UNC Satir Summer Intensive workshop in 2018, I thought about a different way to view the process of change. This view is less from an external point of view, and more from the point of view of the person going through the change. Rather than a graph, it’s a map of the journey from the Old Status Quo to the New Status Quo.

Late Status Quo

Imagine you’re sitting at home, minding your own business. It may not be the life of your dreams; it may not even be without pain and annoyances, but you’re accustomed to the way things have been going.

Foreign Element

Then something happens that upsets the apple cart and drives you out of your recent status quo. This may be an internal event, such as deciding that your status quo isn’t good enough, but it’s most often externally triggered. Something may have happened that revealed your status quo wasn’t good enough for you any more. Something may have happened that destroyed your status quo–perhaps you were let go from your job, a loved one rejected you, or, as shown here, your house was struck by lightning and burned down with all your possessions.


Whatever the cause, your accustomed routine is disrupted, and you have to do something different. Your available choices may seem unpalatable. Should you head into the deep woods, or wade through the swamps? The desire to turn around and go back to the way things were is very strong, even if impossible.

At this point you may be tempted to turn back to the remains of your old status quo, no matter how uncomfortable that might be. Camping next to your charred house? That could seem preferable to pushing ahead into the unknown, even if it’s sure to lead to a depressing future.

Transforming Idea

If you continue to push forward through the chaos, crossing the river into new territory and climbing up the steep ridge, you’re likely to reach the Transforming Idea and lets you see the situation in a different light. In this map, the Transforming Idea is represented as a ridge line that lets you see further than you have been, and perhaps see new possibilities for the future. With a vision of a New Status Quo, you can focus on moving forward rather than back to your lost past.

Practice and Integration

You’re not completely out of the woods, yet. There’s still work to do before reaching that vision. You may have to learn new skills and techniques to make it possible. You need to practice those skills and integrate them into your sense of normal life. The Transforming Idea may have shown you that you need to detour to reach the place you desire.

New Status Quo

Finally you reach a place where your rate of change slows down and you can settle into a New Status Quo. The Practice and Integration has made this a more comfortable place to rest until the next Foreign Element propels you onward. The New Status Quo is not guaranteed to be better than the Late Status Quo, but it is different.

Note that smaller changes are generally easier to accommodate. Also, more frequent changes tend to be smaller. And foreign elements that you’ve chosen are more likely to lead to an improved status quo than are externally imposed ones, if only because conscious choice tends to prefer better over worse.

A Highly Evolved Card Wall

I’ve been promising Mark Levison since forever to describe the highly effective card wall that evolved at one of my past clients. The team started with a simple beginning, and modified it as they saw fit to suit the needs of their situation. This is not a universal model for others to blindly copy, but there is much to learn from it.

No doubt that it continued to evolve beyond my knowledge, as this team spectacularly took control of their own development process. I’ll never forget the Monday morning that I walked into the team room, direct from the airport, and saw them pulling cards and tape off the corkboard wall. “What the heck are they doing?” I thought. I stood and watched from across the room as the scurried around excitedly with much conversation. Tape and cards started to go back on the wall in a different configuration. I knew then that this team was going to excel, as they were paying attention to how things were working for them and adjusting accordingly. Excel they did, and their wall was in frequent flux as long as I knew them. It’s amazing what a team can do when they have the desire and freedom to improve.

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Who Should Attend The Retrospective?

For years, I’ve seen people argue online about who should and should not be invited to a retrospective. In typical consultant fashion, my answer is “It depends.” Here I want to describe the dependencies so that it’s not such a mystery.

First, let’s define the basics so we have a foundation for the conversation. My definition of a retrospective is

  • Looking at the past, together
  • To gain insights
  • And make choices for the future.

“Looking at the past, together” is what the word “retrospective” literally means. The word dates to the 17th century, and is formed from the Latin retro meaning “back,” and specere “look at.”

Let’s see how this affects the question of who should attend.

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Refactoring Arpeggio

The other day, GeePaw Hill mentioned on Mastodon

“inline-jiggle-extract” is a coding pattern that needs describing.
If I were a better person, I would write that up.

As it happened, I’d recently talked about that pattern on LinkedIn

I found the sequence of inline, re-order statements, extract to be one of my favorite refactoring arpeggios.
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Optimization of Human Systems is a Fool’s Errand

Michael James is on a rant against Agile Coaching as it often appears to be practiced, but what he describes doesn’t sound much better, to me.

Michael describes Agile Coaching as “push[ing] processes and ways of working on teams,” and “trying to ‘change management culture.'” He suggests “starting with a clear system optimization goal stated again and again from upper management.” Never mind that this, itself, is an example of trying to change management culture, assuming that’s not what they’re already doing.

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Categories: Individuals and Interactions


Features and Stories, Large and Small

Imagine you work for a company that produces a videoconferencing system. You’ve done pretty well with it, but you’re middle of the pack of competition. Then there’s a worldwide pandemic, and the market for videoconference software explodes. There’s a silver lining in this terrible event. A rising tide lifts all boats, right?

Maybe not, if the competition has more of what the customers want. It’s critical to remain a viable choice in the eyes of customers.

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Accommodating the Unexpected

As I write this, much of the world is in a state of disarray. Many businesses are shut down for fear of spreading the Covid-19 virus, and others have suddenly switched to distributed work over the internet. Most software developers are working in physical isolation. Even those accustomed to working remotely are reporting that the current situation is affecting their ability to get things done.

I think it is safe to say that no software development organization expected this to happen. No IT department accounted for the disruption in their estimates and plans. While epidemiologists could predict that there would eventually be a worldwide pandemic, even they could not predict the severity or timing of such a disruption.

How has this affected your work? Are you still expecting to meet the plans made before this happened? Have you given up planning altogether, just trying to get something, anything, done? Or have you looked at how things have been progressing in the last 2 or 3 months and adjusted your expectations?

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The Order of Tests

It’s been awhile since I’ve done much coding. That’s not my day job anymore, and I lose interest working by myself. In the past week, however, I’ve had a couple opportunities to mob program remotely with the Canton Coders. With the COVID-19 restrictions on gathering in person, people are much more likely to work with you virtually.

So last week I found myself mobbing on the Roman Numeral kata and today on the Zeckendorf kata, both on cyber-dojo. A lot of fun was had by all, and I rediscovered what I know about Test Driven Development with a bit more clarity.

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Categories: Tools and Techniques


More About Development Culture

Josh Kerievsky called me to task for not following up on his third version of his story of providing a quick fix before a test-driven fix. As I said, I don’t want to be critical of Josh. I will, however, cast a critical eye on the code he has shared.

For those just tuning in, the previous installment talked about differences between the culture we espouse and the culture we practice. This installment will return to that.

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