What Does Like-Minded Mean?

I saw the term “link-minded” today on the website for an upcoming conference. The exact words were:

Our aim is to attract as many like-minded thinkers as possible.

And I wondered: What does that even mean?

Don’t get me wrong. I think I know what it means, but I’m still confused as how this works together with aiming for diversity. Where does the good like-minded end and the bad like-minded begin?

But let me explain:

  • Good like-minded: Aiming for the same goal, being able to communicate without difficulty, sharing the same interests.
  • Bad like-minded: Not able to think out of the box, very similar backgrounds, no disagreements, no challenges.

The bad like-minded is like a club that only accepts members after making sure that they won’t disturb the peace of the club, won’t question long-held beliefs and will hopefully just blend in without anyone noticing.

The good like-minded is like a community with a shared interest which is always happy to accept new members, search for new ways to look at things and will not shy away from anyone questioning them (as long as it is done in a socially acceptable way).

I’m pretty sure that what was meant on the website was the good like-minded, the one where a common goal is key and like-minded means “people who are smart and love to argue and discuss stuff and are not afraid to speak their mind, because we sure as hell aren’t”.

But the fact that it started me wondering (and partly worrying) also means that it’s a fine line between looking for allies in the battle for knowledge and a better world and trying to avoid those that might challenge you and make you feel uncomfortable.

Should You Do Daily Stand-Up Meetings? Yes, You Should!

Last evening I talked with my husband about common problems with team building and communication and I noticed a familiar theme: There is a common and widely spread misconception that just because people are sitting in the same office they are communicating effectively. Unfortunately, this simply is not the case. And it’s not even because they are not talking. Most of the time they just are not talking about the „right“ stuff.

I put „right“ in quotation marks because I do not think that co-workers are usually only talking about useless things. What they are talking about might very well be justified and well chosen.

The original starting point for this discussion was the question whether short daily stand-up meetings are useful. I am very convinced that they are. I think a daily stand-up meeting should be some manager’s ultimate weapon of choice to discover (and hopefully fix) problems early and facilitating teamwork and communication.

What the manager might say is: „Well, we don’t need daily stand-ups. The whole team is sitting together in one office anyway. So if someone has a problem they can just go right ahead and address it.“

Here’s the thing: This only works for the tip of the iceberg problems that somehow make themselves visible to the team. What you need to know about to make the team more effective are the problems that form the underwater part of the iceberg that you haven’t even seen yet.

In my software development team I work together with another developer. We sit in the office. Our desks face each other. We also talk. Sometimes a lot. But we still miss problems or opportunities to work more effectively. Every so often it turns out that I was working on something that he already had fixed or at least researched halfway. Or one of us was trying to solve a problem to which the other one already knew the answer or at least knew where to look for the answer.

The thing is that you usually don’t bother your colleague with what you’re currently doing all the time. You get something to work on, you dive in, you are hopeful that you can find a solution. In short, you don’t really need their help. And you don’t want to bother your team with your problems (which seem solvable) while they themselves are busy with their own tasks.

Here’s another exmaple: We have a weekly phone call scheduled with some developers in Denmark with whom we work together. Sometimes we have an agenda of things we need to talk about. Sometimes we have little things. Sometimes they have updates for us. Last week my team lead, my colleague and me pretty much had nothing. The developers in Denmark also sounded like they didn’t have a lot. Still, somehow, the phone call took nearly 30 minutes, because someone said something, to which someone else replied, which raised new questions which turned into a long description and discussion. Yeah. It felt like we had nothing really to say. But it turned out that we did.

Daily stand-ups will help you find and fix problems before they even have the chance to become full-grown problems. If everyone will just say what they are doing currently and sometimes what they are struggling with, you will find issues where nobody really expected them to start with. You will find out when two people are actually working on the same thing. You will find out when someone is misunderstanding a task. You will find out if there’s someone who actually knows the solution to a problem someone else is struggling with. You will find out when there are obstacles that you weren’t even aware of. You will find out lots of things and will be able to fix problems quickly and find ways for the team to work together even better.

And don’t underestimate the power of curiousity. That stupid thing you’re working at that you can’t even look at anymore might just spark the interest of someone else who will eagerly volunteer to help you. I remember a bug we found regarding different handling of spaces before exclamation and question marks which a developer who was a linguistics enthusiast practically jumped to grab. (This didn’t happen in a daily stand-up, but it shows how different members of a team might enjoy to work on different tasks.)

My advice would be: When in doubt, try daily stand-ups. And when are we ever not at least slightly in doubt?

Lean Kanban Central Europe 2011 – A Sort of Introduction

P1010777I was lucky enough to be able to attend the first Lean Kanban Central Europe Conference in Munich this week.

Being new both to these kind of conferences (whatever that means) and Kanban (but not Agile) there were a lot of great first experiences and it was definitely a small adventure. If you follow me on Twitter you might have noticed the mass of tweets all with the hashtag #lkce11 that I sent out on Monday and Tuesday. Yes, I approached the whole thing in a way that seems to work well for me, by immediately making myself visible to whoever might be interested. But I’ll be writing more about Twitter and conferences in the next days (hopefully), because I realized it is an interesting topic and definitely worth a blog post.
Ever since I got back I’ve been suffering from a cold. It actually started on Tuesday and got worse in the afternoon, then definitely worse on the train ride home. So I spent most of today on my new sofabed (which was just delivered this morning as well) trying to get better as soon as possible. (I also now own more tea than I will ever be able to consume, because I shouldn’t be allowed to shop for tea when my throat hurts. Makes me all cravy and then stupid things are bought.)
When recapping the event for my team lead this morning (I went to work for a whole of 90 minutes) I realized that I learned so much that it felt like the double amount of sessions than I actually attended. There was a moment when I went through the program trying to find the sessions that I didn’t already mention and finding that nope, that was really it. My memory is still convinced that it just had to be more than that.
I would like to recap the event and the session in more detail but my current cold-affected brain won’t let me do that with the concentration that it deserves.
So, let me just say this:
First of all, thanks again to all the people organizing this event. It was great fun, I saw very interesting sessions with awesome speakers.
Thanks also for the variety of sessions and speakers. As a Kanban newbie I was glad to get an introduction to Kanban as well as sitting in some rather challenging sessions. The mixture of theory, interactive sessions, experience reports and of course the keynotes worked pretty well for me.
I would also like to thank all the great, funny, interesting, smart and a least mildly geeky people who put up with me during and between sessions. I hope I did say something smart or mildly interesting at times, too.
As a short teaser for upcoming blog posts, I would like to mention my personal top two of the sessions I attended, which was an immensely interesting session about complexity thinking by Jurgen Appelo(@jurgenappelo on Twitter) – who, if you don’t know him yet, seems to be mostly awesome in general – and the funny and captivating keynote by Stephen Bungay in which he went back all the way to tell us what management lessons we can learn from 19th century military.
Sounds interesting? Believe me, it was.
So, stay tuned for more stories and recaps from this event. And just in case you wanted to know. Yes. There was also cake.