Fear of a lack of self-awareness

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 20, 2017, 12:51 PM | comments: 0

Today at work we had our every-other-week sprint review and retrospective, and it was super positive. We've executed like a (mostly) well-oiled machine now for three or four sprints, and when you get to the part where you talk about what went well, what didn't, and what to change, the last two-thirds of that discussion get awfully quiet. Virtual high-fives among our distributed team are great, but I always fear that we're not being self-aware enough. It's not that I want to be a poopy-pants, I just don't want us to get so comfortable that we overlook our own flaws.

As it turns out, this is a healthy kind of fear, because it does move you forward. I often think about the time I was at Microsoft, because it was a time where the company culture, as diverse at it was from one area to another, was largely oblivious to its shortcomings. Maybe 40-60 in favor of oblivious when I started. When I switched teams mid-way through my time there, I went from the 40 to the 60. There was a lot of attachment to the status quo, about "how we do things," and the worst part was that one of those things was an arrogance about "knowing" what customers really wanted, without asking them. It was completely strange to me, and other than being a squeaky wheel, I was ineffective at changing this. After I left, not surprisingly, they never shipped anything.

That was a good experience to have, in part because it reminded me not to get comfortable, and face the flaws of me and my team outright and directly. Admitting that you have a problem is in fact the first step to recovery.

Still, it's OK to have a little celebration. I reminded the team today that the level of collaboration and communication we enjoy isn't all that common, and we're even a distributed, remote team. My last co-located gig couldn't touch the level of collaboration that we have today. (Some day, companies like IBM and Yahoo will learn this. OK, well not Yahoo, because it's toast.)

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