SPA Conference Report: Day 3


Well what would you do next…? – John Armstrong-Prior

Making decisions is one of the most painful areas for me, in life and in work, so I felt I had to go to the workshop that would test and exercise this.

It’s a constant battle whether to practice and exercise the things I am already good at, or work on improving the things that I’m either less naturally talented for, or have less practice and inclination with. (This is an idea from Meri Williams’ workshop “Be a brilliant people developer”, where she suggests that it’s much preferable to become awesome at the things you’re already good at, rather than mediocre at the things you suck at.

Decisions (however much I wish I could relegate them to “Things I suck at and are therefore less useful to become mediocre at”), are an inherent part of life as a human, so getting some practice in a development environment, as it were, is what I decided this time.

We can all take good decisions with hindsight! We learned about taking time to step back and evaluate your choices, what information you have, what information you know is missing, and what are the potential areas where lurk the things you don’t know you don’t know. Collaborating, rather than feeling you have to make the decision on your own. Owning the decision and dealing with the consequences.

Negotiating For Your Life – Portia Tung, Tom Roden, Marco Milone

This is another area where I feel uncertain on my feet. I tend to take people at their literal word, and assume that a no is a no, a deadline is there for a reason, and a sum of money is all that’s available. Seen from this perspective, negotiating always seemed presumptuous.

I was not the only one worried about coming off as manipulative, as one of the participants mentioned after the practical exercise. We were equally in agreement that often, if we receive what we asked for immediately, we are worried that asked for too little. (Especially when it involves salaries.)

The power team of Portia, Tom, and Marco set out to change these assumptions, by presenting the negotiation process as an attempt to achieve a mutually agreeable outcome for both parts. We’re both trying to make a thing happen, and we’re looking for ways around the obstacles.

Don’t limit yourself to what you think is the maximum you can obtain from a negotiation – start with your ideal outcome, even if it seems too much.

Allow silences – often people are mulling things over in their heads, and if given the space and silence into which to speak, they’ll come up with alternatives. People are often uncomfortable with silences, but someone will break first! 😉

Start by articulating your goals to yourself, then reshape them into arguments for why what you’re proposing is advantageous for the other person(s).

In the context of a negotiation, “No” is the beginning, not the end. (Personal note: some things are NOT a negotiation. A “No” is not an invitation to push people’s boundaries.)

Go for the “that’s right”. Understand the other person’s point of view, reformulate it and repeat it back to them for confirmation. Then come up with alternatives and solutions.

Strangle Your Legacy Code – Amitai Schleier, Tim Bourguignon

I had a hard time getting into this session. I think the combination of an unfamiliar language, an unfamiliar programming technique (mobbing), and the tiredness of being there for almost three days all played a part.

I left halfway through, so I don’t think it’s fair to give any other commentary given that I haven’t seen the process reach its conclusion.

Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong – Giovanni Asproni

My brain was a bit fried by this point, and I joined a little over the halfway mark, so all I can say is that I’m going to be looking for the slides and blog post(s).