Authentic Dialogue

When I am talking with someone and I don’t understand or know the term/idea they are using, I say so!  Yes, there is some feeling of vulnerability.  However, the honest communication will lead to a more authentic relationship which hopefully translates into a more productive and enriching exchange.

Living in “the fake” will wear you out.  If you don’t know or understand, say so!

-- the truth will set you free!

Gut Alignment

Ok, so back to this coffee pot.  It is just too nice to give up on it.  So after another read of the manual and not learning anything from that, I looked at the coffee pot.  I tried to leave my preconceived notions of how it should work behind.

After some study of how I thought the filter should go in and how it sort of worked, I tried something different.  I noticed a “trough” of sorts at the bottom of the basket.  This time, I rotated the filter 90°.  That made all the difference in the world.  The filter now fits snugly into the basket and all is right with the world.

So, when I let the coffee pot reveal itself to me I gained insight and now there is a symbiotic relationship!

In our relationships and work environments it is important to try and understand the motivations of our employees, employers and customers.

For instance, reflect on what is important in life to you, your values.  Then consider the goals of your employer.  If there isn’t some alignment it is likely that you won’t be happy there.

Bad coffee pot! X^(

I know, I know! Back to the coffee pot. We were trying to make adjustments to the process and having trouble. The management (my wife) noticed the problems I was experiencing. Most noticeable were the backed up coffee and grinds overflowing onto the counter.

So, we were losing time, precious resources (beans), creating a mess and had nothing to show for it. Management said, enough!

The coffee pot was removed and we went in search of a replacement. We ended up with a high quality (and high initial expense) specialized single cup brewer. This works out really well since I am the only coffee drinker in the house.

I've gotta say, after the team metaphor with the last post, my team was really dismayed to hear that the coffee pot got swapped out! The moral of this post is therefore left as an exercise to the reader.

New Team, New Rules

I have had my old coffee pot for years.  It uses a basket filter.  I grind my coffee beans right before brewing.  Over time I had figured out the proper amount of beans and the correct granularity of the grind.  The result was great coffee every time! :)

My wife recently got me a new coffee pot.  It is much nicer with features like a clock, timer and higher capacity pot.  The new machine uses #4 filters instead of the basket style filters.

So, I followed the instructions for doing the initial “cleaning” runs.  I went to make my first full pot of coffee and I used the amount of coffee and the granularity that I have been used to using.  Then I heard the sound of coffee on burner.  What?  The grounds had gotten up and around the filter and clogged the dispensing hole.  :(  I chalked it up to the shorter filter.

Tried another full pot on another day with a new improved bigger filter.  Similar result, grounds in my coffee.  No bueno!

Then it occurred to me, I was grinding finer than “drip” granularity and this was causing the problem.  Maybe the cone style basket doesn’t need as many grounds either.  I guess I’ll have to check the manual!

As always, I’m thinking of how do these lessons translate to software development?  To me, I pull away that we can’t use the same procedures we’ve always used when we have a new environment.  In this case the environment consisted of the coffee maker, water, filter, beans and grinder.  (Let’s not consider condiments!)  Change any of these critical components and you can’t expect the same results.

So, if your team changes, your management changes, the tools you use change, etcetera, expect that your process must change as well.

Transference of process or technique

You know how you're always hearing about work-life balance.  It really is a good idea.  You can pull from experiences in "outside" activities to enhance your software development skills/process.


When you participate in other activities like camping, hiking, bicycling, toastmasters, painting, etc you learn new techniques.  You gain insight into that activity that you can likely bring to your software development practice.

Give me an example

For instance, you're into bicycling.  You've picked up different bicycles for different types of terrain/activities.  You've added various accessories to your bike to make the experience more enjoyable.  You carry a back up tube and air pump for emergencies.  Water and a power bar and gel are along for the ride as well.  You've come to realize that you can go farther and faster over more difficult terrain when you're riding with a buddy.  After training for a while you are stronger and have better riding technique, know the bike better and how to adjust gears for the terrain.

Reflecting on the above you ask yourself:

  • Do I have or use different tools for different projects?
  • What accessories can I add to my development environment to make the process more enjoyable?
  • Where's my development safety net?
  • What do I do to keep going while I'm developing?
  • How can a buddy help me go further and faster creating software?
  • Am I better developer now-- that is, do I have better technique now? Do I know my tools better?
  • What would it mean for me to "shift gears for the terrain" in terms of software?


In summary, that work-life balance/outside activities can make you a better developer.

I encourage you to evaluate your experiences from other activities and bring that knowledge to your software development craft.

Vista Gadget for following the Missouri House

Over the holiday break I updated my Missouri House Vista Gadget for the 2009 Legislative session.  This gadget has links for frequently accessed pages on the Missouri House web site

This session there are also three new custom Google search tools added as well.  The Legislative Search indexes the combined sites of the Missouri House, the Missouri General Assembly and the Missouri Senate.  The RSMO search indexes the Revised Statutes of Missouri.  The Constitution search works through the Missouri State Constitution and the Preamble.
Please use the gadget forum or Twitter to let me know how the gadget works for you!