Dominic Batstone


Software Development, Process Improvement and Career Progression.

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Dominic Batstone

Conflict Club

30th December 2017

The first rule of Conflict Club is don't get personal.

What is it?

People fear conflict. It doesn't matter what position you are, there is a fear which can be irrational or debilitating.

Are you wrong when you go against someone else’s opinion? No one wants to look stupid in front of colleagues. This is particularly important in group discussions where your point of view can easily be changed by group think.

Companies should allow feedback

Ideally a company and its leadership should be willing to accept feedback and criticism of the way they work. Unfortunately most companies are not like this. Most so called leaders are not leaders at all, just an authority figure. This is one reason why Scrum Retrospectives are good. The team learns from prior mistakes and make changes for the next iteration. Most companies don't do those either.

Most Companies

Most companies don't like change because people don't like change. Ideas come from people not companies. If there is a process, even if it's dumb then they will carry on using it.

Recent Experience

Where I work we're down to five developers. Three left about a year ago and weren't replaced (cost cutting). There's some strange things going on.

We worked on three different products and each team worked in a different way.

  • Team 1 used TFS as SourceSafe, and their lifecycle tracking is Post It notes and Excel.

  • Team 2 used TFS for source control and their ALM - the way it is supposed to be used!

  • Team 3 used an open source bug tracker and GIT for source control.

This is dumb, really dumb.

Think about how hard this makes collaboration difficult, between developers, testers and the rest of the company.

This is just one example of strange processes. After talking to colleagues there is this level of craziness all over the company. The solutions are obvious, but the leadership does not see if or if they do it is ignored. We're not a small comapny either, we're part of an FTSE 250 company values at over £1 billion!

Conflict Club

Action needed to be taken. I decided the best way forward was to get together with some colleagues who had similar beliefs and passions. This was to be a weekly lunchtime meeting open to all where we could challenge our processes while eating company provided pizza.

We called it Conflict Club.

There was only one rule, it must not be personal. Processes and ways of working needed to be challenged and criticised, but not the the people.

Solutions

I chaired to start, but once it found direction and became less formal it became self organising. Not only were dumb processes to discuss but people found they could table views about all sorts of other issues such as HR and payroll. Of course, you can't moan all the time and not have solutions. All problems were noted and solutions discussed.

Culture

One side effect is that employee engagement improved. People felt that they were being listened to and action would likely follow.

Things to consider with your own conflict club

It should be officially open to all, but be wary of those that just want to bring greivances. There's no point moaning about stuff and being negative without any solutions. Negativity brings everyone down, but challenge and conflict can actually be fun and productive. Those that just want to air greivances should really talk to their line manager or HR.

Finally make sure that things do change and you have leadership backing. If there's no buy in from the bosses then nothing will change and all the good work will be lost, and engagement will take a hit too.

Culture & Security focussed developer finding ways to increase happiness and efficiency so we can all work easier with better quality code, relationships and lives.

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