I’m in the middle of rereading Gerald Weinberg’s Quality Software Management series, which is motivating me to type various quotes on mailing lists that I’m on. Not sure that they’ll do much without the context (actually, I have no reason to believe that they did much for anybody even with the context!), but if I’m going to go through the trouble of typing it out once, I might as well reuse the effort.

From the first volume, Systems Thinking, p. 110:

I once was called in to consult on a troubled project that was missing all of its goals, much to the puzzlement of its project manager, Simon. As part of my visit, I attended a code review meeting that (against my advice) Simon also attended. Herb, whose code was being reviewed, took a lot of personal abuse from Simon to the point where his eyes started watering. I called for a “health break,” and during the break, Simon came up to me and asked, “Does Herb have something in his eye?”

“Why do you ask?” I replied.

“Well, I noticed that there was water coming out of his eye.”

From the third volume, Congruent Action, pp. 60–61:

If you are acting incongruently, you are likely to trigger incongruent reactions in others. Rather than blaming them for incongruence, ask yourself, “What could I be doing to contribute to their behavior?” Here’s how it worked for Parson, one of my students:

“I was telling one of my project managers that I had to see a plan to get her project back on schedule. As she handed me a folder containing her revised project plan, I became aware that the papers in her hand were rattling. That caught my attention, and I thought, ‘How strange that the papers should rattle like that.’ Looking for an explanation, I noticed she was trembling, that her face was ashen, and finally that her eyes were wet.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh, she’s sick!’ but then I remembered the idea from class that she might be reacting to me. That seemed ridiculous, as I thought I was merely talking to her normally, but I decided to check it out.

“The first thing I noticed about myself was that I was gripping the edge of my desk as if it were a safety rail between me and the Grand Canyon. I thought I should loosen my grip, but then I realized I would probably fall on my face toward her if I did. All this while I continued talking to her about the project plan, until I noticed that I was actually shouting and banging my other fist on the desk. That’s when I had my big AHA!”

From the second volume, First-Order Measurement, p. 109, defending the definition that “Quality is value to some person”:

Why is this definition so troublesome to some people? There are people in the world whose strongest desire is to find perfection, the one right way. Many of these people choose to work with computers, and particularly with software. They don’t like the idea that quality is relative – to people, to place, to time – but it is.

And again from Congruent Action, p. 196 this time:

Avoiding blamers works if you don’t have to deal with them again, but this is exactly the opposite of engaging. If your work requires that you engage the blamer, you need to learn the method of the aikido masters when dealing with all forms of attack, including blame:

When someone hits you, he is extending his ki toward you and it starts to flow when he thinks he will hit you — even before his body moves. His action is directed by his mind. You don’t need to deal with his body at all if you can redirect his mind and the flow of his ki. That’s the secret; lead his mind away from you and the body will folow.

In aikido, you lead the mind away by physical means, though these are always as gentle as possible. The idea is not to further upset the person or draw more attention to yourself, as stiff resistance or a punch would do. In fact, skilled aikidoists often disable their attackers without even touching them, which of course is what you want to do with someone who is blaming you.

Blaming can be handled in the same way, first by yielding, but in such a way that the blame is unable to harm you. Done properly, this surprising move engages the blamer’s mind, so that you can easily change its direction. For example, suppose that an employee blames you for his failure to develop a specified function. “You didn’t tell me that this function was part of the spec,” he screams. Although you remember telling him, you don’t try to deny the allegation, which only focuses his blame more firmly on you. Instead, you may say, “If you didn’t know it was in the spec, I can certainly understand why you didn’t develop it.”

Saying this, you have agreed with his anger without accepting his blame. Next, you redirect the energy of this blame (the ki, in aikido terms) into something more productive. You have aligned with his energy, so you can push from behind rather than resisting it from the front. You might say, “What’s the best way for you to be informed of functions to implement?” This makes you collaborators, rather than opponents, by turning the energy toward preventing the problem in the future, rather than belaboring the unchangeable past. Even better, you have not become a blamer yourself.

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