If they won’t listen to your ideas, then what?
I finished the presentation and looked up at empty faces. I may as well have been telling knock, knock jokes for the previous thirty minutes.
In 2001, I was a software development team leader for a web/java team that built websites for JPMorgan Chase. We did it the same way as everyone else.
Then I discovered extreme programming (XP), which is an early Agile practice.
This was it. The answer. We would release every few months and often had to roll back production because of bugs. But I had the solution and I had to tell The World! But I started small and told my boss. He, in his relaxed way, said, “You can do a presentation at the next team meeting … if you want.”
I’d practised and perfected the slides. I knew the concepts were challenging to the corporate view of software development but also to my team, many of whom had many more years of experience than me.
I had nothing to lose. “So, shall we try this?” I squeaked. Mumbles all around. We didn’t try it. I carried on with XP as best I could. It’s hard to play a team game alone.
A couple of weeks later, I was coding, and my most experienced developer wheeled himself over. “Rob, you got a sec?” he said.
“Just a mo. I just need to get this to go green.”
He furrowed his brow. “Get what to go green?”
“I must get all the tests to pass – to go green. And also before I can write more code.”
“Why are you writing tests while you are coding?” he said.
“Oh, I write tests first, and all while I’m coding. I don’t wait to the end.”
I smiled. “Because then I write more code, faster, with fewer bugs that way.”
He squinted and hesitated before leaning towards my screen. “Show me.”
And that was the beginning of introducing XP to my team. Not the presentation.
In writing, “show don’t tell” is a powerful technique. It’s all the more potent when trying to introduce new ideas to change people’s thinking and behaviour.