Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Keep contention out of collaboration

There is an old joke “arguing with a developer is like wrestling with a pig in mud, after a while you realizes he/she likes it”, and there are a number of reasons for this, as a group we tend to have strong options,  stubbornness, know-it-all, and ego to name a few.  Some of this is what makes us good developers, a lot of it is what makes us irrigating to other people.

I personally have been in my fair share of heated, angry, and down right nasty 'discussions' and in the past I may have been guilty of using the force of my will to get teams I have been on to do things 'The right way'.  Even joking about being the “a-hole developer”, and as I matured as a professional, I realized even if I win like this, at what cost?  I began to realize it was beginning to effect my health and that I didn't like who I was becoming.

We talk about the need to collaborate, from pair programming, sprint planning, daily stand ups, retrospectives, etc.  but how often do they turn into arguments?  Recently in the Javascript world there has been a lot of arguing about semicolons, and if they should be required.  In all honesty this is really a non-problem, and yet people are getting brutal and down right offensive, over the need to be right? Being contentious will not change anyone’s mind, if there is a “winner” it’s because the other side has given up, and at what cost?  Both sides are going to be resentful of the other, and it’s going to make working together that much harder.

This is not to say we can’t have discussions from different points of view, have different opinions, be a pushover, or not think the other side is off their rocker.  Far from it, but we need to keep it civil and positive.  Last I checked we (as developers) are paid to solve problems, not prove we are right.  The heart of collaboration is taking different points of view and coming up with the best solution and we can’t do that if we are trying to prove we are right.   

It’s ok to have strong opinions, I have more then a few, but it is also important be open minded, be willing to look at what the other side is saying, and come to an acceptable resolution on how to solve the problem.  Admitting when you are wrong, or at least not completely right, can be very hard.  Ultimately, be willing to work as a team, and if the team decides to do things “wrong” then that’s what the team wants.  If you are working with a team that insists on doing things “wrong” and you are unable to contribute, then maybe this isn’t the team for you “If you can’t change where you work, change where you work”.

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