Self Blindness

I’m reading through Gerald Weinberg’s Becoming a Technical Leader
at the moment. Amongst other great suggestions (I’m only a 3rd of the way through, if that), the book mandates that in order to progress (with it) one must spend 5 minutes per day writing a journal.

I decided that since I do indeed want to progress (not necessarily into leadership, but in a more general sense) I should follow through on Jerry’s recommendation. It also brought to mind a blog post from James Bach about what testers should do, every day. The activity of journalling, stepping outside of oneself and observing, possibly making changes and adjustments to behaviours as a result seems to check a good 3 out of the 4 items on James’ list.

I’m not great at finding time to write. I have far too many other commitments and activities jostling for my time. Work, editing The Testing Planet, family (3x delightful daughters – all under 5!), a social life of sorts, reading and studying and generally trying to stay on top of my game, exercise… What I’ve ended up doing instead is just kind of logging my thoughts as I have them, and when I identify them as being worth making a note of.

This has proven to be pretty successful so far, with a fairly consistent stream of notes covering every few hours since sometime yesterday afternoon when I began. I was in fact in the process of holding a kind of congratulatory inner dialogue whilst eating my dinner that I suddenly had a revelation. An epiphany of sorts!

ALL of my notes were about the good stuff I’d done. Of which, to be fair, there was quite a bit! πŸ˜‰

But when it came to something negative that I might have done or did do, nothing. Nada. Zilch. “That’s not worth keeping a record of!” my brain has decided at some point. Very interesting. To me at least, since I know for a fact that I did kind of rub somebody up the wrong way during the course of the day. A classic No Problem Syndrome situation, as identified in the book (see comments below for clarification on this point.)

With the whole point of the exercise being to kind of step outside of myself and try to see my actions as other people see them, maintaining my journal, even for only one day, has helped me immediately identify that I have a blind spot when it comes to my behaviour or communication skills at times.

Now that I know about it, I can try to do something to change it, and hopefully increase my value to the team(s) I work with. Epic Win! I can’t wait to see what other goodies journalling brings my way.

Thanks for the advice Jerry! (And James!)

- Simon

8 thoughts on “Self Blindness

  1. Good luck with keeping the journal going – I’ve started it twice ( after reading the book and then after re-reading it ), got some great insights doing it but have not been able to keep it going.
    Maybe this blog will kick me off again – third time lucky ?

  2. I always work with a notebook and I’m in the habit of scribbling down notes on what I’m thinking as I’m doing the thinking. At times it’s almost a form of doodling. It’s useful to go back and see what I actually felt and thought at the time. It also helps with test completion reports (and football match reports too, come to think of it) so that recollection isn’t clouded too much by hindsight. It’s always useful to know what the situation looked like at the time in the light of the knowledge that was available then.

    Recently I was leafing through some test completion reports and assignment feedback reports I’d completed on my own performance at the end of projects from when I worked for a Big Supplier.

    What struck me was how I couldn’t ignore the problems. The documents could be summarised as “it was awful – we did a lousy job. What we should be doing is…”.

    The response from more senior management was invariably along the lines of; “for goodness sake, don’t be so negative, it wasn’t that bad”.

    Looking back I do look like a bit curmudgeonly, and I don’t think we ever really did as badly as I was making out. But I do think my attitude did drive us on to do better.

    Incidentally, I think the way you’ve described No Problem Syndrome looks a bit misleading. I think Weinberg’s real concern is about our tendency to say “no problem” in a brainlessly gung ho spirit when we are asked to do something, with the result that we commit ourselves and others to complete a job without knowing what the requirements are, or even what the job really is.

    1. Thanks for dropping by James.

      I think being able to refer back to your own thoughts, musings and observations is most likely invaluable. Particularly if one is freelance or a contractor and not subject to the normal performance review cycles. It’s certainly a practice I intend to keep up.

      I tend to work with a notebook also, but I prefer something a bit more private for my journalling. I’m finding GMail and filters quite useful for this since I can pretty much always send myself an email (e.g. from my phone) and referring back through them via tags and search is a doddle.

      With regards to the NPS reference, I can see where you’re coming from and I should probably change this to be a bit clearer. What I’m saying is, the situation in which I [probably] rubbed somebody up the wrong way was a classic example of NPS, in that I was presuming no problem when in fact there probably was a problem for the person I was talking to, in relation to the topic under discussion.

      Hopefully that clears it up?

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