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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Unfair Opinion? You’ve Earned It


I had a great discussion the other day. It looks like someone had a strong opinion about me and, well, it wasn’t very close to the reality. It took us a couple of hours to come to the point where we openly discussed that matter.

But the interesting part is how this strong opinion was developed in the first place. We haven’t worked cooperated closely. We’ve been both on maybe a few meetings over a long period of time. There were only few chances to learn anything about each other.

As I learned it all started on one of meetings with rather hot discussion. From time perspective the discussion was completely meaningless. I can’t even tell what we were talking about. But the outcome which lasted was a strong opinion about me. I can’t say it was unfair since, well, I earned it. I wasn’t aware of that but it it is no excuse.

A moral of the story is simple: every time we act others build some picture about us. The more radical our stance is the stronger opinions are developed. Whenever there are more people in the room it’s not only about you and someone you’re discussing with – it’s about everyone who hears that.

Don’t be surprised when someone tells that you’re going to enforce your plan and if reality doesn’t stick to the plan so much the worse for the reality. Even if it is unfair you probably earned it. Don’t be surprised when people don’t want to discuss with you because you’re virtually never agreed you were wrong. You earned it.

I have a bad news for you. Earning it was easy. You haven’t sweat. You’ve done it unconsciously. The hard part is changing people’s minds, even when their opinions don’t stick to the reality. Unfortunately once we’ve chosen side we tend to accept arguments supporting our position and dismiss contradicting ones. That’s a natural mechanism and it even has a name – cognitive dissonance.

It basically means it’s easy to build opinion about something or someone when we don’t have any. But then, changing it to a different one requires way more effort. Even when a different one means the correct one.

And I was very lucky that I was able at least to seed the new opinion in just a couple of hours. Now we need to wait to see what’s going to sprout. I don’t call success yet.

in: communication

2 comments… add one

  • Luis Seabra Coelho December 23, 2010, 5:40 pm

    Really nice and meaningful story, thank you for sharing it.
    It serves as a reminder that it takes a moment to loose what it took you years of hard work to build.

  • Marek December 29, 2010, 3:20 am

    This is totally not like you. Retrospectives are valuable tool… in many contexts. Your thesis sounds true that for teams that are experienced (or teams with experienced SM). People in such a teams often say that everything is fine during retors. Still they are able to say on stand-up meeting or on corridor “hey guys we need to change… bla bla”.

    However for newbies, this often great opportunity to learn that they can change things, discuss improvements etc.
    So please Pawel, with all your wisdom don’t make too general statements :) Everything depends on the context ;)

    Other titles for your post might be: “don’t bother retrospections if you don’t need them” or “don’t be afraid to skip retrospectives” or “retrospective as a lean waste”.

    I appreciate marketing value of your title however :)

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