Friday, December 21, 2007

Design Conflict

I had a dinner meeting a few weeks back with some members of my development team at work (including the new VP!) and one of the topics of the discussion was that of team dynamics. I've found over the years that the most successful teams are teams of "invested equals." Invested because people only give their best when they think that they can make a difference and when they know that they'll be rewarded, and equals because people (for some strange reason) tend to do what their bosses tell them to, as opposed to pushing back and demanding that their voice and their ideas be heard.

As part of this wonderful dinner conversation, I told a story of how Ted Malone (who still claims to not regret recruiting me) and I were both attempting to come up with a design for a vital new application component. He presented his idea. It was so wrong. I presented my delightfully well thought out idea. He failed to see its beauty. (Please keep in mind that Ted may have somewhat different recollections of this morning.) So we dueled, whiteboard markers at dawn, as it were, and by the time the dust had settled the resulting design was more complete, more elegant and more satisfying than anything either one of us could have come up with alone.

Which brings me to a quote:
"A design that comes out of an argument is always better than a design that comes out of a committee."

Believe it or not, this is actually my own quote. (I'm not usually nearly this pithy, and am forced to quote the brilliant people around me.) It's been sitting in the back of my brain for the last few weeks, waiting for a chance to come out again.

And that chance may well be on the horizon. I've been involved in an email discussion with our CTO (who may well have the biggest brain on the planet - this guy is scary sometimes) on how we may be able to apply Microsoft BI technologies to solve some very interesting (and by "interesting" I mean oppressively difficult) problems in the configuration analytics space. The opportunity I see ahead lies in the fact that I’m the type of person who needs a real, concrete problem to look at and to wrap my brain around. Then I can step back, generalize and come up with an abstract “problem domain” that represents the whole problem to be solved, of which my concrete example was only one instance. But I need that one concrete instance in order to begin.

Dennis, on the other hand, is the type of person who always thinks in abstracts. (Or in any event this is the impression I've gotten; I honestly haven't asked him. Yet.) He always has that overarching “big picture” in mind, and even though he can drill down into the little details at will, that’s not how he looks at the problems natively.

So Dennis and I have some whiteboard time scheduled for next month. My brain is almost literally salivating (yeah, picture that one) at the thought of the mental duel that lies ahead. Bring on the conflict!

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