Friday, August 26, 2005

Why is asking good questions important? Good question!

Andrew - I have a really good developer that I have been working with that is stuggling with some new things that he is trying to learn so I sent him this email today to encourage him to ask good questions to help him in his learning process. I thought you might like to read it.

"Mike - I have been wanting to catch up with you about some more stuff that I think may be of interest to you. I have been reading a lot of stuff by Eli Goldratt lately. His most significant contributions have been with his ideas in his Theory of Constraints (TOC). His first book, The Goal, where he first introduces TOC using the forum of a business novel, is becoming required reading in most business schools.

"There are three things that I really like about Goldratt's work. First is his Theory of Constraints which parallels a lot of what we are doing with our Agile software development. TOC comes from the manufacturing world but the principles can apply to software development too. We can chat more about TOC later but it is not the main idea that I wanted to share with you now.

"The second thing I really like about Goldratt is that he uses the Socratic method to teach his concepts within his business novels. Check out The Goal to see how he does it. If you really like the book, then pick up Critical Chain, another of Goldratt's business novels, which is more project management oriented than manufacturing. These books will give you some insights into Agile that many people even in the Agile camp don't get.

"So in using the Socratic method in The Goal, Goldratt has Jonah, the mentor, asking leading questions to his student (Alex Rogo) to get him to draw the conclusions/solutions himself that Jonah wants him to draw. Thus Alex Rogo ends up with a sense of ownership of the solutions that he would not have if the solution would have been handed to Alex from Jonah. In using the Socratic method Goldratt shows how to use influence rather than the wielding power to get things done. This is the third thing that I like about Goldratt - his teaching on how to create change in an organization.

"So, Mike, how does all this relate to you? Well, one of the things that Goldratt teaches is the thinking processes that can be used to create meaningful change. In the beginning of any change/thinking process you have to start with articulating the problem that you are trying to solve. In your case, learning a new technology or more importantly making a paradigm shift to Agile and Object Orientation, it is important for you to ask specific questions as to what you don't understand. Gaining understanding of Agile practices and OO is the problem that you are trying to solve. So articulate what you don't understand, not just that you don't understand. Then be disciplined in asking questions. Right now you are in a good environment, working with a team that encourages questions - take advantage of it.

"So don't let something that you don't understand get past you without asking about it. Don't just say you don't understand - think through what you know and what you don't know and craft a good question to ask.

"I know this process works. It has worked for me. Sometimes just coming up with an insightful question will give you what you need to answer your own question. And sometimes not, so don't hesitate to ask.

"Let me know if you have questions. Meaningful, well crafted questions, that is...



Blogger Boingophreak said...

ASCII a dumb question, get a dumb ANSI?

September 29, 2005 at 2:12:00 PM PDT  

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