Ingrid Bergman is dead

May 2, 2009

Phone conversation #1

I was on the phone talking to this guy some time ago, the usual blahblah when he mentioned that he was in his parents’ apartment, checking if everything was fine, since they were on vacation.

“Yeah, so I am watching some football on TV and now I am about to go home and sleep.”

“Cool. Did you water the flowers?” His mum has a lot of flowers, very pretty flowers, a jungle!

“Eww, no…”

“But you said that your parents are away for like, 2-3 weeks.”

“Ewww, yeah, but no one told me to water the flowers.”

“Okay, how do they look?”

“I donno, like flowers, eww…”

“Well, maybe you should just water the flowers, or, if in doubt, call your mum and ask if you should water them”. I was getting a bit upset, partly because I love flowers so much, partly because that attitude was a bit too familiar, and a bit too wrong, for my taste.

“Eh, I donno, I am not calling anyone. I got no instructions about their thousands of flowers and now I just want to go home…”

“But… Well… Okay.”

😦

Phone conversation #2

So today I talked to that guy’s mum who called me all upset because Ingrid Bergman was dead.

“Ah… I am sorry to tell you, but Ingrid Bergman actually died some 20-30 years ago. I know you are not a fan of Internet and Google News, but… to get THAT upset NOW is a bit too much of a strong reaction… I think.”

“Well, please – your hubby gets REALLY upset every now and then that The Alexandrian Library was burnt centuries ago! But, anyway, it is not the actress…”

Yes, that  is true, my husband is very sensitive, do not dare mention The Alexandrian Library in front of him unless you are prepared to listen to whining and raging for the next two hours because of the idiots who burned it. All of the different ones.

“Okay, your argument stands. And back to Ingrid…”

“My rose, my Ingrid Bergman is dead! Well, when we got back from the vacation half of my flowers were dying… I saved the most of them, but my pretty rose, my beloved Ingrid Bergman kind of rose died… buaaaaa…”

Ah, Ingrid was some kind of rose…  The conversation went further and I did not mention to the lady the chat I recently had with her son. But, I got really upset, too.

And that was EXACTLY…

Yes, that was EXACTLY what I encountered numerous times in various projects, from different project members. That is a serious attitude problem, and can be very visible, blunt, in your face, or – very nice, covered in sweet chocolate crispy phrases…

“Well, when you tell it like that – it sounds very logical, but, I am sorry – it was not in the specifications, so we did not implement it.”

or:

“Yes, the code is broken, but I am not fixing it since I did not break it. No one told us we are supposed to fix other people’s mistakes.”

or:

“No one told us that code has to be tested, so we didn’t do it. No, why would we do double work if not forced to?”

or:

“He knows how to restart the server, but he is sick today. No, I can not try it, no one said what to do in situations like this one, so let us wait for him. Yes, what can we do, the whole team can not continue now…”

or…

Grrrrrrrr!!!

All of you out there; and you know which ones I am talking to – you, Ingrid Bergman killers – that attitude is NOT OKAY!!!

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Being lean and blond

February 9, 2009

Some background

This happened a while ago, long enough so that the main characters can not be easily identified. Except for me, of course. It is okay, I can take it. I am blond. And I am lean. No, I am not Paris Hilton in disguise. I am a freaky-geeky kind of blond.

Some time ago I was given an opportunity to work with an offshore team from India. It was a very valuable experience from which I learned a lot.

I never went to India. Some of the team members came to the Stockholm office, where I work, now and then, but very rarely. We had a space distance between us, yet we were working tightly, every day. That does not come easy, you have to work a lot on keeping a long distance relationship functional.

Down with the Agile bat! (Long live Agile!)

To cut the long story short – among other things, I was trying to coach the team in Agile methods. Instead of hitting them on their heads with a big bat with “AGILE” written all over it, I had this idea that we should work on adopting a set of common values as a first step.

So, I started a series of workshops we held via WebEx, since that was the best way of communication we had available. Face-to-face communication is always the best, but we could not do that. Visual conferencing involving web cameras is second best, I think, but we did not have that either. Well, we had WebEx. They could see my screen and presentation and we had an audio connection.

Long live innovative examples!

During one of those workshops I was talking about Lean principles and was trying to explain why it is important to decide as late as possible. Then I brought up one example. Now, what not all of you may know is that I am quite proud of my examples. I am also proud of the fact that very often I come up with my own ones in order to simplify and explain things. And then it came:

Decide as late as possible

“You know, it is like when a guy meets a girl. You don’t really go and say the day after you met her: “I want to marry you!”, and run off to buy a ring. No, no, you wait for some time, until you have more information about her, your feelings, her feelings, how you get along etc. THEN you start thinking about the possible proposal.”

SILENCE.

“My point is that this is an IMPORTANT decision, and that is an example why it is valuable to decide as late as possible. You will simply gather more of the relevant information during that time! You will minimize uncertain assumptions and crystal ball predictions, and maximize the facts that will help you make better decisions.”

SILENCE.

Okay, silence or not, I was so happy  how I quickly came up with such a great example, without any preparation that I just continued with my presentation.

The feedback

During the upcoming two days I did not get much feedback on my presentation, which made me feel a bit down. I was new to the assignment, it seemed hard to work with all the distance, and I was warned about the cultural differences I might encounter, but anyway – I was very enthusiastic and happy to work in such a challenging setup! Still, I got no feedback for my first action, and my enthusiasm started to suffer some damage.

It is very hard to try to coach a team you never met. You do not even get to see their faces during the workshop. We humans get so much information through the non-verbal communication, and now I was stripped of that!

And then it came – the team told me that what I did was “A Milestone for the Team!”. Wow. They liked Lean! My interpretation seemed to have helped them! My efforts were not in vain! I was sooooo happy!

Some more feedback

Shortly after that great first feedback, a guy from the team contacted me via Skype in the evening, after the working hours. Usually all of the guys from the Team were “just business”, very nice and polite, but very serious and formal. Well, what I could not see coming at the time, their usual ways were about to change a bit.

This guy, after all the introductory apologies for what might follow, dared to ask me the following:

“Are you married?”

Hm, okay, that WAS a bit different. “Yes”, I answered.

“Love marriage?”

“Well, yes.”

Of course, I mean – the usual story – you fall in love, you date, you move in together, and then, after some time – you marry the one you love. Or – you live happily ever after without getting married. What else could it be. I was thinking… and thinking…

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO. THEN it clicked for me. What I said during the presentation and all… NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

blondebaxtentialistfainting11

Love and marriage

But, my new Skype-friend continued to chat with me:

“I will ALSO get married for love!”

Aha. This was getting interesting. I was recovering from a Am_I_A_Jessica_Simpson_Clone_? experience, but put that aside quickly. What this guy had to say seemed really important.

“… Ok. That is good! I recommend it!”, I was recovering quickly.

“No one shall choose my wife! My parents will have nothing to do with it!”

“That sounds like the way to go. Yes, some parents might try to get too involved sometimes.”

My new friend did not give up on clarifying his views even more.

“I will also find love, and get married to my true love!”.

My heart melted. He was so sweet! We chatted for a while, about India and arranged marriages, among other things. I was so touched that I got to know someones private thoughts and appreciated so much a view through that window to another culture I got to experience. What I learned later, through close interaction with the guys from India, is that, put very simplified, the ones who practice arranged marriages see marriage as a union of two families, not only two individuals. That made me understand it better.

It is a very complex question, about the arranged marriages and the whole different culture than the western one. Millions of pages were and millions more could be written about it, and it is not my aim to tackle that here. Personally I do not think that there is an ultimate right or wrong way to find your significant other, and what works for one, might not work for other. Still, I am for the freedom of choice.

Embrace mistakes

I learned something that day. It is okay to make mistakes. People will forgive you as long as you are honest and true to yourself. And after a mistake is made, you will hopefully learn something. It is not what happens, but how you deal with it.

cartmanilearnedsomethingtodaysmall1

BTW, whatever your hair color might be, my dear friend, remember – being blond is a state of mind. 😉

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