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Problem Solving Leadership: An Experience (The Pain and Gain of Edward Bear)

On September 23, 2015, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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I’m back from the sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico having spent more than a week with some bright minds to figure out this problem solving business. For me, problems started even before PSL as Lufthansa canceled their flights. James reminded me this could all be Jerry’s doing… Considering it now after PSL I would not be surprised 🙂

Problem Solving Leadership in only one word? Profound.

Although using just one word really isn’t enough to describe the experience PSL provides. It’s a big investment (if you pay your own way like I did) and it’s not for everyone. Why? Because you’ll be somewhat uncomfortable, you’ll have to reflect a lot, you’ll have to go deep, you may be annoyed, you’ll be buried under information and/or feelings… It’s all good if you like it but like I said, it may not be everyone’s taste.

PSL doesn’t give you pre-packaged answers. Sure there are drops of wisdom (or if Jerry gets in the groove, it’s more like being sprinkled). I also think PSL is a very personal experience that is mostly about you and your growth. It’s not like you can’t take anything back to your team from PSL but I feel like the biggest thing I brought back was the change in me. The lessons and thoughts need time to be processed. It will take some time before I have rebuilt parts of my thinking (and myself).

What was my PSL like for me? What did I see? Hear? Feel? Experience?

I experienced one hour of the most exhilirating team work I’ve ever been part of. We needed some Kleenex after that.

I kicked someone in the nuts. Not too seriously but… it was part of the thing we had to do. It was extremely funny, though.

I learned important lessons about separating observation and interpretation. Then I became worried about my interpretations.

I learned that people can make anything into a hard problem. Including myself.

I received valuable feedback about how I behave in stressful situations. I was vaguely aware of it but hadn’t realized the effects fully. I’m extremely focused and get things done but if I’m running at my full capacity, talking to me is an option to be perused carefully.

I had many valuable conversations over meals. Or late into the night. There’s interesting stuff that can happen and much of the time the participants help each other learn in different ways.

I feel more zen and restless after PSL. It’s ambiguous.

I noticed some opportunities where I didn’t chime in because I thought I knew nothing. Hello, impostor!

I learned some things about trust I hadn’t realized before.

Erik and me were finally able to get to the bottom of why we keep doing our Transpection Tuesdays. Or at least we got much deeper than ever before.

I realized I should jiggle and relax more.

I learned to be careful about getting caught up in content and forgetting about the process (and vice versa).

I learned some useful things about “divide and conquer” and how to do it.

I realized I’m a detailed big picture person – I need the big picture to know where I’m going and judging whether what I do on a detailed level makes sense. I need to keep things in the frame.

I learned to give and receive appreciation. This is powerful. It surfaces and heals.

I went to a state fair for the first time and saw rodeo live for the first time. They’re nuts! (I mean both the men and the horses… and the muttons…).

I got to ravage through Jerry’s bookshelves… I love me some books.

I could go on but…

***

I am doing quite a bit of self-reflection on a regular basis (talking to others, journaling) and I feel like the awareness helped quite a bit during PSL. The topics that came up and the lessons I learned connected to what I was aware about already, so it expanded my awareness even more. I also had thought through the reasons why I wanted to attend PSL and had formulated my own learning goals. To my delight, the PSL prework also covered these things. I believe that being aware and having set some goals for yourself, and, generally, having some reason to attend PSL can enhance the experience.

***

This time around there were quite a few people who  knew each other before PSL (a group of testers). Me and Erik, of course, knew each other very well. It was great to get to know these people in more depth. And it also felt great to let them get to know me more. With some discomfort I realized how little I knew about them before (and I probably still know little). But it’s more now!

With Erik we had many conversations and processing sessions on top of those in class. These were some looooong days but I feel like we maximized what we could by spending more time on thinking and discussing. And we were able to arrive on some conclusions that were pretty profound for us and that I suspect we wouldn’t have reached outside PSL context (at least not further in the future).

***

If you go to PSL, do yourself a favor and arrive a couple of days earlier. I had a great time discovering Albuquerque, and we had a really great group hike before the class that somehow helped us get into the groove of things (or maybe it was only me :)).

***

One final question: do I think it’s worth it? (It = the money, the effort, the travel)

It was worth it for me, absolutley. Alas, I cannot speak for you. Talk to people, gather the impressions (I suggest avoiding specific descriptions of exercises because come on, there’s no point in “preparing” this way), look into yourself, and decide.

 

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