"I don't want to be involved in software"

I went to the path to agility conference yesterday and a short story caught my attention.  Ken Schweiber talked about a neighbor (I think?) he got an internship for doing some QA work for a software company.  After their graduation, he offered to help get them a full time job - the answer was amazing : "Hell no".

Because of this person's experience, there was no desire for that person to go into software dev.  Horrible code quality, missed deadlines, angry unhappy people, the toxic cocktail that can kill any project (and morale) was rampant.  Sure you could argue that's an isolated experience, but is it really?  I'd like to think it is, but it isn't.  Worse, I know someone I think is on that edge, to the point of NOT wanting to be in software anymore.  Frustrated, feeling left behind, etc, I decided to dig a little bit into this - I genuinely want to know where this profession began to break down and fail to serve the person that at some point enjoyed it.  I love software, I think it's fun but that's not the whole picture.  I invited this person to lunch and what I nailed down as the answer is one you've heard before. More...

Ask the right question, get the right answer

Talked about this during a lunch I went to with Brent Huston (web, twitter) and he asked me had I done a write up on this ... and I haven't so I shall.  It's a good piece of info that I think everyone should master - Ask the right question, get the right answer.  This pays off in so many ways, it isn't funny and you can use it and abuse it everywhere, in everyday life.  This isn't a great theory that doesn't work in reality, this is a basic foundational requirement.  Yes, I feel very strongly about this and Brent suggested I should write up how I managed to teach it so here goes.

I hinted at this when I mentioned a good friend of mine, Jay Saunders, was graduating.  I tortured him for a solid 2 months (probably more), teaching him this practice.  When he started, I told him the number one thing was teaching him how to ask the right questions.  Purpose being is multi-layered.  First, without asking the right questions, you waste a lot of time figuring out what they (the users) really mean.  Second, if you take a minute to think about what you really want, you also should think of the possible reactions of the person being asked -- I will come back to this because there's a lot of nasty pitfalls that need to be addressed.  Third, it forces a different thought process and finally, the real goal, it forces the person being asked to NOT give a wrong answer. More...