This book's amalgam of the lingo of software patterns and management theory (and even New Age and popular psychology) helps make the text one of the most challenging you'll ever read about team building. Based on the authors' considerable experience with Microsoft and their simulated developer boot camps run with hundreds of teams, this book eschews providing practical evidence drawn from real projects. Instead, it formulates a unique vocabulary of terms, protocols, and patterns that arguably should allow teams to carry out decisions and build better team focus.
The tour of tools and techniques begins with ways of getting individuals to commit totally to their work in teams. (The authors show how individuals can "check in" to work environments or "check out" as necessary.) They offer a set of techniques that can allow teams to work together more effectively, as well as obstacles (or "antipatterns") that can get in the way. Early sections culminate with a "team equals product" philosophy, arguing that highly calibrated teams will produce insanely great software.
A cluster of tips and patterns for better decision making comes next. Here, the Decider pattern offers a step-by-step protocol for voting and resolving disputed items effectively. For anyone stuck in interminable meetings where egos instead of good ideas triumph, such ideas may well help change things. Alignment patterns come next, which allow teams to overcome perceived shortages of people or time to get the job done. The most far-reaching sections here argue that teams need a long-distance vision to drive their work lives. (This is considerably more ambitious than a standard corporate mission statement and involves a guiding principle that will change the world 20 years into the future.) A final, intriguing group exercise walks teams through a protocol to do something "perfect" in a group setting, with steps to refine the "design."
The text closes with appendices covering Core Protocol terminology, as well as the opening statement delivered to participants at the authors' five-day boot camp (where their techniques are played out). The Core Protocols themselves, wittily released under the General Public License as open source, close out this often fascinating book.
Long on theory but consciously short on any practical examples, this title offers an uncompromising vision for getting teams to work together. Though it's doubtful that your average IT department will be able to commit to such a different set of terms for the everyday workplace, Software for Your Head provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of highly committed and collaborative teams written by two legendary ex-Microsofties. --Richard Dragan
Topics covered: Introduction to the Core Protocols (protocols and patterns for team-based development), the "Check In" protocol (for centering team members on work efforts), the "Check Out" protocol (for individual time-outs), the "Passer" pattern (for not participating in group efforts), the "Connection" protocol, problem behaviors (antipatterns: "Too Emotional," "No Hurt Feelings," and "Wrong Tolerance"), additional "Check In" patterns (including "Team = Product," "Self-Care," and the "Greatness Cycle"), "Decider" protocols (for making team decisions), the "Resolution," "Work with Intention," and "Ecology of Ideas" patterns, "Decider" antipatterns (including "Resolution Avoidance," "Turf," and "Team Quackery"), guide to personal and team alignment, patterns and antipatterns for team alignment (including "Investigate," "Web of Commitment," and "Ask for Help"), building shared vision in teams, patterns and protocols for shared vision (including "Metavision" and "Far Vision"), shared vision antipatterns (including "Blinder," "Technicality," and "Recoil"), the "Perfection Game" protocol (for building team vision), appendices for the lexicon of terms used in the Core Protocols, transcript of the authors' boot camp development scenario, the Core Protocols 1.0 and General Public License.
From the Back Cover
At least once in their lives, most people experience the incomparable thrill of being part of a great team effort. Members of successful teams often feel a unity of purpose, powerful passion and inspiration, and a strong sense of accomplishment. People who have been on a great team know that the difference between being on a team with a shared vision and being on a team without one is the difference between joy and misery.
After successful careers leading software development teams at Microsoft and elsewhere, Jim and Michele McCarthy set out to discover a set of repeatable group behaviors that would always lead to a state of shared vision for any team. They hoped to design a practical, communicable, and reliable process that could be used to create the best possible team every time it was applied.
In 1996, Jim and Michele McCarthy established a hands-on laboratory for the study and teaching of high-performance teamwork, and in a controlled-simulation environment challenged dozens of real-world, high-tech teams to produce and deliver a product. The teams were given a product development assignment and instructed to envision the product, agree on how to make it, and then design, build, and ship it on time. Repeating these simulations time after time, with new teams building on the learning of previous teams, core practices emerged that were repeatedly successful. These were encoded as the patterns and protocols that became the "Software for Your Head" included in this book.
Software for Your Head is the first publication of the most significant results of the authors' unprecedented five-year investigation into the dynamics of contemporary teams. This book will give any team the know-how it needs to create its own compelling state of shared vision.