01 May 2017

Stoppage Solution Number One

Still on the topic of being stopped. I know one reason we get stopped. It is because we've exhausted all our ideas. We run out of ways to move forward. There is a solution to this. Communication. More often than not, when I'm stopped, if I try to communicate with someone else why I'm stopped, in the process of forming a coherent explanation of what has me stopped I find the 'next thing'. 

That is, the process of communicating, either verbally or in writing, forces me to think through a thorough explanation in such a way that I either see my mistake, see a different way forward, or invent more experiments I could try. I find this to be one of my most effective tools for solving 'stuck'. 

For me, I can't just explain things to my pair partner (if I have one). So when I'm stuck and pairing I still do this process, but I do it with my pair. We write to someone else on the team. I find that my pair partner and I often have the same mindset around a problem, and that helps us stay stuck because was can assume a lot of things together and those assumptions will stay alive in our conversations. 

The underlying key to all of this is to explain the problem completely and to have real clarity about what you are trying to accomplish. This is a lot harder than it might sound at first. So a second part of this is 'explain it and it will go away' approach is to pick your audience. When I try to explain my problem I try to keep in mind that the person I'm speaking with has little or no active knowledge of the problem, the details, or the things we've tried already. I do assume they know something about programming, computers, networks, etc. 

The third part of this is to be an effective communicator. After having written the description of the problem, clean it up, take out all the extra and unnecessary bits. Trim it down to the most important pieces. Create a TL;DR section if you have to. 

When all this is done I often find I have at a minimum gotten unstuck. When I have not, I have a great way to get a conversation started with someone else on what the problem is, and then we can have a conversation that might get me unstuck. 

Remember, don't be stuck.