Track Talk Th11

The Art of Asking Questions

Jakob Sloth-Brodersen

12:30-13:15 CEST Thursday 15th June

How hard can it be to ask a co-worker a simple question? Surprisingly, it can be quite hard if you want to get a meaningful answer, and if you want to establish and nurture a lasting relation at the same time.

This talk explores the art of asking questions, and it focuses on communicating with the people you work closely with day in and day out, namely your fellow team members. The long-term nature of this setting requires special attention because you build up a history together over time, and because this history needs to be positive if you want to continue working together. Also, long-term working relationships make it possible to optimize and tailor communication to individual team members. And contrary to what you might think, a question that hits the spot for one team member might very well be wide off the mark for another team member.

Despite its focus on maintaining long-term working relationships, the talk provides many relevant insights about asking one-off questions and communicating with people on other teams.

Some questions are best left unasked, though. Discussing bugs that will never be fixed and championing new features that will never be implemented can have a long-term cost. You run the risk of not only wasting your own time, but also getting a reputation for wasting other people’s time. This talk explores the issue through a concept called the Quality Delta. Getting a good understanding of the Quality Delta in your organization helps you avoid doing unneeded work – and helps you understand when it might be time to move on.

The talk builds on more than 30 years of experience in communicating about software quality. The speaker spent a decade reviewing computer games for print magazines and routinely ridiculed the developers of poor games. He then switched sides and started working closely together with the developers, and he found out that this was where he belonged.