It’s been four years since – sadly – Gerald M. “Jerry” Weinberg passed away. Ever since then, I struggled with some public mourning about him, until recently I had just the right idea. On a weekly basis, I will publish a review of a book I read that Jerry either wrote himself or is about some of his work. Today, we are going to take a look at what I consider the first book in Jerry’s seminal series on managing quality software: Quality Software Management Volume 3 – Congruent Action published by Dorset House Publishing in 1994.
Review on Amazon
A while back, I reviewed this book on Amazon:
In Congruent action, Jerry introduces congruent communication. For any effective communication one has to respect the self-position, the other position, and the context of the communication. When leaving one or all out, you’re going to find yourself in an incongruent communication style. Leaving out the self-position leads to placating behavior, missing the other position leads to blaming, leaving self and other out is a super-reasonable response, and finally leaving all of them out is just an irrelevant coping style.
Additionally, Jerry discusses the Myers-Briggs type indicator system. He introduces the four dimensions in that model. The first of the four letters say something about how I refresh my energy – introverts (I) for seeking self-reflection or extrovert (E) for interacting with people. The second letter describes how I take in information – either by facts from the sensation type (S) or by grasping abstract concepts via intuition (N). The third letter says something about how I make meaning – by pure logic in the thinking preference (T) or by grasping the feelings of the humans around me (F). The fourth and last letter states how I prefer to take action – the judging (J) style prefers to settle decisions, while the perceiving (P) style prefers to leave options open. So, as I’m an INTJ, I prefer to take energy from being alone, intuitively grasp abstract concepts, make meaning of them through logical thinking, and prefer to have things settled.
So, a congruent manager should consider their preferences and see the preferences of others using the Myers-Briggs type indicator model. Whenever I am aware that my message was not received correctly by my communication partner, I can take the choice to reflect and maybe present the information in a different format for my audience.
A blast from the past
As with all these reviews in the Quality Software Management series, let’s see what I recall. Volumes 2-4 in the series each deal with a particular model from Virginia Satir. While Volume 2 dealt with the Satir communication model, Jerry extends this with a deeper dive into congruent communication in Volume 3 and Satir’s Self, Other, Context view of a communication that is going on.
Basically, in any communication between two persons, there is the individual self, the communication, the other, and the subject matter or the context that needs to be in place. If the self-position is missing in communication, you end up placating, if you ignore the other position you end up blaming, if the context is missing you end up with loving or hating going on. Jerry also picks on leaving self and other out ending in super reasonable behavior and leaving all self, other, and context out leads to irrelevant communication happening. Time and time again I happen to revisit this communication model, especially when I sense conflict arising between different groups.
Congruent Action was also my first touch point with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) preferences. Despite diving into all the 16 different nuances, Jerry focuses on the four Keirsey-Bates temperaments of the NT Visionary, the NF Catalyst, the SJ Organizer, and the SP Troubleshooter. I recall knowing about the MBTI as preferences rather than unchangeable helped me during a training early in my early career to see that my communication style was too abstract for one participant that needed details especially to be able to follow me. After realizing that, I changed my communication style, and won him over as a supporter, eventually teaching the others in the room as well.
For congruency, Jerry dives into the aspect of being congruent with yourself, spotting congruent organization, and leading congruent teams as an overall structure throughout the book. I found this a good starting point for forming, leading and dissolving teams especially early in my career – even though other books go way deeper overall into the team aspects.
Another nugget worthwhile mentioning here is the Weinberg Addiction Cycle mentioned in Volume 3. Building on the causal loop diagrams from Volume 1, Jerry explains how addictions usually lead to positive results in the short term while having degenerating effects in the long term. He also points out some examples where this kind of addiction can be found in our organization to the detriment of the quality of the products, and a helpful strategy to overcome that addictive behavior:
- Prohibit X (the addictive behavior).
- Provide an alternative solution (Z), that really works.
- Soften the short-term pain if necessary, but not with X.
Some personal gem
I’ll conclude this review with a personal gem that I posted as well on my other posts on the Quality Software Management series.
After finishing the first or maybe second Quality Software Management Volume, I figured that Jerry kept a list of all the reminders for the readers in the book of the books. At some point, I decided to write them up and keep them for my personal reference. In case you wondering, this is how I can relate to particular pages whenever I cite something from Jerry. I thought it would be neat to share this collection. I did not separate the different volumes into different files. So, here is the full list of laws, rules, and principles from the four Quality Software Management volumes. (And in case you are wondering, yes, I noted these down in LaTeX and compiled them into a pdf.)
These lists will probably only make sense to you if you read the books. Also note, that Jerry, later on, published an updated version of Quality Software Management, and I think he basically split each of the books into two or three smaller ones at the time. If you read those, the page numbers will not fit, and I don’t know how much he changed between the Dorset House and the later published ones.