Talk About Implementing Much-Needed Conventions

Does Your Team See You As Oppressive Or Helpful When You Talk About Implementing Much-Needed Conventions?

How can you get your team on board with the idea that everyone in the company must adhere to the same conventions? These conventions ensure that the product is consistent, scalable, and maintainable – but how can you get your team to see it that way?


Let’s assume you are a technical expert who is the CEO of his own or her own company. You have a team, many of who are technical experts as well. The question is:

  • How can you share your expertise with your team in a way that your team perceives it well?
  • How can you create a situation wherein they appreciate you as their coach instead of seeing you as an oppressive dictator?

An Example: You Need To Implement Standards and Conventions Everyone Must Follow

This question can be especially pressing when you need to implement standards and conventions that could be perceived as limiting the freedom of your team members. How do you get them to buy in?

Let’s take an example. Let’s say your company has grown by leaps and bounds. Let’s say your company develops innovative software.

  • The maintainability of your software is critical. It’s going to involve more and more people.
  • The software will have to be maintained for many decades to come, or the consequences will be dire.
  • It is as critical as maintaining an airplane model (e.g., a Boeing 777). These planes will be flown for many decades. They have to be maintained for a long time. They’re complex – just like your software
  • You realized, “There are some conventions we need when we write the software so that it can be maintained for many decades by many different people over time. 

You might be wondering, “How can I get my team to accept these conventions and embrace this idea without them thinking that I’m just telling them what to do. And that I’m this nasty dictator.”

I recently had a conversation about this topic with one of my brilliant clients.

I asked him, “How did you discover that conventions are important?

And: “How did you learn to program the way that you do today that allows you to embrace half a million lines of computer code? You said you were able to handle a few thousand lines when you were a junior programmer?”

We Helped His Team To See Him As Their Coach By Making His Unconscious Competence Visible

We realized that he had gone through several stages in his learning. We made his invisible, unconscious competence visible.

We took two steps:

  1. We isolated that there were five stages and
  2. We made graphics and a few slides that helped him to share these insights with his team. That allowed his team to see him as their Coach who is
    • Helping them to accelerate their growth as a programmer
    • Not creating the feeling of being oppressive or a “know-it-all”
    • Not criticizing his team members for being less experienced than he is

A Great Example of Brilliance Mining™: The Five Stages

You may not care about his five stages per so (unless you are developing software) BUT this is a great example nonetheless. Look at how his learning progressed over the years of three decades. He was not able to list those stages but we were able to extract, describe and graphically present them within an hour or less.

That is a great example of Brilliance Mining™. What is the value of that when you get your team to buy into using conventions instead of having to “force” them? It is priceless!

Stage One: Memorize The Code

When he began his career he memorize the code. That means that after a few thousand lines, you just can’t remember any more lines because the human brain isn’t that great at memorizing things. There are some great books written about that. 

Stage Two: Be More Consistent

Then he started to learn that he needed to be more consistent in the way he wrote code. That was stage two of his learning curve. 

Stage Three: Systematize Writing The Code

He went even further and systematized the way he wrote the code.

Stage Four: Deliberately Forget How You Did It

In stage four, he was able to deliberately forget some things because he knew that he would program something of such and such nature in a certain way. When you know you always do a given thing a certain way you are able to forget how you did it.

Stage Five: Practice And Becoming Even More Rigorous

Stage five consists of further practice and becoming even more rigorous in being systematic.

The Key Takeaway

In summary,

  • We extracted the five stages that got him to the programming skills and insights he possesses today.
  • He is now able to share a story around each stage.
  • He can show up much more as a coach and not as a “dictator” when implementing much-needed conventions in his company. 

I’m Curious

I would love to hear how that applies to your company. Drop me a line, please.

Dr. Stephie

P.S.: I appreciate you commenting and sharing this with others. Thank you!

Stephie Althouse

I Love Your Comments

Please use the form below for private comments and the social links for public comments