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Seniority, and how to get there

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[quote name='slayemin' timestamp='1349205614' post='4986158']
-It could just be a presentation problem/language problem which would make it a hard sell. Rather than calling it "where I've failed this week" (which sounds negative), call it "Valuable lessons learned" and put the dissemination into a format which allows it to be shared with other team members (informal, short meeting? A newsletter? email distro?)

I can see this being interpreted as 'childish' for some of our developers. We don't just have juniors, there are a few seniors too, and how exactly do you draw the line? It would be judgmental to bring in people under 3 years and keep everyone else out because, there is just no radical line here that can be traced without hurting people's feelings I feel, and yet, some people will just get offended to be or not be a junior/senior.
I really like the idea of hosting some kind of a discussion about something that has been learned this week, but it feels either like kindergarden or a therapy group, and I'm looking for a more organic way to integrate this.
I've actually managed to raise quite the bar on post-mortems, but these occur only after a final delivery. I know some do end of sprint post-mortems, but I'm affraid I don't have all that much latitude with how much time I can consume with something like that (it is a hard sale for upper management).
The branches of the US military do "Lessons Learned" (Marines and Army). It's a way to learn from mistakes and pass the knowledge on to new people/units (usually battle field replacements). In practice, I haven't heard anyone think that it's childish. The main problem is that we can't disseminate and incorporate enough of the lessons learned throughout every unit. Sometimes.... these lessons costed lives to learn, loads of money, or tons of effort (which equals tax payer money). It's pretty humbling, actually.
In the case of your company, I'd just get the team together and tell them your intent to pass on knowledge and you're going to leave it up to them to figure out which format works best for them. Would they like bi-weekly meetings? a quick team huddle? a mentorship program (which could lend itself well to cross pollination to develop new talents)? Try out a few iterations, and then evaluate the usefulness and effectiveness, and then either tweak the format or discard it all together.

I had the misconception that you were running a company and had all the influence/power you needed to make cultural changes. Sorry about that! I don't know the situation you're in, so I can't make exact recommendations on what would be the best approach. Generally though, you just need to persuade the buyer that the value of XYZ is greater than the cost and that they'd benefit from having XYZ. You're going to need the support and backing from the upper echelons of management and grass roots support from the people you're managing. But, the critical part in all this is to see the higher and lower echelons as resources you can use/leverage to create the best framework, rather than obstacles which will resist whatever you're trying to do. So, ask for their input and suggestions. They'll have different considerations, perspectives and interests which can hopefully be merged together into a workable framework.

So, ideally you'd want members of your organization to share their mistakes/failures and how to avoid them so that other people will not repeat them. It's a tough mental block for organizations to overcome and for people to personally overcome because failure is stigmatized and associated with incompetence.

Unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to remove that threat. It is very real, and higher management might not understand the impacts and ramifications of that, but they still need to run the business, and I can relate to some of these decisions. The downside is that, obviously, some other people onboard will feel concerned. That said, this isn't a terror-climate type of studio, so there is some latitude I can use there, I'm just not at liberty to alter the culture altogether.[/quote]
Ah, that's unfortunate. Again, it's a tough mental block to overcome :) It's a "selling a management style" problem, so see above.

On a slight tangent: I play chess quite a bit. I used to be very concerned about losing games, so I'd get anxious about playing someone equal or better than me because the possibility of losing was frightening for my ego. I'd put extra mental effort into each move and decision to avoid losing the game. However, once I started playing chess every weekend for five years straight, I had lost so many games that I just stopped caring. Losing lost its sting. I got used to it. So, I just started putting in lots of time into getting good at playing the game, trying out interesting ideas and risky moves. It turned into a casual hobby which I got very good at (I once won 15 games in a row against three skilled opponents). The same thing happens in other games which I play competitively (Starcraft 2 ladder). The trick is to handle loss/failure as "no big deal" and just analyse the first error (which usually cascades in effect) and train yourself to avoid repeating it. The most important aspect is to put in a lot of time and effort into improving (or training, as athletes see it).

I can totally relate here. I was ranked Diamond on Starcraft 2 Ladder a while back, and it took me everything to muster the courage to play a game. The fear of losing was to elevated that I just waited until I was into my best state of mind with nothing around that could potentially disturb me. It felt like I was going into an interview everytime. Pretty much the same with chess: I'm a competitive kind of guy when it comes to these games.[/quote]
Yep, I know exactly what you're talking about. I got up to diamond league as well and was at the top ranks of it. The pressure was pretty intense! I was terrified of trying new things and generally just messing around as I would if I was in a bronze level league.

it may be a good team building exercise to spend time playing games competitively with each other and using it as a way to disseminate a positive culture for handling failure, learning from mistakes, and fostering a mentorship mindset

This is hard to implement. For starters, not every developer is a gamer. We have a lot of people that don't actually play games, but their skillsets are required. Also, not all people agree on types of games they want to play (obviously). Also, this is a large office, with masses of people. It is hard to coordinate this across the board. The best I could come up with is small-team gaming, and even so, the first issue soon resurfaces. In a unit of say, 9 people, very few of them actually share any interest in terms of gaming.
If the synergy was there, I'd employ it, but I'm having a rough time figuring out similar interests amongst peers.

There's always the option to create a 'studio-league' from the studio roster that's not directly tied to the studio itself, and get people to help one another get better. It isn't a bad idea, and I can see how some competitive games could help shape the attitude of certain people. That said, we're not really forcing anything, and just like anything else, people will learn at their own pace, or won't learn at all if they aren't interested. I'm not exactly sure about the real output of this method.

Hmm, that's a good point. I mistakenly assumed that every developer in video game development is naturally passionate about gaming and is a gamer. It's just an idea which implements the principle of a team building exercise which transfers over directly to work experience and relationships. If it's not feasable, then scratch the idea :)

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So, basically:
"Lessons Learned" (Format TBD)
"Group Activity that introduces the new culture"

Duly noted.

Thanks for the input!

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