Welcome back to Wednesday! It’s Week #3, so I’m covering a few more of those McCarthy Protocols! Like before, if you’re at all confused reading this, jump back to the very first post, the introduction, by clicking here. And, as before, just remember that protocols are the actions by which you interface with your team, and the commitments are the literal commitments to which the entire team abides by in order to create effective, efficient communication. This series of weekly posts is an analysis of these protocols and their associated commitments (as well as my experiences with them!), but as always, if you want to read the full “official” list, you can do so by checking out the Official Core Protocols document online.
Read on, for another dose of The Core Protocols!
Ask For Help
Asking for help. It’s pretty simple, isn’t it? Sometimes, at least. To use this protocol, the “asker” simply inquires “[name], Will you X?” where X is a specific request, complete with specifics and/or restrictions. The named individual simply responds with “Yes”, “No”, or offering an alternative form of help. Note that I said a “Specific request” – you should always have a clear understanding of what you want from the helper (remember those commitments; one is to know what I want, what I think, and what I feel, and knowing what you want is definitely a part of the Core Protocols. If one does not know exactly what he/she wants help with, that person should say so (ie: “I don’t know what I need help with, but will you help me?”). Part of the simplicity and efficiency of a “Yes” or “No” response is that someone who answers “No” is not obligated to disclose why – and the asker is not to ask why – thus avoiding any emotional drama between teammates. The helper is expected to offer his best help, and request for more information if ever unclear about specifics.
Ask For Help when you’re doing well. If you are asking for help in times of trouble, it means you’ve waited too long to ask for help.
The two most important aspects, however, is that the helper and asker alike should postpone the help request when not able to fully engage with the task at hand – one of those commitments is to know and engage when present. I hope you’re sensing the pattern by now! One other thing is that the asker should not apologize for asking for help. Nobody can do everything all on their own – asking for help is cheap. The worst thing that can happen is being told “No,” which does nothing to harm you. At best, you learn something new and complete a task that much faster. Ask for help, and ask for it often. They call it a video game development team because there is no “I” in it.
Remember that much of the Core operates on good faith that everyone is acting in the best interest of the team? By now, if you’ve been following along (Thank you for that!), you’ve probably asked yourself “Well…these are all well and good, but aren’t people just going to abuse this system?” And indeed, from time to time that happens and it manifests in various ways – people occasionally Check Out so that they can simply avoid being asked for help, or break a commitment (for example, being present but not engaging with the team in any way). The Protocol Check is the Core’s way of mitigating that. Enter the Protocol Check (and it’s cousin, the Intention Check – which will follow next). Use the Protocol Check when you believe that a given protocol is being used incorrectly or when a core commitment is being broken. Simply say “Protocol Check” and state the protocol and it’s correct use, and do it as soon as you become aware of the protocol being incorrectly used – regardless of the current activity. Do not shame or punish anyone using the Protocol Check, or anyone it is directed toward. The person being “Checked” should simply correct the behavior and resume whatever activity was going on. This is one of those protocols which sounds weird on paper, but was used a remarkable amount of times in the classroom. For example, while our instructor used the Investigate protocol (which will be discussed later), he occasionally accidentally theorized once in a while about a students rationality about a given subject, or if a person offered help before someone used the Ask for Help, the instructor would Protocol Check that person because the Ask For Help protocol is not simply a life preserver. The person who needs help needs to actually ask for it. In this way, the protocol check is useful in ensuring that the Protocols remain to stand for their original intentions.
And speaking of intentions, the Intention Check is used to clarify the purpose of your own (or another persons) behavior. It is meant to assess the integrity of your own (or another persons) intention in a given case. To use the Intention Check, simply ask “What is your/my intention with X?” where X is some time of behavior, and optionally ask “What response/behavior did you want from X?” – it’s that easy. When using this Intention Check, you are to remain aware of your own intentions before checking another (Remember: You’re never doing something to challenge people, you’re only simply trying to remain true to the commitments made to the team). You should rely on the Investigation protocol (which will come soon! I promise!) if you really feel the need to uncover the intentions of the act themselves – the Intention Check is only to elicit the intended response, not the rationale behind them. The Investigation protocol is meant to be used far less frequently than the Intention Check. It is also important to never get defensive – if anyone is letting their emotions get the best of them, it is best to simply Check Out and/or Ask For Help. Hopefully you can see why the Protocol and Intention Check are often used by opposite parties to clear up any misunderstandings and keep people in agreement with the Core Protocols.
And that’s it this week! Not too bad, I think! I hope you, dear reader (I think there might be three of you by now), are beginning to grasp the fundamentals of why system of protocols and commitments work. When one works on a team, he or she should put his or her full commitment to the team. The McCarthy Protocols attempt to streamline communication – so again, even though it feels weird occasionally – it really keeps things flowing and moving. That’s an important thing at any level. Intention and Protocol Checks in tandem help ensure the group remains loose, especially in fast, agile game development. Remember that you should always seek effective help (yup. I’ve been italicizing it every time I quote those commitments. I’m THAT kind of person.), but you should also refuse to offer or accept incoherent emotional transmissions. The concept of Personal Alignment will be two posts away from this one (I’ve planned this stuff out pretty good!) and it’ll all make sense when those final pieces comes together.
Tune in next week, friends! Same bat-time, Same bat-channel!
– Chris Prunotto