October 15, 2006 Uncategorized

Agile and The Taproot of Trust

I have been reading a lot of Steven R. Covey’s works lately and one of my friends is trying to champion Scrum at work.  Marinating in these two has started to clarify some nebulous issues with Agile for me.  They are not crystal clear, they just aren’t as muddy.  Take Steven’s article Taproot of Trust and read the first line:

Efforts to empower employees and to align systems will be forever frustrated in cultures of low or no trust.

That right there says a lot; especially for Agile.  Agile is built on empowerment, raising the question: in a organization of low trust Agile will fail?  It will if the issues of low trust are not addressed and addressed first.  This raises the question: how does Agile affect/create/enable/encourage trust?  Well lets make sure that we are all on the same page as far as “trust”.  Again from the Taproot of Trust:

Trustworthiness is the foundation of trust. Trust is the emotional bank account between two people, which enables two parties to have a win-win performance agreement. If two people trust each other, based on the trustworthiness of each other, they can then enjoy clear communication, empathy, synergy, and productive interdependency. If one is incompetent, training and development can help. But if one has a character flaw, he or she must make and keep promises to increase internal security, improve skills, and rebuild relationships of trust. Trust or the lack of it is at the root of the success or failure in relationships and in the bottom-line results of business, industry, education, and government.

And now trustworthiness:

Trustworthiness is based on character (what you are as a person) and competence (what you can do). If you have faith in my character but not in my competence, you still wouldn’t trust me.

Many good, honest people gradually lose their professional trustworthiness because they allow themselves to become “obsolete” inside their organizations. Without character and competence, we won’t be considered trustworthy. Nor will we show much wisdom in our choices and decisions. Without meaningful, ongoing professional development, there is little trustworthiness or trust.

Now back to the question: how does Agile affect/create/enable/encourage trust?  Maybe it would help to reword the question.  How does Agile affect/create/enable/encourage people to make deposits into their bank account of trust?  I think the greatest things that Agile promotes related to trust are:

  • Visibility
  • Small Iterative Commitments
  • Frequent Deliveries
  • Automated Tests

I think one of the best places to re-enforce this is the daily standup.

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