Do you feel safe enough to be agile?

Door Patrick Verheij

People that work in agile teams are expected to collaborate. With other people. You need to put the team’s ambitions before your own ambitions. You need to work towards team results instead. You are even expected to get personal satisfaction from that, as opposed to being fulfilled by working solitary.\r\n\r\nYou are also expected to be very transparent. About your activities, results, and about all the stuff that doesn’t work out like you expected. And of course you need to be open about how you feel. Especially during retrospectives. You are often expected to play games or even do some role playing to get those feelings out. They (people like agile coaches) want to know all about your happiness and put it on the wall for everyone to see. They even measure it over longer periods of time.\r\n\r\nOf course collaboration, team results, transparency, and openness are values that fit perfectly in an agile mindset. They are a neat match for the ambitions of modern organizations. “Great teams will thwart great individuals” is used as a slogan to convince you of playing the agile game. Along with everybody else.\r\n\r\nIf it works out for you, awesome! But…what if it doesn’t? What if your team isn’t that great at all? What if you constantly have the feeling that the team is just slowing you down? What if you continuously try to speak up but aren’t getting heard? What if you can’t catch up with the other team members and it seems like nobody cares to lift you up? What if your energy is just draining for whatever reason?\r\n\r\n”Just speak up and raise an impediment!”…yeah right.\r\n\r\nDespite all efforts being put into team building, people don’t always feel safe. Many people don’t. For many reasons. But safety is the number one thing to get right within a team and among team members. Safety is the foundation for daring dialog, energetic engagement, rock-solid responsibility and eventually the rewarding results beyond everyone’s wildest dreams that are often promised when we are sold “Agile”.\r\n\r\n”Do I feel safe?” might be your first question to get some serious introspection going.\r\n\r\n”What is keeping me from feeling safe” may be an idea for follow-up if the answer you find is “no”. Or perhaps you want to start with a more in-depth exploring question like “what exactly do I feel when I don’t feel safe?”\r\n\r\nThen “how can I help myself feel safe again?” could get some enlightenment going. And if it doesn’t then “who can help me feel safe” can be a valid question as is “who do I already feel safe with within this team?”\r\n\r\nOr perhaps you do feel safe. In that case it’s worthwhile trying to find out if others around you feel safe. Genuinely. “How could I know if my team mate perhaps doesn’t feel safe” is a great place to start, followed by “am I perceived as ‘safe’ by my team mates?” and then “how can I be much more of a safe person?”\r\n\r\n”We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it” covers a lot more than bits & bytes, planning poker and backlogs.\r\n\r\nIn the end, ‘feeling’ safe enough to be able to participate in a team and truly contributing to turning that team into a great team is up to you. ‘Being’ safe requires other people to assist you in that quest.\r\n\r\nJust don’t wait for other people too long. That might not be your safest option.

Patrick Verheij

06 59 443 447

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