concocting  extraordinary  teams

March 08, 2006

Hardwired for Command-and-Control?

Something I recently saw made me wonder: is the drive to control built-in? Why do so many of us revert to this style under pressure, even while we believe collaboration gives better results?

Agile Work and Agile Software Development value collaboration so highly, it's built into the very methods we teach. Some of the Agile practices can be used without collaboration - but with the loss of real-time communication comes extra documentation, loss of quality and failure to meet plans. The success of Agile methods is predicated on an entire team being responsible to make and meet committments. This group accountability drives different behaviours: of necessity, collaboration displaces competition.

The shift to Agile values and practices is difficult - for many, it's a significant culture change. And with change comes stress, and with stress... fear and the urge to control. (I think this is the best argument for engaging an outside coach for the early stages of Agile rollout - an impartial third-party who can afford to challenge old habits that inevitably creep in. Well, if an organization is serious about Agile, that is - it's not always the case).

Agility comes only when the team is in control of the work. Whoa! What about the manager?! Managers (and leaders within the team, too) will need to understand their new roles, and work at behaving in new ways, in order to really support the team. The good news is: the whole team can help!

Giving up individual control for shared accountability is one of the harder shifts we need to make to get the benefits of working Agile. So, if you're feeling uncomfortable - rest assured, you're not the first. It's probably just growing pains.

Read about culture change at First American Real Estate as they have rolled out the Scrum methodology over the past year.


Anonymous Tobias Mayer said...

> Some of the Agile practices can be used without collaboration
In practice I have found this to be a pointless charade. A parrot can be taught to speak.

Organizations that adopt the practices without understanding or caring about the principles will quickly find that "Agile doesn't work here".

> What about the manager? Managers (and leaders within the team, too) will need to understand their new roles...
But what are those roles? You do not go into that here. The way I see it is that a low-level manager either becomes a team member or leaves. Such people have existed for the sole purpose of directing the work of others. There is nowhere for that role to go except out. Harsh, but true. Of course, there are exceptions - but by their existence they prove the rule.

Sat. Mar. 11, 08:37:00 a.m.

Anonymous Mike Bowler said...

We're taught as kids that you have to stand on your own. We aren't allowed to collaborate (with some exceptions for projects) in school and everyone is graded on just their own individual work.

Think also of adages like "if you want it done properly, you have to do it yourself".

After this kind of conditioning, is it any wonder that as adults, we have a hard time doing collaborative work?

Fri. Mar. 17, 07:07:00 a.m.


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