The Power of Humane Relationships
“Agile works, when it works, by offering an environment in which people can relate to each other in new and more meaningful, humane ways.”
It seems like agile software development now has the attention of some folks in C-suites around the world. It’s no longer just a local issue for developers, development teams or IT departments.
Executives are hearing, and increasingly, believing all the hype about how agility can bring business benefits like improved quality, faster delivery, increased levels of innovation, reduced costs and the like (all more myth than reality, btw).
Most folks see Agile as “just” another kind of methodology, with the same set of issues in making it happen (training, tools, processes, and so on). And like other methodologies, most folks – even those directly involved – attribute its power to increased clarity, common standards, discipline, process, reduced uncertainty, etc.
Few have even an inkling that the power of agile comes from a different source entirely. One very alien to most people and most organisations. It’s the power of human – and humane – relationships. The kind of relationships that we very rarely see manifest in traditional businesses.
Mistaking the nature of Agile, most – upwards of 75% – of all agile adoptions fail to deliver on expectations. Few organisations that commit to adopting Agile even begin to realise the implications of such a commitment. Few anticipate the sweeping upheavals in all aspects of their business – HR, finance, sales, marketing, and above all, general management – that absolutely have to happen to see agile work well, and an adoption succeed (long-term).
The core of agile depends utterly on seeing the world of work in a fundamentally different light. A light which illuminates the significance of things like:
- Intrinsic motivation (McGregor – cf Theory Y in The Human Side of Enterprise)
- Autonomy (Dan Pink – Drive)
- Growth Mindset (Carol Dweck – Mindset)
- A Thinking Environment (Nancy Kline – More TIme to Think)
- Continual learning (Peter Senge – The Fifth Disciple)
- Systems Thinking (Ackoff, Deming, Senge)
- Group Dynamics (e.g. Lencioni – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team)
- Alignment on Shared Purpose
- Skilled dialogue (William Isaacs – Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together)
- Improved cognitive function and the necessary environment thereto
- Ba (cf Nonaka)
- People that care about what they’re doing
But all of the above are, essentially, just characteristics of a workplace where folks relate effectively to one another as fellows, sharing the journey together.
I have the conviction that it’s the quality – some may say health – of relationships that makes for effective software development. And for effective business, too. And that’s why these days I focus on organisational therapy as the means to improve the quality of such relationships.
Woud you be willing to share your view on this conviction?