We’ve all heard of the KISS principle. It stands for: keep it simple, stupid.
Well I want to apply it to software development leadership. Particularly those leaders that are in an agile context.
I’ve been hearing a tremendous amount of pushback and whining amongst leaders in agile contexts of late. What you say. How can this be?
Here’s a sampling of the running types of dialogue (complaints, whining, pushback, etc.) that I’m referring to:
- We’ve already committed to customers a release date for a new, highly profitable product by June 1. However, the agile teams keep saying it will take till January. I thought agile would allow us to get more…faster. It’s sounds like every other time when the teams couldn’t seem to meet our demands. Where’s the creativity? Where’s the can-do attitude? Where’s the commitment to hard work? Where’s the agility?
I’ve been training and coaching agile teams for more than 15 years. While I’ve seen quite a lot of unique dysfunctions, one of the most prevalent is the overall lack of trust leadership trust in their teams.
There, I said it.
Quite often I use the term “little t” trust so that folks aren’t too offended, because really, nobody wants to admit that they don’t TRUST someone in today’s organizations. At least not out loud and visibly.
But the harsh reality is that most leaders do no trust their teams. And the other, even harsher reality, is that the teams know that they are untrusted.
Often agile organizations take the position that the Managers, Leaders, or the Scrum Masters are responsible for keeping the team focused and energized towards their work. And yes, these roles can play a part in keeping the teams passion and energy focused towards doing great work.
But I’ve found that another role can really make a difference here as well. One that is rarely suggested for this sort of nuance. That role is the Product Owner.
To make my point, I’d like to share a dozen “opportunities” for a Scrum Product Owner to make a difference within their teams. Is the list exhaustive? Probably not. But that’s not the intent. The intent is to get Product Owners thinking outside the role of backlogs, user stories, and delivery. And instead thinking about ways where they can play a key role in the engagement, joy, energy, passion, focus, and results of their teams.
Yes, I just added another large responsibility to an already overwhelming role. Sorry about that.
Do you recall the … Jim Carrey movie called Yes Man? In it he was influenced by a ‘cult’ of sorts that recommended an approach, in order to change our lives, where we have to say YES to everything – every question, every opportunity, and every inquiry.
The point is somewhat captured in the agile posture of “Yes, and…” that many coaches subscribe to.
Lately I’ve been thinking about traditional software leaders who are moving towards agile methods. Typically they take a class or workshop to gain a cursory understanding of agility. Some even take more ‘advanced’ workshops, which are focused towards the leadership shift.
It’s sort of a chicken and egg problem in many agile teams—that is the notion of trust.
- Do you give the team your trust as an organization? Or do they have to earn it over time?
- And if they make a mistake or miss a commitment, do they immediately lose your trust? And then have to start earning it again?
- And is trust reciprocal, i.e., does the organization need to gain the trust of the team? And if so, how does that work?
I want to explore trust in this article. I’ve done it before, but an interview by Jeff Nielsen inspired me to revisit it.