Pain is temporary, failure lasts forever

Lean, agile living for the running mother of Peter

2009-01-17

Are you accountable?


Mike Cottmeyer discusses the combining of the "traditional project manager view" and the "agile leader view" in his thought worthy blog post on accountability.

One very interesting part is when one of the team members says the following to Mike (then new to the agile mindset):

"you just get what you get when you get it."

This is of course true. In all projects it's important that the participants do their best to make the "what" as the right stuff to the right quality and that you get the most right stuff to the right quality as possible. In other words; people do their best to increase the product increment.

What Mike was really worried about was that people didn't do their best, perhaps slacking, perhaps working on other projects or just the wrong stuff.

In other words, he wasn't sure that he count on the team doing their best on his project. Why do project managers feel like this: that they cannot count on people doing their jobs? Are they evil not believing in people or are the participants not to be trusted.

Trust does not come automatically. We all know that. But in agile projects, trust is a necessity. The business people need to trust the developers knowing how to build stuff. Developers must trust that the business people tell them which problems they need solved as soon as they know themselves and that they say when they change their minds.

Managers need to trust their groups doing their jobs. Because everyone on an agile project need to be someone you can count on. That does not mean that managers should stop managing. That just mean that a good manager does not need to scare people to work and they people with a good manager work independently if he's checking on them. He's making sure that things run smoothly and that the team know what they're supposed to do.

Before going agile, make sure the trust is there and otherwise make sure to build trust in your organisation. A good start to get some ideas on the subject is of course reading Five Disfunctions of a Team by Lencioni.

And no, trust is not confiding in someone. Just because a team member told you something personal in confidence does not mean that he trusts you or that you trust him.

Another thing to remember that trust is not absolute. I trust my son being able to make the different exercises at gymnastics but that does not mean I trust him driving the car. You must have reasonable expectations and not give unwarranted trust in someone.

Finally, an important question is how well you have trust in yourself. If you don't trust yourself doing the job, how could anyone else trust you? An interesting insight in this situation is the personal account by Dan Kennedy describing his career in the music industry in the book Rock On.

Go ahead and build some trust: be the person others can trust. Make people wanting to be trusted by you.

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