Saturday, September 7, 2013

Efficiency and agile

One thing my agile students frequently ask about is: "How agile can help my projects and organizations be more efficient?"

I usually respond this way:
One way agile gains efficiency is through promotion of and exploitation of trust.
Bureaucracy is generally a management tool to combat low trust. By counter point: in a high trust environment, little bureaucracy is needed and thus energy and resources are redirected at the project value-add.

Fair enough.

But what is it about agile that brings trust where trust is less apparent among the same practitioners immersed in a different methodology? In other words, what is the root cause that leads to the desired effect? We should be wary of simple correlation -- things moving together. We want causality -- this cause begets this effect.

It comes back to three ideas, which in the domain of public service are:
Duty, honor, country
But in the domain of business projects are:
 Duty, honor, commitment and accountability
In the former, if I sense your internalization of "duty, honor, country" I will trust you almost unconditionally. And, a trust broken under these conditions is almost never forgiven or forgotten.

The same goes for the business domain. And, here is where Agile comes in: it embraces and depends on personal commitment and accountability more so than other methodologies that are centered on command and control (see: bureaucracy). This embrace is the root of trust in the agile domain. Those who break this trust are invited out, and not invited back in.

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