Saturday, January 1, 2011

Relationships and Results

As I am working on my review of The Agile Samurai, a thought occurs to me.  A team's ability to achieve results is inextricably related to the relationships in which the team participates.  What does the agile manifesto say about this?

  • Helping others do it
  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools 
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Responding to change over following a plan 
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
Both Relationships and Results
  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage. 
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

Now I don't want to be accused of engaging in studying the agile manifesto like theology and I don't intend to say that this is some hidden truth.  In fact, I'm half afraid that after posting this "revelation" I will discover that it is old news and I have added nothing to the conversation.  Further, I recognize that you may not categorize the elements of the agile manifesto in the same way that I have here.
In this instance I refuse to be deterred from exploring this (if only for my own growth).  I have always known that relationships drive results.  It is only recently that I have chosen to analyze the agile movement in this simple way.  I find it reassuring to recognize that when viewed through the prism of these fundamental ingredients to success, the agile manifesto strikes me as concisely relevant on a subject which has produced countless tomes.

Uncovering better ways of doing it (relationships)
In my own quest to uncover better ways of developing software, I have been challenged by time, lack of talent, tools, and technology.  I work around them, compromise, seek assistance, and/or negotiate enough to overcome and produce results.

In contrast, I have seen nothing in my career that thwarts results like bad relationships.  For some reason, I just find these challenges more difficult to overcome.  Perhaps if I spent as much time working on this intangible skill as I do on my technical skills I would be less daunted.  Only when I uncover better ways of relating to people will I truly be capable of helping others do the same.


  1. One major contribution to smooth and productive working relationships is when folks see the world - and especially the world of work - in markedly similar and congruent ways. Does this observation match your experience, and do you have other examples of factors contributing to great working relationships?

    - Bob (@FlowChainSensei)

  2. Good question, Bob. I look at this a different way. Yes, when my thoughts are congruent with others the relationship is more productive. The challenge comes when we do not. Teams are usually formed based on the technical skills needed and the availability of the person with those skills. Businesses partner with technical firms based on results, the relationships are an afterthought. Even if the relationship challenges could be foreseen, the luxury to perfectly match personalities is not likely. So, where does that leave us? If my life's experience thus far is any indicator, we are absolutely going to find ourselves striving to produce results but seeing results diminished by poor relationships. The project sponsor demonstrates she doesn't really value work/life balance, the customer/product owner allows the team to look bad despite his involvement in a missed deadline, the developer who thinks the tester is purposely over-testing his stuff. The team is no longer motivated, the environment is no longer ideal to produce results. Velocity slips, quality decreases, pressure mounts. In the retrospective, the focus is on the poor results and people lack the courage to talk about relationships. The only way I know of to fix this problem is to avoid it. Once it gets that bad, I've never seen it correct. The team usually breaks up and the customer does not get the ROI that they were promised and that they deserved.