Can I trust you?

“I don’t believe that the people working on this project are motivated enough.” “The team has lost confidence in their management” and “After being blamed for the last production issues, I don’t feel like doing any effort anymore.”

Those are just a few of many complaints I’ve overheard when working with failing product development teams. It make the alarm bell in my head ring every time I hear such talks! How often did you have the luck of working with a management that truly cares about the challenges, the team morale, and communication’s transparency.

It never ceases to surprise me how often upper management isn’t aware about the lacking morale in their teams. Utterly unaware about the needs of their greatest company assets (the people) they go on making one strategic change after the other, without even asking input or the opinion of those affected by such decision.

Human tower 1024I’m saying this in times when self organizing teams are supposed to be a standard. “Scrum and Agile have evolved” I’ve read. I agree up to a certain limit. But IT management matured? “I disagree!” And this problem has been around since beginning of my career when some idealists where writing the Agile manifesto. I bet it even has been around a long time before then.

How do I know this? 360° reviews with team members and their work environment have shown many issues are caused by lacking trust both sides.  From managers thinking: “Do the teams actually have the management skills needed to self-organize?” And from team members towards management: “Are they able to communicate properly?”

“We always see our worst selves. Our most vulnerable selves. We need someone else to get close enough to tell us we’re wrong. Someone we trust.” – David Levithan

I’ve heard people at work saying: “I don’t trust anyone until they are proven trustworthy” and the outcome is everybody is wary of anybody. With this spirit you cannot start a self-organizing team. Often too much political play going on at the work floor but mostly among management circles. The consequences? Inconsistent communication, unhappy people, insufficient productivity and limited possibility for innovation!

Don’t get me wrong I know how tough it can be defending your project during meetings, there is nothing wrong with playing hard! However the management is the team that should set the example for their people. It means they have to fight out their “strategic battles” inside closed doors and come out like leaders that show how proper communication and collaboration is done. Listening and providing true support for everyone concerned.

If you can’t get this right, don’t expect your teams to self organize  And I insist, don’t call such teams “Agile”. Because it makes people who never worked in a truly Agile team skeptical  They don’t believe it will work! And I can’t blame them, it takes guts to stand up for your opinion and put your head on the block trying something new like Agile. “Would you ask them to do something you never try yet yourself?”

No one in the workplace should have to think: “Will you be there when I need you? Will you catch me when I fall?”

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