Agile Says Respect People: Lean Shows How

Datetime:2016-08-23 03:33:44          Topic: Agile Development           Share

I think the reader will agree that saying “respect people” but then overloading them with work is not a form of respect.  Unfortunately, this happens all of the time in Agile implementations.  Despite the Agile Manifesto’s emphasis on “individuals”, in reality, if you don’t have processes that support and don't dis-empower people (they come pre-empowered), their lives in an “Agile” organization are likely not going to be any better than they were in a traditional hierarchical one. 

Unfortunately, the Agile Manifesto, still adhered to by many Agilists, gave process a bad name. The Agile Manifesto’s “people over process” implies the two are somehow opposed to each other.  Lean suggests that both are equally important. Process is not inherently bad – although the way it was typically used at the time of the Agile Manifesto it was.  Process that is dictated to the team from above and must be followed without thought is not a good thing.  But an agreed upon process (perhaps better described as an explicit workflow) can help align people as well as improve teamwork.  

Lean-Thinking suggests that we can best manifest trust and respect for people by creating a great environment within they can work – thereby both adding more value to them while enabling them to add more value to the organization within which they work.  Lean starts with a focus on improving processes, enhancing the organization’s ecosystem, and eliminating waste because doing so will create such a great environment.  These three enable collaboration, increase true value add, lower the workload on people to their capacity and thereby create a work-space where people can thrive.   This is true respect for people.  

The lesson that many have mis-learned from the Manifesto is that “process is bad”. Not so: process that works for people as opposed to dictating to them is not just good, it’s essential. I contend that providing people with a process that works for them that they can adjust, having an organizational structure that enables their cohorts to effectively work with them and avoiding overloading people by eliminating wasteful work is the best way to “respect” people. 

Trust and respect is created when people work together towards a common goal and make progress.  It takes doing, not just saying. Don’t mis-interpret Lean’s focus.  Lean works on creating trust and respect by providing the insights it takes for people to work together to build both. 

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Al Shalloway

CEO, Net Objectives





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