Jiri Lundak

Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

On Project Transparency

In Agile, Collaboration, Personal Development, Values on May 15, 2012 at 11:52 pm

One of the main agile values is “transparency”.

We expect it of teams, when it comes to reporting progress. We expect the individual developer to be transparent, when he is doing his work. We are selling Agile as a means to know where a project really stands.

And this very good! Why? Because it helps build trust.

But do we just build trust in case of success, when we meet our sprint goals, when we deliver a system into production or when our estimates match the actual effort? Often managers and business owners think so. But this assumption is down right wrong.

Just ask yourself: “Whom do I trust more?”

  1. A person, that has made an error and admits it.
  2. A person, that has made an error and tries to cover or downplay it.

But you may counter: “But if I do not want to stir up unnecessary controversy? I know the project is still on track. This was just a small miss hap.”.

Think again: What happens, if the customer somehow gets to know, that you tried to cover your failure or you just deliberately decided to let him take the backseat on an other customer?

Will you gain his trust or loose it? You are right, the first outcome – in this case – is no option.

Sure you might end up justifying your dubious choice or bad performance, and this might even trigger more than necessary attention on the customers’ side for the project. You have maybe more work and a hard time. But who is really to blame?

Some people like to blame others, especially when there are other parties they might depend on. But do you not think, that many customers are fed up with nobody taking responsibility for problems in projects? What about breaking the blame game and just explain to the customer, what led to the problem and what you intend to do to correct things, so that the project gets back on track?

Would you gain posture and trust doing so?

I know, somebody will come and try to convince you, that you can not – in this particular situation – tell the whole truth. “You need to learn to play the political game.”, he will tell you. He might even offer to “coach” you on this. “You need just to tweak your messages according to its receiver.”, she will say.

Think again? Can you keep track of what you said to whom and when? Does it become easier in a more complicated project with many parties with differing interests and stakes at risk? How does just saying the truth and explaining the situation stack up against this?

But what can I do, when I am in a tricky situation?

You have just two options (none of them is without problems, I must admit):

  1. Continue to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth: You will run into trouble with people, that do not like it or have different opinions (partner companies, your boss, your company owner, your sales department or even your customer). But you will be nonetheless be seen as trustworthy and congruent. Depending on your company culture, you will be allowed to continue your work backed by your colleagues or – in case of a negative outcome- it might be time to get out of the way. But at least you remained true to your deepest values. And it might even happen, that you are able to build a long-standing, strong tie of trust with your customer, which might lead to other projects being entrusted to your organization.
  2. Participate in the political blame game: Get entangled in the political mess, that many big projects are. Bend the truth to fit what the stakeholders in your company, in the customers’ organization or of some third party, want to hear. You might get away with it, because other participants in the political game, are bending the truth even more and many people, interested in hearing the truth, just do not have the means of recognizing it. Yes, you might be successful with your project. But what you can loose is much more significant: your credibility with colleagues and customers alike will suffer. Worse, you might get used to bending the truth. But it will not work on every project. So get used to the idea of being exposed sooner or later. And a reputation once ruined…

“But I am part of a larger corporation. Bending the truth is normal affairs around here. If you do not play along, you’re toast!”, you might say.

That is true. Honesty does not always pay dividends immediately and in all organzations. And there are certain places you just do not want to work at, if you want to maintain a morally sustainable position. And face it: there are some companies out there actually appreciating transparent, honest employees.

 

…And Should We Keep In Mind

In Agile, Agile Development, Scrum, Scrum Agile on May 4, 2012 at 12:50 am

That we always start from different positions and situations in any one organization.

That my organization (team) is not your organization (team).

That sheer size makes things complicated and long-winding.

That – because of entropy – things tend to fall apart.

That boundaries are fuzzy and thus changes come along leaky and not clear cut.

That small changes can have huge impact.

That a bigger and divers toolset available to you, gives you more leverage to cause or to react to change.

I totally agree with Ron Jeffries, when he states:

“Agile, Scrum, XP, Kanban, Lean: the same elephant, different points of view.”

And I would add:

“…and you can make it dance or pull tree trunks, just not at the same time.”

Because context is needed to choose your tools wisely. And as with software engineering ability: the more you practice using your tools and the better you master them, the more you are able to apply them, when need arises. And the more varied your toolset, the more possibilities of intervention you have.

What ways to you know that could improve the situation and in which context where you successful?