Learning is the biggest single base part of software development, whether we’re using Agile or Waterfall or anything else, we learn and the faster we learn the faster we produce software.
Agile, when it works really well, those teams that get it, they get those 200, 400, 500% improvement in their productivity, those teams have figured out how to learn and they learn from failure. Agile, whether it’s Scrum, Kanban, XP, any of them, it’s all about iterative loops and experimentation and doing something and failing and learning from it and doing something and failing and learning from it.
In the Agile world the idea is we keep those experiments small so we have small failures. And we look at them, we confront those failed experiments and we say “Oh, OK. I wanted this over here, I didn’t get it so let me inspect and adapt and try to solve it again from that new information that I’ve learnt from the failure”, that’s when things go right and when teams can learn from failure, nothing can stop them.
If we’re afraid, if we’re unsafe, then we can’t learn. We can do experiments but we won’t get any of the benefit because what happens is teams end up going through the motion. Some examples: there are teams that when they do Scrum the say “alright, we are going to do these five things this iteration” and they get three of them done and they say “alright, good job team, we did our best” or if they are doing two week iteration they say “let’s do another third week so we don’t actually call it a failure” or there are teams that do daily work, daily cycles and say “alright, we are going to up the level of quality” yet by the end of the iteration, when the deadline comes, they don’t, they cut corners and they call it a success. Teams and individuals are very uncomfortable with failure, they feel unsafe to fail, and if they feel unsafe to fail, they game the system and they don’t get any of the benefit.
Safety is emotional. And the thing is we dismiss it because it’s emotional, yet it undermines us. If we don’t focus on creating safety, it undermines our ability to do great work.
If you can get yourself in the mindset of ownership, “I own what happens to me”, that’s a safe place to be, that means if something happens around me I don’t feel helpless, I can choose to respond to that.
Being aware of our intentions and each other’s feelings creates a safe place. I don’t have to guess your emotion, I know your emotional state and I know why.
Without verbally announcing what you are doing and feeling, it leaves us to guess and when we start guessing that has a good chance to create lack of safety. So announcing, in general, announcing your intentions and feelings is a great way to create interpersonal safety.
Resource: Amr Elssamadisy – Safety