Some folks out there, I’m not even quite sure who, have the impression that agility translates to less hustle, and an easier work environment. Someetimes the concept of self-organizing teams with flat hierarchies and no estimates means that we can be a bit blase about making or keeping committments. If you lower effort and lower output are the hallmark of happier teams, I don’t think agile thinking is going to do much for you. I think people are very, very happy when they are productive, or maybe its because they’re more productive when they’re happy….
In any event, meaningful work contributes greatly to happiness, and I part of taking pride in your work includes making committments to teams and customers – and keeping them.
I don’t think we should view our most meaningful work as a collection of tasks. Maybe its me, but tasks are something that are assigned to you. Promises and commitments are something that you own. And a self-directing team can very easily choose what work they own.
So try changing the language in team rooms to include the notion of promises. Not to sound gimmicky, as though a simple word change is all that stands in the way of your team’s hyperproductivity – but it’s been my experience that ‘promise’ and ‘commitment’ simply remind people that we do indeed make pledges to one another, and there is nobility in being someone who keeps their word, and there is therefore great power in making promises to each other and to customers.
Think of your daily tasks in Standup as promises instead. Think of improvement items in retrospectives as promises too. Make new promises every day when the team assembles. See what happens.
These days, broken promises are the bane of marketing, politics, and human relationships. What would happen if we
tried to become promise keepers instead?