Friday, March 16, 2007

What part does Credibility play?

In both lean and agile cultures, it is important that teams are self-organizing, self-improving, and self-managing. To be able to do that requires a certain amount of autonomy and latitude to "do the right things". This in turn requires a certain amount of trust that the right things will happen and respect that the team and individuals on that team have the right knowledge and skills to accomplish the work. All of this requires establishing credibility.

What is credibility? I see credibility as a track record. Each person can have a good track record or a bad one. A good track record is one where the person says what they are going to do (integrity), their opinions are proven through implementation (knowledgeable), and their actions are in the best interest of the company (commitment). A bad track record is one where one or more of these components are consistently being challenged by others. "Is this person representing the company?" "Do they know what they are doing?" "Will they really follow through and deliver?" If these and other questions continue to happen, this will impact the credibility of not just particular individuals but eventually the team as a whole.

Why all of this talk around credibility? Because if you want good communication between customers and the development team you need credibility. If you want the team to think in Lean concepts and perform in an Agile manner, they must have an appropriate level of credibility at some point. This isn't just an Agile or Lean thing, the same can be said about any employee, department or project team. It's just much more apparent and critical with Lean and Agile since the focus is on teamwork and the role of teams.

Whenever you have your next brainstorming or design session, look around and listen to what people are saying and how others are reacting. If you hear things that are based on little fact, make sure that work is done afterwards to experiment and prove out the theories and assumptions. If you see that others are showing through their words (and more importantly their body language) that they don't believe individuals or even worse the team, talk to those people and coach them on credibility. Make sure they see examples that hurt credibility as well as those that improve it.

As a manager, I am highly sensitive to the reputation of people, teams or the entire department. Typically, credibility and reputation go hand-in-hand. I want individuals to be successful. I want trust and respect established. I want them to have the highest integrity. Each of them should want it just as bad. Many times, they may not know why they aren't getting it. Credibility isn't something that is easily given, it must be earned. It is something that is earned over your lifetime. Think about that for a moment...

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