Monday, December 22, 2014

The Virtues of Agile: Commitment

Commitment is a strong bond
This is part four of five of our series of articles about the virtues of Agile.  This week we cover the topic of commitment.

Commitment is one of those things which is earned just like respect.  Sadly, our contemporary business culture makes it hard to make commitments which harms the success of organizations and makes it harder to for commitments to be made by line employees.  This creates situations where employees are “tuned out” of what is happening in the organization and who just go through the motions of serving the needs of the customers.  It is depressing and feels like being on a losing sports team.

As a scrum master and business leader, you need to commit to your team members and over time they may commit back to you.  There is no promise in this situation.  Some employees are just commitment phobic.  This is because they see work and the rest of the world as transactional.  They want to make sure that they have some “What’s in it for me?” moment.  So if they provide a service they get a compensation they feel they are due.

Commitment is different from this transactional model of viewing the world.  It is giving yourself over to something greater than yourself.  For the American armed forces, that this the “unit” which you belong.  For clergy, it is to your religious mission and for the entrepreneur it is to the business they founded.  This means that commitment requires sacrifices of time and behavior.  Many religious orders require vows of celibacy.  For the entrepreneur, it means long days of travel and work with no immediate pay off.

That said, commitment creates fiercely strong bonds between people who have made those commitments.  Military leaders work hard to develop these commitments to their troops because they know when shots are fired in anger they will have to count on those people to shoot back.  Business leaders need to work just as hard because while the decisions they make may not be life or death, they do effect the lives of the people who work for them.  Treating people like disposable tools to be replaced when they wear out is not going to generate commitment.  Something else has to be done.

Making sure that employees are constantly being trained and retrained to do their jobs better is one sign of commitment.  Another is providing them a game plan for how to improve their careers.  Nothing is worse for someone than stagnation and giving people a chance to grow and develop is an example of the organization making a commitment to them.  Business leaders can also get to know not only the employees but their families.  Asking about a daughter’s soccer game or looking at pictures of a Christmas recital can go a long way in showing employees you care and are committed to them.

There is no guaranteed pay off for this but when you need people to work overtime or deal with adversity a little commitment on your part could yield some commitment on theirs.

Have a Happy Christmas.