Thursday, September 28, 2006

Agile and Trust

[Updated - corrected name of the book referenced in the first paragraph.]

Andrew, you may recall that the other night I told you I was in the process of taking an online test and I could not be disturbed. Sorry about not being able to hang out with you but the test was something important for me to do. It was a test to help me determine my core strengths. It is based on the book Now, Discover Your Strengths, a book recommended by a good friend of mine, Adam Monago.

After I finished the test I was given my results - they were interesting but pretty much what I expected. I immediately sent my results to Adam and he confirmed that my strengths assessment results were dead on. And then he sent me his results. That’s when my results really got my attention. You see, Adam’s results were completely different than mine and he is also a ThoughtWorks project manager (and a very good one at that). Fundamentally, the difference between Adam’s results and mine is that his strengths are very goal oriented and mine are very relationship oriented.

Comparing Adam’s results to mine was a very tramatic moment for me. My first reaction was that if I were a client I would want Adam as my PM rather than me. I would want someone goal oriented and driven in managing my projects to successful completion. I wouldn’t want some relationship building pansy going around giving hugs and trying to make everyone feel good. There’s work to be done so everybody get to work!

But as I reflect back on my career as a somewhat successful project manager I now see that my management ‘style’ has always been based on relationship building. But this is not the kind of relationship building of going out after work with the guys, but rather the building of relationships based on trust. Let me explain further.

There are three different groups of people that I interact with as a project manager: my team, my peers, and my customer or boss. Each requires me to build a level of trust in the relationship in order for me to be effective.

  • For the team I want to build a trusted relationship where they know that they are empowered to do good work and that I will be fair and honest with them;
  • For my peers (other PMs) it is a trusted relationship that I will be supportive of their projects and be globally focused on what is best for the organization and not what is only best for me or my project;
  • For my customer or boss it is a trusted relationship of transparency into the health and status of my project.

I have recently recognized that when I do not have the opportunity to establish these kinds of trusting relationships that I resort to a different type of project management, one that is more goal oriented and less personal. But this is not where my strengths are so I am not as affective a project manager and I find my work much less satisfying.

Knowing this now, it’s not at all suprising that my preferred software development methodology is Agile where one of the cornerstone principles is ‘People over Process’.

So Andrew, you may not end up being a project manager and you may not even have relationship building as one of your core strengths. What is important is for us to discover your strengths and build on them. I'm looking forward to it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isnt it discover? Not find?

September 29, 2006 at 5:23:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Jason Yip said...

I'd suggest taking a look at VIA Signature Strengths which are more focused on what's considered a strength or virtue across cultures as opposed to just in the workplace.

September 29, 2006 at 7:31:00 PM PDT  

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