Agile Coaching 101 – Transparency Beacon

If you open your streaming service of choice and get a spy/war movie to watch, one of the cliche sentences you are going to get is:

This is need to know basis.

There is a problem with that statement. You are told you don’t need to know, but truly, you don’t know if you need to know or not. Often in those movies, we realize that the information that was not shared was really needed.

Moving back to our world, this is not a movie (also a sentence we see a lot in movies today). In the business world, not sharing a piece of information could be very problematic for a company.

Failures

More common than none, failures are not shared across the company. There are several reasons for that. From the fear of losing face to just being ashamed.

This is where our work as coaches comes into play.

You should be able to create a culture of safety. A culture where failures are not a problem and everyone should feel safe sharing them.

Failure is only a failure if we don’t learn from it.

If teams are aware of each other’s failures, they will learn from it. And by learning from it, they will not commit the same mistakes.

You can make it fun, like an award. F$%# up of the week award. The important thing is to create safety that will allow your teams to share. Not making them feel like they will be punished (or rewarded) by their failure, but instead, that it will be OK. Business will continue as usual.

Successes

In the same way it is important to share failures, it is also important to share successes.

We often forget about these. We are so caught up in the day to day work that we forget to celebrate our successes. Sometimes just the ability to celebrate the little things can increase morale by a factor of “a lot”.

Agile Coaches should create a platform for teams to share what they have been doing. Open boards in Jira and roadmap plans on a confluence page are not enough. We need to create a structure where engineers will be able to share with other engineers, in engineering language, their accomplishments.

Everything else

When I met our new VP of acquisition, he had one of those premade sentences that stuck with me.

The best communication is no communication.

Imagine a company where everyone can be aware of everything that is happening. All meetings are recorded and saved somewhere. All internal KPIs are shared in a global repository. Every team code is available as an internal open source. Every month teams share their successes and failures with everyone.

What would be your excuse to say? “I didn’t know about this”.

OK, the system can be flawed and be a nightmare to navigate all information, and that would be a perfect excuse and something we should work on it. But if you iron out all the kinks, it’s better than everything else out there.

Luckily there is already a company like this. It is called Bridgewater Associates and run by Ray Dalio. He believes in Radical Transparency. If you want you can learn more about it in his book Principles.

The exception

Like every rule in the world. There are exceptions. There will always be information that you cannot know, and that is OK. It is OK because we already shifted our way of thinking.

Information will not be shared because “you don’t need to know”, instead, it will not be shared because “you cannot know”. See the difference?

Trade secrets and confidential information will always exist. They are part of the business. But when you change the communication to “you cannot know”, you can explain why.

“You cannot know the secret formula of Coca Cola because it is critical for our company to keep it private, and there is no reason why you should need it. If you can present me a valid one, we can talk.”

As Agile Coaches, our role is to foster this Transparency. To be a beacon of it. Help the organization create structures that allow them to share information.

Information is knowledge, and knowledge is power. And that power may just put you ahead of all your competition.

Cheers,

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