For the Love of Agility

Yesterday was Valentines. I hate Valentines Day. No really, I do. But I do like all the other days around Valentines day.

What does that mean, right? Well, Valentines is a hyper-marketized reminder to tell your sweetie how they complete you. And if you don’t have a sweetie, then you’re supposed to bite the big one and make a bold announcement of your affections for that certain so-and-so.

It’s all bunk and here’s why:

Valentines is big-bang release: go about living your life like normal and then let the nauseating commercials remind you that, oops, another year has gone by and you forgot to tell him/her you love him/her. But that ain’t love, and (surprise!) it ain’t Agile either.


Love and Agility

In a recent blog series I wrote called the Zen of Agile Leadership, I wrote about communication and leadership and “being cause in the matter” and “creating the clearing for transformation to occur”. I also touched on love. A couple times. That’s because I believe that effective communication and leadership comes from a place of love. Pair that with the delivery aspects of Agility and you’re unstoppable.

In Love as in Agile, you deliver value frequently and often. That’s the antithesis of big-bang release and audacious, ridiculous rom-com announcements captured by the Jumbo-tron. That’s why I hate Valentine’s Day.

The Agile lover shows love in small does every day. EVERY DAY.

I create my lover most every morning, not once a year. Yes, you read that correctly, create your lover. My lover knows she is loved because I communicate like this … “My love, today who you are for me is effervescent joy and serenity.” And then I get her a cup of coffee. <whispers> She can be cranky when she does not have caffeine.</whispers>

Waiting for Valentines to take your lover to a nice dinner, to splurge on a trinket, to take them on a trip, or just to relax by a fireplace sipping hot cocoa–well, that’s just dumb. One day a year feels like big batch love and an “Oh Yeah” afterthought.

Now that we’ve covered taking Agility home, let’s touch on bringing (work-appropriate, platonic) love into the work place a little more.

Love in an Agile Organization

Teams hate “Oh Yeah” leadership and love. Leaders and management can show love to their teams and reports in many ways, including:

  • Listening with an open heart and mind.
  • Leaving their ego out of the equation.
  • Continuously improving along with the rest of the organization–because that’s the name of the Agile game.
  • Laying off on the shame of failure, because quick failures means quicker to success.

We show love to our teams by managing the system of delivery, not people.

When I have been responsible for a team of coaches, my job was to love them by creating a space for their coaching of their team to exist. In action what this meant was allowing their points of view to be heard and to flourish, I would take action when they pointed out a flaw in the system or engagement, I would support them and sometimes challenge them and coach them and create with them. I would raise up issues with our clients to see and correct a defective system when it impacted our ability to be effective. I would listen … really listen for their intention and what they were committed to. When I saw them play the Victim (from Karpman’s Drama Triangle), I would challenge them to assume the Creator role instead–to find a way to improve using the dilemma before them as a learning and growing opportunity.  I would take feedback and receive their challenges of me when I myself was falling down on the job. I showed them love by engaging with them every day. I asked them about their lovers, their children, their passions.

Mostly I just simply listened.

An Every-Day Love Letter

And managers, listen up. You hire smart people, yes? If you did not, you would be fired. I am trusting you are not fired. Be smart by letting them be smart, by letting them leverage their own competence and knowledge to solve the problems before them. They don’t need you to manage them. What they need you to do is manage the system so that they may deliver what you hire them to deliver inside that system. You hire them to deliver love to the business.

Agility is an “every day love letter” that you share with those around you and how they share it with you.handwriting-love-1535813

It’s certainly how your customer appreciates it: they love getting a product in their hands, to kiss and love and hold and feel and call it George… That’s how you get feedback–and feedback is how your customers demonstrate their love to you.

Here’s how we love in an Agile organization:

  • Leaders show love by providing a clear vision and by empowering everyone in the human system to contribute toward that vision.
  • The Business shows love by clearly articulating what the market and the customers in it are asking for, and by engaging in open conversation with IT and Product Delivery.
  • Management at every level demonstrates love by managing the system and not the people in it. They show love by allowing themselves and others be vulnerable and to fail, so that the entire organization can learn from those failures and grow as a result of them.
  • Teams and the individuals in them love when they deliver customer value sprint after sprint, bigger, better, faster, more.

I’ll say it again: Agility is an every day love letter that everyone in the same human system writes to everyone else. Keep the negativity out of your letter. Use spell-check but recognize that all humans in all human systems are imperfect, so don’t kill yourself over your imperfections. Just love, love frequently, love often.

Small Gestures, Big Impact

Love starts with the little gestures of thoughtfulness, every moment, every day, not just one day a year. Love occurs when we intentionally generate it every day instead of taking it for granted.

How are you taking your team for granted? What little thing may you do to show them you appreciate them? More importantly, who are you BEING so that they KNOW they are loved? How are you CREATING the clearing for team love and bonding to occur?

Love your team by relentlessly creating the best system possible. Love them by getting into their world and asking “what’s it like for them?” Create the space for excellence so that they may in turn incrementally show love to the business with an awesome system in which to operate. Occasionally take them out for a shot of bourbon. I prefer Four Roses Single Barrel, just in case you were wondering.

Why love your team and create the clearing for Agility to occur? Because incremental delivery is like sending love to the business in small constant doses. A hug here, A peck there, A slap on the … yeah, you get the picture.

The business loves it when they have a delivery system that shows them love … often. We all want to be loved frequently … that just sounds naughty, deliciously naughty. Be naughty by delighting the business with incremental delivery and love, every day.

And, with that, I say to you: Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day.


P.S. I love you, in a sorta Agile way.

P.P.S. I wonder how much of this my copywriter “improved”…