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The People Factor in Agile Governance

by Ben Linders on May 15, 2014 |

Trust is a decision about your investment in the relation says Anko Tijman. Agile governance should be build upon trust. To gain trust you can inspire people, understand and protect them, and focus on achieving results. Without trust there is no collaboration, transparency and common goal.

At the Agile Governance conference in Amsterdam Anko Tijman presented being in control through people factors. Governance is often based on analytical control using structures and models. Applying right shifting can help organizations to become more synergetic and give attention to the people factor in governance. According to Anko, understanding the challenges of the team is essential in Agile governance.

People who want to govern project actually want peace said Anko. He quoted Abert Einstein: “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

InfoQ interviewed Anko about success factors for agile governance, self-organization and coherent teams and collaboration.

InfoQ: Your session at Agile Governance conference is about the success factors of being in control in an Agile way. How does agile make a difference for the success factors for governance?

Anko: if top level management (those who demand for governance) want one thing from programmers and project, it is to have confidence that the business will benefit from the outcomes. Agile makes the process and it's (intermediate) results transparent, and provides an approach to further improvement. IMHO, Agile does what good governance is supposed to do: it provides adhesion (grip). Governance as we know it is mostly about the process, Agile is about the product in its context.

InfoQ: Can you name your success factors for agile governance? What makes them so important?

Anko: the commitment from senior management in making agile governance work. It requires their change in mindset, means and way of working. After all, they  demand the governance structure.

InfoQ: Agile emphasizes self-organization. I've seen many organizations and teams that struggle with this, it's difficult to do this if you're coming from an hierarchical command and control management structure. Why do we need governance in agile? Doesn't governance make it even more difficult for teams to become self-organized?

Anko: if done right, the team will benefit from governance. It's just that governance-so-far has been done so poorly by focussing on non-value adding stuff that the perception is that it doesn't add value. I think that an important requirement for AG is that it makes the team more self organized.

InfoQ: Having motivated people impacts the team performance and their ability to deliver software to their customers. You mentioned that it is also a success factor for governance . Can you elaborate on that?

Anko: I see trust as the #1 prerequisite for team performance. And from that point of view, trust is essential in agile governance as well. Without trust, team members will never be truly intrinsically motivated to do their best. And if they don't do their best, they will never be aligned with the projects goal. And then governance will find deviations  rather than confirmations.

InfoQ: You mentioned coherent teams as being important for governance. What about diversity and having a multidisciplinary agile team, do they go together with coherence?

Anko: That is exactly what I mean with a coherent team: a multidisciplinary and diverse team. The only thing I could add to that is what I mentioned in my presentation - that also personality factors should be diverse, such as having different Belbin roles or MBTI profiles. A diverse team will always outperform uniform teams.

InfoQ: For people to really become a team I think collaboration is key. What are things that team members can do to develop their collaboration skills?

Anko: in any learning, curiosity is key. So if you want to improve your collaboration skills, become curious about how your team members do their job, what their professional needs are and how they want to be treated. Second, alignment on the project goal is essential. By nature, we focus on our own needs, but in collaboration it's about us, not me. So keep reminding yourself and your team members what the joint goals are. And you might even want to create your teams own goal to get everyone motivated. But do make sure that that goal is explainable to your customer!

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