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Agile at the Speed of Trust – Self Trust

Reading: Agile at the Speed of Trust – Self Trust

The first post in this series provided an overview of the synergy between The Speed of Trust and Agile.  This post focuses on the first wave of trust, Self Trust.

Agile relies on cross-functional teams of individuals.  These individuals bring a set of personalities and skills to a team.  In great teams, these individuals have credibility.  That is, they contribute character and competence that helps make the team more than the sum of its parts.

The Speed of Trust describes “four cores” of credibility, two dealing with character and two dealing with competence:

  • Integrity
  • Intent
  • Capabilities
  • Results


Congruence, humility, and courage are three qualities of integrity mentioned in the book, but one passage on humility really struck me:

A humble person is more concerned about what is right than about being right, about acting on good ideas than having the ideas, about embracing new truth than defending outdated position, about building the team than exalting self, about recognizing contribution than being recognized for making it.

-Covey, Stephen M.R.; Merrill, Rebecca R. (2006-10-17). The SPEED of Trust (p. 64). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Humility is all about the success of the team over success as an individual, knowing that by lifting others up instead of climbing over them, is the right thing to do.  There’s also a hint of servant leadership in there.


Transparency is one of the most appealing aspects of Agile when it is done well.  With everything visible, there is no question about the intent of those involved. However, if someone comes to an Agile team with a nefarious motive, agenda, or behavior, that person and the team pay a huge tax on the speed at which they can deliver value.  In an Agile environment, you can’t fake it and you get punished when you try to.


The Speed of Trust uses the acronym TASKS to discuss capabilities.  Talents, Skills, and Knowledge are expected members of this list — they’re needed no matter what approach you’re using.  Attitudes and Style are the elements that grab me when I think about Agile.  My attitude — genuinely excited to be at work with my team and sincerely interested in continuous personal and team improvement — make a significant difference in speed of value delivery.

A variety of styles are valuable in Agile.  Personally, I have struggled to deal effectively with people who approach challenges differently than I do, but as I mature (i.e. get older), I am getting better at realizing that there is more than “my way”.  As long as people have integrity and proper intent, I try really hard to consider that their style could lead to a desirable result.


And finally, results matter.  Well, duh, but the book makes a point that demonstrates the mutually-reinforcing nature of Agile and trust.  It is critically important to focus not only on what is achieved, but also on how it is achieved.  Agile emphasizes accountability for results, but it also focuses on sustainability, repeatability — predictability!

“…suppose you hit the numbers, but you do it by creating a team spirit of abundance and collaboration. You help team members work together so that everyone succeeds, no one reaches burnout, and the credit is freely shared. What’s going to be their attitude the next time the challenge comes up? What if you can get the same great results—only this time, it’s going to be 30 percent faster and easier?”

Covey, Stephen M.R.; Merrill, Rebecca R. (2006-10-17). The SPEED of Trust (p. 114). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

In an end-of-chapter section on how to improve your results, the book encourages focusing on results, not the activities needed to achieve the results.  Agile does this via user stories or features defined in business terms by the customer or product owner instead of a task breakdown and by working in small batches that deliver results in a short timeframe.  These activities build the customer’s trust in the team who then gives more work to the team, reinforcing the team’s trust that the customer is paying attention to the results and the direction.  It’s a mutually reinforcing system that leads to performance that is greater than the sum of the parts.

If you’re going to be an excellent teammate on a team, you’ve got to trust yourself.  You’ve got to know that you’re credible.  You’ve got to walk your talk.  You’ve got to know you’re doing things for the right reason.  You’ve got to bring relevant capabilities.  You’ve got to deliver.

It ain’t easy!

Next LeadingAgile is Speaking at Agile2012

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