Imagine you have started up a software company. You start to grow a bit. You hire a person to act as a sherpa for your flagship product. Your development team now is pushing out updates on a monthly sprint cycle. Sounds pretty good right?
At this point you notice a problem. The backbone of any company is communication, but in an agile development environment, lack of communication, or miscommunication can be like setting the emergency brake in your car before starting a road trip.
Once you notice the problem, it needs to get fixed. In many cases, “fixing” a communication problem can mean someone’s ego may get bruised.
Ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can help drive people and products to a high level, as long as it’s in-line with the company goals. In fact, I believe using ego in a competitive situation can be helpful since many people are competitive by nature. I was once told by a project manager that she was going to tell a customer that we were delaying a launch date because we’d never hit it. I told her we would, even though we hadn’t even started the project and launch was just a few days away. When I talked to the team about it, the deadline and situation pushed us to the next level. We all worked crazy hours and got it out on-time.
But what about when there are ego’s involved that are pulling in two different directions? Do you step in and talk to the parties involved? Do you restate the overarching goal to everyone involved? Do you get everyone on the same page? Do you take everyone out for a long lunch and go over the timetables, goals and objectives?
One thing that you shouldn’t do is put another person into the channel. A liaison between two departments that are not communication doesn’t fix the communication problem any more than raising your voice and speaking slowly makes you more understandable when you’re talking to someone who doesn’t speak your language.
Fixing the problem requires leadership, adding another person to the communication string is trying to manage the problem.
In 1995, Braveheart addressed the problem of leadership this way:
Robert the Bruce: Wait! I respect what you said, but remember that these men have lands and castles. It’s much to risk.
William Wallace: And the common man who bleeds on the battlefield, does he risk less?
Robert: No, but from top to bottom this country has no sense of itself. Its nobles share allegiance with England. Its clans war with each other. If you make enemies on both sides of the border, you’ll end up dead.
William: We all end up dead; it’s just a question of how and why.
Robert: I’m not a coward. I want what you want, but we need the nobles.
William: We need them?
William: Nobles. Now tell me, what does that mean to be noble? Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow titles, they follow courage. Now our people know you. Noble, and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom, they’d follow you. And so would I.
Are you leading?