Creating a safe-to-fail environment

Creating a safe-to-fail environment

Together with Linda van Sinten, I’ve created a half-day workshop to help leaders improve the psychological safety in their organisation. We want people to experience psychological safety, not only explain what psychological safety is and how teams can benefit from it. The workshop is suited for formal and informal leaders at any level of an organisation.

The Scrum Master knows best

“My team doesn’t do what I’ve suggested.” “Why does the team keep doing <insert undesired behavior>?” “They don’t understand <my pet practice>.”

I love to talk to fellow Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches. Somehow I can more easily see my own failings by discussing their behavior. One of my failings comes from thinking I know what is best for the team.

Sure, if I stop to think about it I know that I’m not smarter than a handful of intelligent people. But every now and then I forget. I notice something and immediately jump to a conclusion: this is bad, and I know how it could be improved. Scrum Master to the rescue!

Only, my team isn’t fooled that easily. They’ll look at me in a way that says: “Are you serious? What do you know about software development anyway?” Perhaps in the past I would ignore that, muttering “Oh ye of little faith”, confident that if they just tried doing it my way they would be enlightened.

At least these days I know to stop and listen. On a good day I’ll even stop before I jump to a conclusion. Instead, I’ll offer my observation to the team and ask their opinion. Amazingly, they usually do a good job of deciding if it is important, what the underlying problem is, and what could be done about it. Occasionally I ask some powerful questions, offer some suggestions, or challenge their thinking (for example by pointing out how it goes against one of the agile principles). That’s all I need to do, the team does the rest. The best part is: they come up with better solutions, they don’t resist the proposal, and I still get credit for helping them improve.