My first thoughts about Agile practices were not those of increasing productivity (even though they can), improving product speed to market (which they do), or even breaking down the walls between traditional “business” and “IT” (which happens, all the time). Rather, I kept seeing a cultural and environmental shift in the ways people interacted – from the client relationships to the leadership relationships. I saw how, at the core, we empowered people to do what they do even better and deliver things of value in order to improve relationships and the subsequently the wealth of all parties involved.
Because of this, I haven’t viewed agility through a business lens. I have viewed practices and principles of improvement through the lens of the family and God’s Kingdom. The latter of those, I have spoken about in Rocket61 ideas and I have talked about how business improvement rooted in Kingdom Principles (like servant-leadership, decentralized decision-making, excellence, etc.) lead to “discipled” organizations and hyper-performing companies. Regarding the family, though, we often speak of the nuclear relationships of the family as the basis for teams. Homegrown Agile is about taking this a step further. Not only is the family unit referenced, but also the ideas of mentoring, relationships that might seem hierarchical but aren’t, and deep listening.
You see, I’ve always tried to improve my relationships and other’s relationships by leveraging my “dad” level learning. Years ago, I had a tremendous boss and leader tell me, while waiting on other members of our party for an after-work dinner, “Jack (yes, he called me by my last name), you are doing a great job in your leadership role, but there is one negative – you act more like a dad than a boss.” I had been hired to be on a Sr. Leadership team for a $110 million program leading all program deliverables and had the responsibility of up to 50 direct reports. While he might have meant this as a learning experience to provide crucial critical feedback, I actually took it as a compliment! I did not want to be a traditional boss who provided detailed direction and instruction to my employees – I wanted to cast a vision, tell a story, engage them at their strengths, and empower them to move faster and better than I could ever imagine.
I am not there. I’m still grinding daily. Matter-of-fact, as you read this I have probably failed today more at being a dad and a good leader than I have succeeded, but I refuse to lower my standards, I refuse to give up my belief that being a good dad and learning from my family and other dads helps us all become better leaders. And just in case someone thinks this is about making everyone that works for us “our kids,” it isn’t. As I tell my son at least once a week – “I am not raising you to be a good son, I am raising you to be a good father.” Likewise, I don’t see my co-workers as children, but as leaders.
So, please tell me what you think. I am curious to see where we can take these thoughts and ideas. And I am looking forward to the dad jokes that might pop up!