A long title, so let me try and unpack. One of the noticeable differences in an agile delivery culture is how the people inside that system interact and the word that describes this is collaboration. One of the ways to generate collaboration is through the processes that are implemented. When we focus on flow and dependencies, visible backlogs,  bottlenecks and daily allowing our backlogs to reflect the highest value work, then we create a system that is more collaboration friendly. So why is collaboration often not the end result ?

One of the key values/ attributes I often use when creating journeys to evolve delivery is how much ease is in the system. I use it in the context of how easy it is to get work to the customer so it has more of a process flavour. I also use that word, ease, as a key aspect of the experience I wish to have. What would more ease in my day to day look like ? What would it take ?

When I think about the word ease, the words peace and harmony bubble up. And then I got to thinking about how people behave and how that behaviour is chosen. The most prevalent mental model that informs how people behave is that of unilateral control and in that mental model one of the behaviours is to avoid anything negative. When this happens there is no valid or truthful feedback and that means people may not be able to really talk about the actual experience they are having, at least not in a way that isn’t fraught with anxiety and the fear of judgement.

Which brings me to how one creates a culture where it is easy to collaborate. What if peace and harmony were an active thing ? I may not have the words quite yet to describe this, so bear with me (and if you have a way of describing this, please share ? ). What I notice quite often is that peaceful is often linked to an absence of conflict. Peaceful is where we don’t express negative feelings. What if peace wasn’t a suppression of negativity but a constructive expression of people’s experience, especially when it is a so called negative one ? What if peace was in a result of people’s behaviour as well as the processes supporting that ?

This speaks to another symptom of a culture that may be struggling to deliver, the lack of feedback. To create a place where peace and harmony is the culture people need to be able to be free to speak and communicate their experience in a way that doesn’t disempower anyone else and so in a way that isn’t threatening or confronting and so forbidden. What if to create collaboration you also need to enable free flow of communication as well  as enabling negotiation so that everyone is able to feed their souls and ask for what they need to thrive.

When everyone is freely able to express their experience and what would improve it and so collaborate to create that, then you have active peace and harmony.

Nothing is at the expense of anyone else.

Do people differ yes ? But they don’t disagree and end up in those useless, endless conversations where only one view point is allowed to exist (the right one).

Do emotions get heated ? Not so much when everyone knows they will be heard and everyone feels valued and respected. But yes, emotions may run high…. And that is ok.

Collaboration with peace and harmony as key cultural attributes isn’t about the absence of negativity or any other ‘bad’ emotion. It is about being able to always come back to balance because everyone has experienced balance and everyone values it.

This concept of balance is important as it is one I don’t hear much talk about. We seem to expect that things will always be perfect and then get stressed when things shift off of perfect. But if we focus on balance we bring into our thinking the concept that things will fluctuate and move and that gives everyone permission to “get it wrong” and recover.

But back to collaboration and peace and harmony. Can you imagine a workplace that was actively generating peace, harmony and enabling collaboration ? What would that look like for you ?

What is your current experience of your workday (on a scale of 1 to 10) and what behaviours and processes would improve that for you ?

What if you were able to negotiate those changes and what if the people around you weren’t threatened by your experience and supported being part of generating it ?

What conversations could you start to have that would start to actively create this space for yourself and the people  you are working with ?