Saturday, April 2, 2016

How safe is your work place?

I've been thinking about safety today. Perhaps it's somehow related to talking about SAFe, the agile framework is less than admiring fashion last night, but the word has come to my mind often. Feeling safe. And in particular, lessons I've learned on what it takes to make people feel truly safe at work.

Some years back, I had a manager who believed that he needed to see me mark test cases passed / failed. He was honest enough to not try to wrap this into any methodology wrapping, but stated his true feeling: how do I know you're working if you don't do this?

We found other ways. For us, the simple thing that worked it to establish trust through the fact that our software at the time was so buggy that he knew I was working when I was logging on average 8 bugs a day over consecutive years. It took away the need of worrying, and established trust that was very important to me.

With my latest manager, the trust is extended even further. There's no cadence of me having to check in, and I've been intentionally testing the limits. With me feeling trusted and safe, I'm the natural me: excited about stuff, wanting to share, being active and figuring things out together so that he does not need me to check in, I just do. And I feel happy, I generate new ideas and act on them.

But the safety goes even further. It's a foundation of feeling nothing you do could destroy it all.

Imagine an employee who did not provide value. Or if he provided value, the value could be perceived negative. Interrupting others from creating value. Breaking things. Creating artifacts that would make further work harder. I used to believe these people should be fired. But I've also experienced now what I feel is extraordinary safety: supporting these people. Helping them over long periods of time. Thinking firing would almost be an option out of reach, even if it wasn't.

I'm realizing that action sends a message stronger than anything I've experienced before. It's safe. Safe to fail. Safe to be incomplete. Safe to try things out and learn.

That's a level of safety I'd now like to aspire for. Safety in the sense that it feels the current results-oriented world has little room for.