AoAD2 Practice: Stakeholder Trust

This is an excerpt from The Art of Agile Development, Second Edition. Visit the Second Edition home page for additional excerpts and more!

This excerpt is copyright 2007, 2021 by James Shore and Shane Warden. Although you are welcome to share this link, do not distribute or republish the content without James Shore’s express written permission.

Stakeholder Trust

Audience
Product Managers, Whole Team

We work with our stakeholders effectively and without fear.

I know somebody who worked in a company with two development teams. One was Agile, met its commitments, and delivered regularly. The team next door struggled: it fell behind schedule and didn’t have any working software to show. Yet when the company downsized, they let the Agile team go rather than the other team!

Why? When management looked in on the struggling team, they saw UML diagrams papering the walls and programmers working long hours. When they looked in on the Agile team, they saw people talking, laughing, and going home at five with nothing but rough sketches and charts on the whiteboards.

Like it or not, your team doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Agile can seem strange and different at first. “Are they really working?” outsiders wonder. “It’s noisy and confusing. I don’t want to work that way. If it succeeds, will they force me to do it, too?”

Ironically, the more successful Agile is, the more these worries grow. Alistair Cockburn calls them organizational antibodies. (He credits Ron Holiday with the term.) If left unchecked, organizational antibodies will overcome and dismantle an otherwise successful Agile team.

No matter how effective you are, you’re in trouble without the goodwill of your stakeholders.

No matter how effective you are at delivering software, you’re in trouble without the goodwill of your stakeholders and sponsor. Yes, delivering software and meeting technical expectations helps, but the interpersonal skills your team exhibits may be just as important to building trust in your team.

Does this sound unfair or illogical? Surely your ability to deliver high-quality software is all that really matters!

It is unfair. It is illogical. It’s also the way people think. If your stakeholders don’t trust you, they won’t collaborate with your team, which hurts your ability to deliver valuable software. They might even campaign against you.

Don’t wait for your stakeholders to realize how your work can help them. Show them.

...to continue reading, buy the book!

In this Section

  1. Stakeholder Trust
    1. Show Some Hustle
    2. Show Some Empathy
    3. Deliver on Commitments
    4. Manage Problems
    5. Respect Customer Goals
    6. Make Stakeholders Look Good
    7. Be Honest
    8. Questions
    9. Prerequisites
    10. Indicators
    11. Alternatives and Experiments
    12. Further Reading

Discuss the book on the AoAD2 mailing list or Discord server. Or come to the weekly book club!

For more excerpts from the book, see the Second Edition home page.

If you liked this entry, check out my best writing and presentations, and consider subscribing to updates by email or RSS.