AoAD2 Practice: Safety

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.


Whole Team

with Gitte Klitgaard

We share conflicting viewpoints without fear.

In 2012, Google launched Project Aristotle, an internal research effort intended to identify why some teams excelled and others did not. Google looked at a number of factors: team composition, socialization outside of work, educational background, extroversion versus introversion, colocation versus remote, seniority, team size, individual performance, and more. None of them made a significant difference to effectiveness. Not even seniority or individual performance.

What mattered? Psychological safety.

Of the five key dynamics of effective teams that the researchers identified, psychological safety was by far the most important. The Google researchers found that individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.[Google2021]

Understanding Team Effectiveness

Although Google’s findings have brought psychological safety into the limelight, it’s not a new idea. It was originally introduced in 1965 by Edgar Schein and Warren Bennis, in the context of making personal and organizational changes. “In order for [discomfort] to lead to an increased desire to learn rather than heightened anxiety...An environment must be created with maximum psychological safety.” [Schein1965] (p. 44) continue reading, buy the book!

In this Section

  1. Safety
    1. Understanding Psychological Safety
    2. How to Create Safety
      1. Enable all voices
      2. Be open about mistakes
      3. Be curious
      4. Learn how to give and receive feedback
      5. Use empathy
      6. Allow yourself to be vulnerable
        1. Sidebar: Organizational Safety
    3. Leaders’ Role
      1. Model the behaviors you want to see
      2. Be explicit about expectations
      3. Don’t shy away from conflict
        1. Sidebar: A Connection-Building Exercise
    4. Questions
    5. Prerequisites
    6. Indicators
    7. Alternatives and Experiments
    8. Further Reading

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