United Action

A few nights ago, I was having a conversation with my father, Garry Berteig, who is also an agile coach. He had an interesting insight based on a recent experience in Beijing: unity is a precondition to assistance.

In Beijing, he was helping my brother, Alexei, get ready for his upcoming wedding to a wonderful Chinese woman, Ma Jin. The three of them were out shopping. Alexei needed new furniture. As they shopped, Alexei and Ma Jin discussed the various items, their prices, qualities, etc. It took quite a while, but eventually they agreed upon a set of furniture. They became united in their understanding and perception of reality, and agreed without hesitation.

At this point, my father was able to offer his assistance to purchase the furniture as a gift for their wedding. Once Alexei and Ma Jin were united, it was possible to not just offer the assistance, but actually execute on it. If they had not come to a unity of vision, it would have been a mistake to execute on the assistance.

I believe this applies in teams and organizations. In agile environments, managers become “servant leaders”. This service is only effective once the self-organizing team is united in its understanding of its needs. If the team is not united, then the service of the manager can lead to problems: some members of the team may feel discounted, some may feel (falsely) that management supports their side, and finally, management may not be able to offer whole-hearted support in the future as complaints come in.

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