The Agile approach cannot exist without psychological safety
Agile, an iterative approach to project management and software development, has been at the centre of businesses’ existence for several years. Over time, organisazations have seen this as the next step to long-term success by focussing on small but consumable growth.

However, at times, the integration of this approach has been very slow, mainly because organisations had time on their side to integrate agile methods into their business processes fully and were in no rush to make hasty decisions.

The Covid-19 pandemic was an unexpected factor that changed this mentality.
Aside from lockdowns and travel restrictions disrupting many business operations, it also meant employees had to work from home, and were not in physical contact on a daily basis. As interactions are at the heart of this approach, this became problematic. These factors also meant that, suddenly, businesses considered a shift to agile crucial for the survival of their business rather than optional.

During the last 20 years, the agile way of working has experienced tremendous changes, and it can now be used in different departments of an organisation: from human resources and customer service to sales, and operations.

Several companies across the world have witnessed transformations in their own operations and have experienced a return on the investment made in implementing agile.

Although agile has improved the speed at which many businesses that implanted it can work at, as well as the quality of the work they deliver, and contributed to the long-term growth of numerous companies, half of the organisations that have implemented agile have failed to maximise and capitalise on the full benefits of the approach.

To be successful in implementing this approach, a business has to do more than merely announce the will be adopting it.

Implementing agile should be centered around both customer and employee value, meaning an agile transformation goes further than a mechanical technology.

It entails a shift in the culture of a workplace and in the relationship between teams and the organisation itself. Agile ways of working ultimately depend on the psychological safety of individuals and the team and how they feel when they are at work, mainly as an efficient implementation of the technique often involves dialogues and interaction between team members to achieve an end goal.

However, these interactions could result in or include conflicts, and companies should be able to assess whether team members can discuss, ask and answer questions in a safe space to solve a conflict, or whether they feel they have to censor themselves and revert to a self-preservation mode when carrying out these tasks.

Essentially, agile teams should operate in an environment where, when working towards successful collaboration, vulnerability is rewarded rather than punished. High psychological safety results in high performance with increased growth and innovation for the company, while low psychological safety leads to fear, and in some cases, employees going into survival mode.

In conclusion, the pandemic has created a renewed need for businesses to implement agile, but companies should first ensure there is psychological safety in the workspace.

Source: Harvard business review

By Victoria Labisi Biodun-Bello, Consultant at Pink Bay


Interested in an introduction?