7 Habits and Agile Teams (Part 1)

Overview

This blog introduces a concept that I will build on in subsequent entries.

Perhaps Stephen Covey’s most popular contribution to personal performance management is the concepts he shares in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Long before I heard about Agile, I was part of a professional services company that had Franklin Planner training as standard training element for its employees. I still remember the instructor’s name, Rory Aplanap; a name like that is easy to remember. Rory taught the class with enthusiasm, articulating the principles and the practices that the 7 Habits book lays out. He also taught us how to use the Franklin Planner system to support the 7 Habits.

For those who are not familiar with the 7 Habits, they are:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win/Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw

I see some strong parallels between the 7 Habits and high performing Agile teams. Here is a quick preview of some of the correlations I will expand upon in future posts:

Be Proactive – Teams are responsible for themselves and their work. As one example, this behavior manifests itself in teams making iteration commitments in Scrum and team members stretching beyond their traditional roles to help realize that goal. Teams decide how they are going to function and how to respond to stimuli from both within and outside their team.

Begin with the End in Mind – This concept is present in planning that begins with a product vision, and is then unfolded to become releasable increments, stories and tasks. All this work takes place in the context of some shared vision that the team is working to bring into reality.

Put First Things First – We strive to ruthlessly prioritize, and to maximize the amount of work not done.

Think Win/Win – The objective is to find a path by which multiple parties meet their objectives. It is not about one side winning and the other losing.

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood – For an Agile team, it is not about blindly following along in a task list that somebody has created for you; it’s about really understanding what is needed, and then sharing your perspective and concerns.

Synergize – Think about the collaboration between the Product Owner and the Team that results in a solution that is better than if the parties had worked independently.

Sharpen the Saw – This might be in the form of learning new engineering practices, having time to investigate a new and interesting technology, or simply celebrating as a team.

As I mentioned a the outset, this is simply an overview of the topic, and I will expand on it further in upcoming entries.

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