A few weeks ago I was invited on a river trip out in California; it was an amazing time, especially having not been on whitewater for 13 years. I spent the weekend in an inflatable kayak; that's my boat flipped just downstream from a river feature called a hole. I myself, well, I was deep in the river having been pushed under by the hydraulic forces. As one of the more experienced kayakers told me afterward "you were down there for awhile."

The interesting thing is, I didn't really think twice about putting myself and boat into the situation that would almost certainly result in me swimming. Partly because as you can clearly see, the river is deep and wide there, and there's a long stretch of flat water to recover in. It was also my third time through; each time I took a progressively bigger line. And there are boats all over the place, each one has at least one professional guide in it, and all eyes are watching the person in the rapid. Both for the pleasure of watching a friend play in the river, though also to come to my aid if needed.

As the days progressed we took turns doing this: watching each other, making sure there was always a boat on safety at the bottom of each rapid, and also one waiting at the top to respond if needed. It's just a basic part of being on the river: keep each other as safe as possible.

Great agile teams are like this, too. The members look out for each other and for the business; this type of support directly enables progression and healthy risk taking. Though it doesn't just happen; it requires conversations, agreements, skills, and practice, just like on the river. And it takes trusting each others' competencies. In some cases there are artifacts, such as written team values and conflict protocols that are in place to support a team's evolution (see Team Armor for more details on these).

There are so many ways that agile, well life, really, is like a river. Entering wild running water is its own risk, reward, and story. What kind of safety do teams you work with have to progress and evolve?


Post a Comment