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You Can’t Be Agile If You’re Not Empowered

Do you feel empowered in your job? Many people don’t. A big part of agile software development — and business agility, in general — is empowering people to change their work environments. If you can’t change anything, you can’t be agile. You can only go with the flow, and hope for the best.

By definition, being empowered means being permitted or authorized to take action. Consider the questions below. They’ll help determine how empowered you really feel.

  • Do you spend too much time waiting for others? Do you believe you can change the workflow to eliminate the delays?
  • Is your system or network infrastructure too slow? Do you think anyone would listen if you raised the issue?
  • Have you observed problems occurring repeatedly? Have you offered suggestions for preventing them?
  • Are many people around you often complaining about the same issues? Does anything ever seem to change?
  • Is someone assigned to your project who seems to add no value at all? Does management take any action?

If you answered ‘yes’ then no’ to any of the paired questions above, either you aren’t motivated to take action or you don’t feel empowered. Not being motivated is okay. If you simply want to go to work each day, do your best, and go home at a reasonable time, you’re not the problem. All we can expect of anyone is that they work hard and carry their share of the workload.

However, if problems with company culture, business processes, or management styles prevent you from offering improvement suggestions, there’s a problem. You don’t feel empowered. When people don’t feel empowered, the status quo gets locked in. When the status quo gets locked in, nothing ever changes. When nothing ever changes, businesses crash and burn.

Why would you want to work for a business that will eventually fail?

If your software team wants to adopt agile software development, for example, Scrum, Kanban, Lean or XP, you better feel empowered. The underlying cultural, procedural and managerial systems have to be supportive for agile development to succeed.

If they’re not, maybe you should find another place to work.

Updated: May 22, 2012 — 10:11 pm

1 Comment

  1. I would rephrase last sentence. if people don’t rise these question they should leave that company, because it means that they are just coming to work to do stuff. and only with proactive employees true agile is possible.

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