David Anderson presents three facets of agility:

  1. The “toolbox” of iterative development techniques
  2. The belief that people are more significant than process
  3. Trust

David points out that trust underlies the greater efficiency of agile approaches. Lean Software Development also emphasises trust.

It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing trust as a prerequisite of agility.  (I used to think that way myself.)  Seeing trust as a prerequisite is both inaccurate and counter-productive. At the very start of a business relationship, trust is naturally absent.

If trust is absent, what do you do?  You can’t build trust with PowerPoint; you have to build it with collaboration.  So we need contracts that let us start collaborating before trust is fully established.  Then, as we begin collaborating, we’ll use agile practices to build trust.

We can build trust with:

  • Visibility –  making visible progress early and often
  • Honesty.
  • Competence.

Visibility, honesty and competence reinforce each other. Competence won’t build trust unless it’s made visible.  Honesty is your only choice when progress is visible (and in itself, honesty builds trust).  Honesty is easy when it’s backed by competence (and rather awkward when it’s not!)

Finally, from day one, we need to harness the power of principled negotiation. Whether we’re trying to win the contract or simplify a complex requirement, we need the skills and mindset to seek fair and beneficial solutions for everyone.