Last week’s post gave an overview of a recovering conventional manager’s (me!) six learnings from Agile. This post expands on the first of the six: creating contexts that value and liberate people.

In the course of their learning about software development, the founders of Agile came to understand that their front-line creative teams were their greatest resource. They came to see that small teams created amazing results — when they were truly liberated, left to organise themselves and to work on challenges in their own ways. The magic happened when people were not told what do in any detail, but were allowed to find their own way. In particular, the results were most amazing when groups of diverse people were put together in ways that allowed them to meet a challenge from beginning to end, and continually to create working products that delivered customer value.

The leadership conclusion I draw from this is that there is tremendous power for people and for the organisation in trusting people to work together in teams, valuing them for their creative gifts. Instead of the conventional command-and-control ethos (“Tell them what to do and monitor them”), give people a challenge and trust them to get the job done. Again and again, I have seen this approach free and invite people to do their creative best, to feel inspired and liberated, and especially to thrive off the diversity of the range of their colleagues’ talents. In several of the post-conventional leadership frameworks I have experienced, we think of this as creating a container for creativity and innovation.  It is the opposite of command and control. It means creating a space for people to be free to bring forward their own solutions – in their diversity.

Next post: Making and “shipping” vs. planning and perfecting.