One of the big reasons why I started Deeply Agile is that the processes and concepts around Agile just don’t seem to be enough to shift people & spaces out the old, hierarchical, waterfall way of doing and thinking. Agile is about collaboration & autonomy, neither of which just happen on their own. If the processes and principles inherent in Agile don’t automatically create collaborative spaces and teams, then what does ?
I have been toying with an answer that is a combination of three things – the people, the management and the space. Or put slightly differently, conversations, servant leadership and structures that support conversation and sharing.


We tend to ignore these, after all that’s what we do right ? Only how effective are your conversations ? How often do you walk away thinking that went well to discover that the other person really wasn’t on the same page as you after all ? When re-building your culture looking at how people talk to each other is vital, which is why the 3 day culture immersion spends so much time practicing changing the way we talk to each other and so how information is passed along.


If management is used to giving answers then they don’t create spaces where other opinions and differences are really needed or wanted. So people don’t share, even when the manager begs for input. Servant leadership switches the role of the manager into someone who facilitates the flow of conversation and information between team members and teams. A servant leader is able to create a space where people feel safe enough to disagree and spaces where teams feel empowered and capable enough to make decisions and so commitments. This is another way actually of having a conversation, one that we hardly ever get to practice.


If your meetings are around a table and you stand at the head with the whiteboard or PowerPoint then don’t wonder why no-one seems to really participate. The space is telling everyone that you are in charge. This is the way our classrooms were designed, us sitting looking forward, the teacher who was right at the front facing us, delivering the information. We have been taught and taught well that the right way to show up here is to listen and be quiet.
If you really want collaboration you need to take away the table and get people looking at each other. You need to create TIME for people to talk! First in pairs, sharing their views and then in 4’s where the pairs can share what conclusions they came to and then in 8’s or the whole group coming together. Your job here isn’t to manage the content but to ensure that everyone gets to share their thinking and then to gather that thinking at the end in a way where the group is owning the content and making the decisions. It isn’t about you being clear, it is about them being clear – after all they are the one’s who are going to be executing on this information.

When you take these three elements and combine them you are consciously creating spaces where collaboration can flourish. It takes a different way of showing up and it takes every person in the space. Just changing the structure of the space can make it easier for people to start sharing.
Which leaves me with one question. What obstacles are in place in your space that stop people from talking and sharing and what are you doing to remove them ?

If you would like to practically learn about creating collaborative spaces by changing how you show up and how the team shows up, then check out the Building Agile Cultures Workshop. The focus is one exactly that, getting people talking in a way that gets information flowing and makes commitment easy.