I was recently described as “touchy-feely” in my approach to teaching Agile. This is almost always said as an insult, and while I can take it with a pinch of salt, the fear and ignorance behind such a statement inevitably makes me sad. I find that too many people throw out that term to describe anything they don’t really understand around human interaction especially in the software world. It is way of making light of a form of interaction that many software engineers and related folk find very difficult. Dismissing such interaction as “touchy-feely” or “soft” is a way of avoiding it. It is a cop-out.
There is a perception in our industry that ordering people around, setting schedules, micro-directing, threatening people with demotion and termination and generally being fierce is a hardcore approach to management, while the approach of listening, trusting, fostering healthy dialog, promoting self-organization and resolving conflicts is dismissed as “touchy-feely”, or “soft”. How topsy-turvy is that! It is surely the other way around.
Command and control management is fear-based management. The approach is all bluster and no courage. There is nothing “hard” about it, indeed its resulting ineffectiveness show it to be utterly flaccid. Impotent.
My colleague Matt Smith, the Improv teacher says about his improvisation exercises, “nothing soft here; this is the hard stuff — this takes real courage”. Working successfully with people is immensely challenging and tough. This is not touchy-feely, this is heartfelt emotionalism; this is not soft-skills, this is hardcore.
The Scrum mindset requires us to challenge every single assumption we have ever had. No kidding. If you find yourself using the term “touchy-feely” when things get uncomfortable, or describing human relationship-building as soft, stop for a moment and reflect on your motives. Are you hiding? Are you embarrassed? Are you afraid? Be honest. Chances are, that is exactly what is happening. Reframe your statement, and begin to appreciate how good personal relationships underlie all successful team work, and thus successful product creation. And recognize that building such relationships takes immense courage.
Come on, get in touch with your heartfelt emotionalism — be hardcore!
- Anarchism: the rejection of all forms of coercive control and authority
-- American Heritage Dictionary
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