Heartfelt Emotionalism is the new Hardcore

This article has been removed. An edited version appears in the book, The People’s Scrum, published by Dymaxicon, May 2013.
Read original comments…

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!

5 responses to “Heartfelt Emotionalism is the new Hardcore

  1. Good stuff, Toby

    I recently made an experiment during a course I facilitated: I had attendants build a product using Scrum. The product was a theatre play that explained Scrum. Half the course became incredibly enthusiastic about it. One fourth was paralyzed by shear fear. But the most interesting fraction was the remaining fourth: these people yelled all sorts of pseudo-analytical stuff on why my proposal was all wrong.
    I reckon fear is useful, as long as you acknowledge you’re afraid. When you blindly hide it, all sorts of problematic process explosions start blocking your daily work.

  2. Stop touching me

    [Nonsense removed]

  3. Toby, I find your delineation between micro-management and the scrum style of management to be quite refreshing; also, it seems intuitively obvious…

  4. Interesting stuff Toby and particularly relevant in the current climate. Staff that feel valued, trusted and free to get on and do their jobs are, in my experience, a damn site more productive and happier in their jobs than those that under autocratic rule.

    Not just hardcore but, Happy Hardcore!

  5. Pingback: Penultimate | Agile Anarchy

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