Why Active Listening is Key for Successful Delivery of Agile Based Projects
A man realized that he could not hear very well and that he had to buy a hearing aid, but did not want to spend too much money on it. So he went to the store and asked the clerk…
“How much do hearing aids cost?” The clerk responded “It depends, they run from two dollars to two thousand.” “Let me see the two dollar model” the man said.
The clerk hung a string around the man’s neck.
“Just put this button in your ear and stick this string in your pocket.” “How does it work?” asked the customer. “It doesn’t work, but when people see it on you they’ll speak louder.”
Actually our communication problems are not due to people speaking softly but mostly due to the fact that many of us are not good listeners. The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand but we listen to reply. Presently you see more organizations acknowledging the importance that people want to be listened to, hence one company’s motto: “We listen better” and another stating, “We hear you”.
Agile development is more of an iteratively incremental approach in which requirements and solutions evolve through communication and collaboration between self-organizing and cross-functional teams. Agile promotes ‘building the right thing’ through customer involvement, adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, continuous improvement and encourages rapid & flexible response to change in delivering high quality product or service.
Now since Agile encourages team to be cross-functional, most challenging aspect of a cross-functional team is the functional or technical silos, which often results in team deliverables ‘thrown over the wall’ between Architects, BAs, SAs, Designers, Developers and Testers. The problem here is not due to lack of coordination, but more due to lack of collaboration in which teams are not syncing on overall shared objectives. So for a cross-functional team to work as a collaborative unit, ‘Active Listening’ is the key in which each team is ‘listening to understand and not listening to reply’. Practicing the basics of ‘Active Listening’ includes:
- Focusing your complete attention to the speaker.
- Asking open-ended questions to gather elaborative information.
- Documenting gathered information in tool or a document.
- Getting the summarized information reviewed.
For any project, Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies (RAID) are very critical for its successful execution. Instead of making a lot of assumptions, ‘Active Listening’ helps us clear up many of the gaps when we detach emotions and instead pay focused attention to the speaker. Please share your thoughts on ‘Active Listening’ and how you think it’s key for any project, but more for an Agile based project.