I Found My Voice; I did not Find My Tribe
Various Agile champions within the corporation often find themselves stuck at “level 1.5”, in between the following two levels:
- “I found my voice/passion.”
- “I found my tribe.”
The Agile champion typically gets stuck at this level in the following manner:
- He/she finds his or her voice/passion in Agile.
- Various other folks in the corporation agree with him/her and constitute kind of “private tribe.”
- However, the folks that agree are hesitant to come out of the closet and throw their full weight behind Agile.
- The corporation remains ambivalent about Agile.
This “1.5” phenomenon is at the root of a vicious cycle that dilutes companies, particularly these days:
- A round of layoffs is implemented.
- Just about everyone takes notice and tries to exhibit the “proper behavior/values.”
- Folks in the “private tribe” don’t dare come out of the closet.
- The passionate person who found his/her voice in Agile is like a fish out of the water. Sooner or later he/she looks for a tribe elsewhere.
- The company becomes more diluted on folks who are willing to try new things and have the drive to make them happen.
- The products and the supporting processes continue to be mediocre.
- Goto step 1.
IMHO The failure of many corporations to preserve Agile talent, and the resultant vicious cycle described above, is rooted in lack of appreciation how deep the connection between boredom and loneliness is. A young child does not know (nor does he/she have the vocabulary to express) what boredom is. The feeling the child expresses is that of loneliness. Only at a later stage does boredom get cognitively differentiated from loneliness. However, the two continue to be tied together emotionally.
Once the child grows up to become an Agile champion who found his/her voice, the boredom in the office is usually relieved. However, the twin sister of boredom – loneliness – cannot be satisfied through a “private tribe.” It requires full recognition and commitment within the corporation. In other words, it sort of demands that the corporation goes beyond recognizing the value (singular) of Agile and adopts the values (plural) expressed in the Agile Manifesto. If such adoption does not take place, an essential step to the formation of the tribe is curtailed . Without a full fledge tribe in his/her corporation, the induced feeling of loneliness sooner or later wears out the Agile champion.
This phenomenon, of course, applies to any professional passion an employee might pursue. John Hagel‘s Edge Perspectives post Pursuing Passion is a must-read for anyone who wonders how the corporation is impacted by losing the folks who got stuck at “level 1.5.”