Monday, February 07, 2005

Emotional Intelligence: A Key Element of Scrum

Best Wishes to you all in 2005...

Maturity and growth... Have you ever considered how we develop and which of our attributes are the most difficult to cultivate. We all grow physically without effort (providing we eat well), we all mature economically because without economic maturity we remain dependent on others and cannot achieve our goals, our intelligence quotient develops as we mature through our experiences, skillsets and knowledge.

For the more pedantic readers I will cede the point that a certain percentage of these elements are based on our genetic make-up and environmental influences, but hopefully you will understand the point I'm making.

These growth attributes are either forced on us or are natural. The one growth attribute we do not necessarily need to develop is our Emotional Intelligence.

Higgs & Dulewicz (1999), define Emotional Intelligence as "Achieving one's goals through the ability to manage one's own feelings and emotions, to be sensitive to, and influence other key people, and to balance one's motives and drives with conscientious and ethical behaviour."

Goleman (1998), further described emotional intelligence as being about:
Knowing what you are feeling and being able to handle those feelings without having them swamp you;
Being able to motivate yourself to get jobs done, be creative and perform at your peak;
Sensing what others are feeling, and handling relationships effectively


Emotional Intelligence has been proven by researchers to provide significant benefits to organisations, and high levels of emotional intelligence within the individual is a key differentiator for professional advancement and success with organisations. Organisational benefits include:
  • Improved leadership
  • More effective handling & resolution of disputes
  • More effective development of team working
  • Improved negotiations
  • More cost-effective decision making
  • Better quality problem-solving & decision-making

The Scrum team is an organisation (albeit a small one) and all Scrum teams would improve their capacity if they could recognise the benefits above. Within traditional software development projects we do not necessarily feel that we need to fully interact and gel as a team. The strategists and business analysts initiate and pass onto developers and testers, then to support and maintenance (at the helicopter level).

All these roles do not necessarily need to interact on a day-to-day basis. Within traditional projects the roles are not necessarily integrated as a team working in the same room, so the emotional intelligence capabilities are not a NECESSITY, rather they are a 'nice to have'.

Scrum suggests the use of cross-functional teams, pulling people with different roles, skills, perceptions and cultures together in a room and getting production software built every 30 days.

This has a large impact on culture, team structures, and how we interact with people. The more effective we are at communication and interaction, the more effective we will be as team members.

Emotional Intelligence as defined by Higgs & Dulewicz (1999) consists of seven specific components:
Self Awareness
Awareness of one's own feelings and the ability to recognise and manage these feelings in a way which one feels that one can control. This factor includes a degree of self-belief in one's ability to manage one's emotions and to control their impact in a work environment.

Emotional Resilience
The ability to perform consistently in a range of situations under pressure and to adapt one's behaviour appropriately. The facility to balance the needs and concerns of the individuals involved. The ability to retain focus on a course of action or need for results in the face of personal challenge or criticism.

Motivation
The drive and energy to achieve clear results and make an impact: and to balance both short and long term goals with an ability to pursue demanding goals in the face of rejection or questioning.

Interpersonal Sensitivity
The facility to be aware of, and take account of, the needs and perceptions of others when arriving at decisions and proposing solutions to problems and challenges. The ability to build from this awareness and achieve 'buy-in' to decisions and ideas for action.

Influence
the ability to persuade others to change a viewpoint based on the understanding of the position and the recognition of the need to listen to this perspective and provide a rationale for change.

Intuitiveness
The ability to arrive at clear decisions and drive their implementation when presented with incomplete or ambiguous information using both rational and 'emotional' or insightful perceptions of key issues and implications.

Conscientiousness
The ability to display clear commitment to a course of action in the face of challenge and to match 'words and deeds'; in encouraging others to support the chosen direction. The personal commitment to pursuing an ethical solution to a difficult business issue or problem.

So... Hopefully you'll have recognised that these are key competencies that would be useful for all team members. How to develop these competencies is another question. There are a number of Emotional Intelligence Questionnaires available that help us to recognise both our strengths and weaknesses and from these assessments we can work on areas of improvements and focus on changing our behaviours.

As with most things agile, the reasoning is clear and simple... the implementation is the difficulty.

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