Agile isn’t about trust…

Many people have said that “Agile is all about trust”, and I have sort of agreed. Up till recently. A collegue and me had a lunch conversation with Mary Poppendieck at XP2006 in Oulu. Mary talked a lot about the relation Toyota had built with their sub-contractors, how it was all trust, aligning sub-contractors goals with Toyotas and not pressuring the sub-contractors to minimize their prices, no matter what. Instead Toyota promised that if the sub-contractor could not meet the required price levels, Toyota would put people and knowledge into helping the sub-contractor reach that level. And, I suppose, the sub-contractor had similarly promised to make any changes to their operation to reach the level.

Such trust is of course the goal also of agile practices, responsible development and, of course, any other type of business relation. But us agile people can not start such a relation by saying “You’ll have to trust me…”

The software industry has burned those bridges far too many times already. “Well, we’ll try a more structured way to programming…”, “Ok, so that did not work, but trust us now, we have come up with this this object orientation…”, “Hmm, we understand that programming isn’t everything, so trust on this process and quality thing we’ve got going…” No, it is us agile people that have to interface with the “traditional world” first. They will never come to us just because we say that we can be trusted. We must find ways to prove, in real world combat, that there finally are ways to build a trust relation with a developing organisation.

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