Agile and Psychological safety

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Way back in 2001 I was working as a solo software developer and not working in teams, just doing my part of the job in a cubicle, finally handing the code over to the next person in the manufacturing chain. It was nice to be alone in a small room (once in a cleaning closet!) as a consultant solving hard problems, but not so fun in the long run, not understanding the big picture and being able to discuss and learn from colleagues. It was all about working in projects, allocation 50% here and 50% there as a resource, when I got a link to The Manifesto for Agile software development[1] in a mailing list I was the owner for at that time. The manifesto took the essence of all obscure frameworks like Crystal, Scrum, DSDM, Extreme programming and made it easy to buy into, even for big companies. The four bullets were, and are still today:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

Björn Ek, one of the first signatories in Sweden summarised it well: “The Agile Manifesto is the perfect way to stress the basic issues that are the very foundation of methods like DSDM. THIS is the future of software development”.

Staffan, a friend of mine defines Agile crisp and short:

“Agile is an ability to adapt to unexpected changes and wisely influence the new situation to our advantage.”

/Staffan Nöteberg

I started the network Agile Sweden[2] 2002 as a mailing list. It was to become the focal point for Agile in Sweden and all the gurus of today were there, asking curious questions. Today they share their experience with others. At that point Psychological Safety was unknown to us, but ten years later the update Modern Agile[3] added Psychological Safety to the agenda:

  • Make People Awesome
  • Experiment & Learn Rapidly
  • Deliver Value Continuously
  • Make Safety a Prerequisite

Along with a definition for safety, both as a basic human need and a key to unlocking high performance, Modern Agile also actively make safety a prerequisite by confirming it before engaging in any hazardous work and to protect people’s time, information, reputation, money, health, and relationships.

Agile was created for software development but most of the principles behind it are applicable for any team today. I have implemented Scrum (as an Agile framework for teams) for several different “teams” like sports, boards, and housing cooperatives. I have even built my own house using Scrum to develop from a concrete slab to a waterproof living environment together with my team, the craftsmen. This book is also made as Scrum suggests, in small increments with continuous feedback from my team, sometimes recommending that I not only change, but also abort. But without Psychological Safety in those teams, we would not be successful.

This is a part of the book Psychological UNsafety from the trenches you can order or read more about here.

[1] Manifesto for Agile Software Development:

[2] Agile Sweden: 

[3] Modern Agile: