Ask Santa For Becoming Part Of The Digital Elite: Read This Book

Curiosity is fundamental for an #Agile, growth-and-people-obsessed mindset and the latter is the only way forward in the knowledge economy.

Moreover, the willingness to learn and the openness of being eternally interested in what’s new is so the sine qua non condition in our fast-moving VUCA world that after a long debate, we’ve decided to measure it in our Psychological Safety Works software solution. Both how we self-report our interest in learning and how others perceive our willingness to do so. We agonised over this, as the need for continuous learning, while covered abundantly by common sense isn’t truly encouraged in the workplace and people have serious cause to mistrust the enterprise’s investment in having them learn.

Humans learn best through storytelling. That’s no news to anyone. Which is one of the reasons why I keep harping on about how, aside from reading everything prof dr. Amy Edmondson has ever written about Teaming and Psychological Safety and other must-reads such as The DevOps Handbook or The Culture Code, one should absolutely consume The Phoenix Project which I refer to in my talks at times as “chick-lit for DevOps” because it’s the only one of these necessary reads that translate dry, big lessons into an amazingly relatable story. 

When I realised that it will soon cease to be “the only one” I could barely sleep of excitement. On the 26th of November, we’re getting a new one! The Unicorn Code by the same amazing Gene Kim is telling an alternative story happening to a female lead developer Maxine exiled from the Phoenix project. Obviously, I want you to read it so much, that if I had a choice between you pre-ordering it and reading my book on banking I would absolutely want you to do the former.

Knowing what I know from LinkedIn-level-stalking Gene from afar, and seeing what he has been involved in, including his contribution to DOES and my favourite report of all time – The State of DevOps, it’s little wonder I was excited about what he will outline in the book but reading this interview has gotten me even more thrilled as it speaks about the Five Ideals: 1. Locality and Simplicity; 2. Focus, Flow and Joy; 3. Improvement of Daily Work; 4. Customer Focus and 5. Psychological Safety.

With my obsession for concepts and my love of the last one cited, I’d argue that number 2 and 3 -“focus, flow and joy” and “improvement of work”- are at least partly if not entirely contained in Psychological Safety, but without reading the book I can’t tell if they are underlined thorough different storylines. This above is incidentally, not the order Gene mentions them in, but I presume he doesn’t have a specific hierarchy in mind anyhow as they are -hopefully- equally important but I left the most important one that gets me most excited for last.

Here’s why it’s amazing news that it will be featured as an important part of this: because Psychological Safety as the magic teams have when they function as a family – brave enough to be vulnerable and non-posturing, open enough to grow and invested enough to create and innovate is obvious once you hear about it but to do so, you have to really listen and storytelling always gets people listening better than they would to cold hard facts or even the results of a Google study.

While there is growing awareness about the topic and we meet more and more enterprises by they day who get how Psychological Safety is as equally fundamental to potential success of the digital elite as the technology chosen and the way of work it is employed in, having it spelled out in a story form can only help and further that as we need not only leaders to work out without it they shouldn’t even pretend they are trying to succeed, but everyone to get it bottom-up as well. 

Interestingly, in the interview above, Gene confirms that the Phoenix Project was aimed at leadership whereas the Unicorn Project is aimed at developers and I think that’s tremendously astute and necessary. 

As I keep saying, at the risk of being annihilated by the darts shot from the eyes of HR and micro-managing middle management alike, we have collectively severely mistreated our people, -developers in particular!- by inflicting mindless and soul-killing processes and performance management systems and the occasional wooden-language survey on them, yet not“hearing them”, not focusing on team bubbles that make them productive and happy and generally, not caring about their wellbeing. 

As a result, they utterly mistrust the organisation when it says it now cares and wants what’s best so will herald in a new era of autonomy, respect, better morale, learning and growth, and everything nice. They simply don’t buy it in the least at first. Which is why stories like this one, and results such as the reports mentioned above are crucial because they bring home the point that the enterprise now has to make these substantial cultural changes as a life-or-death business imperative, not a lip-service moral one. 

So let’s all pre-order it and read it because it brings that distant day in the future when everyone will have Psychological Safety monitoring and increase as a major OKR far closer, and that’s Xmas-wish-list-level of immensely good news for all of us! 

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