Non-Violent Communication for Agile Teams

This content is syndicated from Edge of Chaos | Agile Development Blog by Olga Kouzina. To view the original post in full, click here.

As the heading suggests, today I’d like to take a brief look at the concept of non-violent communication. Communication means really a lot for software development teams. If something goes wrong, there are misunderstandings, and if people have misunderstandings they are not working well as a team. Which, in its turn, takes toll on the software they deliver. Messed up releases, uncoordinated efforts, misunderstood motivations, assuming others miss some points, because those others didn’t tell all the people involved about their reasons for this or that action… This might sound all too familiar for our “develop-deliver” team environments. Hmm, and I wonder why there’re no soap operas about software development teams…
children's drawing
The  issues of communication have been on my radar for quite long. I was figuring things out to myself, and a huge support in this self-powered research came from Bob Marshall, who’s been tweeting quotes from the book by M. Rosenberg, called “Non-Violent Communication“. I rarely insist that some book is a must-read. Actually, the last time I did that was about 2 years ago, in my Mastery vs. GTD blog. Now I can say that the NVC book is a true must-read as well. Its fields of application are so versatile. Anywhere where people get together, share the same space, work as one team — these principles will overhaul the ways of thinking and living, fostering harmonious environments.

Very briefly, to put it in my own words, non-violent communication shifts the emphasis from “resolving conflicts” to “identifying needs”. Conflicting feelings and behaviors originate from people’s needs met or unmet. Even if there’re no obvious conflicts in a team, but some unmet needs are simmering under the surface, then actions would be tainted, relations would be tainted, and all of that would boil down to what we refer to as “lack of communication“.

needs-feelings-met

Here’s how lack of communication manifests itself most commonly:

  • (A) Why haven’t you done that and that?
  • (B) I didn’t know.
  • (A) Why haven’t you asked sooner?

….that’s where confused silence ensues, and that’s where we tap on simmering unmet needs. Why was it easier for person (B) not to ask sooner? Why person (A) didn’t bother to make sure that person (B) knows what needs to be done? Who was supposed to check on whom? This quick interlude can spark a dozen questions which in turn would bring in more questions. Digging to the roots of unmet needs requires empathy, compassion, and self-compassion as well.  These people skills are oftentimes ignored in software development teams.  Seems like no safety buffers are left, and people’s skills can only be ignored at our own peril. If the technical part is all handled to a T, and something is still wrong, then it’s time to look for the reasons in the people’s part.  That’s where non-violent communication steps in.

Stay tuned to our blog for more installments on non-violent communication.

Similar posts:

Are You Dumb?

The Dangers of Small Talk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

20 − seven =


There are 101 ways to do anything.
To find the best way, sometimes you need expert help

What People Say

“Kelly is an Agile heavy-weight. He came in to assess my multi-million $ Agile development program which wasn’t delivering the right throughput. He interviewed most of the team and made some key recommendations that, when implemented, showed immediate results. I couldn’t ask for more than that except he’s a really nice guy as well.”

DAN PULHAM, DIGITAL DIRECTOR
TELSTRA

“I worked with Kelly on many projects at IPC and I was always impressed with his approach to all of them, always ensuring the most commercially viable route was taken. He is great at managing relationships and it was always a pleasure working with him.”

BEATRIZ MONTOYA/CONSUMER MARKETING DIRECTOR
IPC MEDIA

“Kelly is an extremely talented and visionary leader. As such he manages to inspire all around him to achieve their best. He is passionate about agile and has a wealth of experience to bring to bear in this area. If you're 'lucky' he might even tell you all about his agile blog. Above all this, Kelly is great fun to work with. He is always relaxed and never gets stressed - and trust me, he had plenty of opportunity here! If you get the chance to work with Kelly, don't pass it up.”

GILES BENTLEY, DEVELOPMENT & OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
TIME INC

“Kelly came to the department and has really made a huge impact on how the department communicates, collaborates and generally gets things done. We were already developing in an agile way, but Kelly has brought us even more into alignment with agile and scrum best practices, being eager to share information and willing to work with us to change our processes rather than dictate how things must be done. He is highly knowledgable about agile development (as his active blog proves) but his blog won't show what a friendly and knowledgeable guy he is. I highly recommend Kelly to anyone looking for a CTO or a seminar on agile/scrum practices - you won't be disappointed!”

ANDY JEFFRIES/TECHNICAL LEAD
IPC MEDIA

“Kelly was a brilliant CTO and a great support to me in the time we worked together. I owe Kelly a great deal in terms of direction and how to get things done under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thanks Kelly.”

JULIE PEEL
GLASS'S INFORMATION SERVICES

“Kelly revolutionised the way our digital department operated. A true advocate of agile principles, he quickly improved internal communication within our teams and our internal clients by aligning our business and creating a much enhanced sense of transparency in the decisions the business was making. Kelly also introduced a higher sense of empowerment to the development teams...”

PETER SILVA-JANKOWSKI
IPC MEDIA

“Kelly and I worked together on a very large project trying to secure a new Insurer client. Kelly had fantastic commercial awareness as well as his technical expertise. Without him I would never had secured this client so I owe a lot to him. He is also a really great guy!”

GINA MILLARD
GLASS'S INFORMATION SERVICES

“I worked with Kelly whilst at Thoughtworks and found him to be a most inspiring individual, his common-sense approach coupled with a deep understanding of Agile and business makes him an invaluable asset to any organisation. I can't recommend Kelly enough.”

PETER THATCHER, SENIOR ACCOUNT DIRECTOR
ThoughtWorks

“Kelly was a great colleague to work with - highly competent, trustworthy and generally a nice bloke.”

HANNAH JOYCE
GLASS'S INFORMATION SERVICES

“Kelly’s a leading program director with the ability to take charge from day one and keep strong momentum at both a program and project level driving prioritisation, resourcing and budgeting agendas. Kelly operates with an easy-going style and possesses a strong facilitation skill set. From my 5 months experience working with Kelly, I would recommend Kelly to program manage large scale, complex, cross company change programs both from a business and IT perspective.”

LUKE SHARKEY /STRATEGY & IMPLEMENTATION LEADER
SUNCORP

“Kelly was engaged as a Program Director on a complex business and technology transformation program for Suncorp Commercial Insurance. Kelly drew on his key capabilities and depth of experience to bring together disparate parties in a harmonised way, ensuring the initiate and concept phases of the program were understood and well formulated. Excellent outcome in a very short time frame. ”

BRUCE WEIR/EGM
SUNCORP

CONTACT US

To explore how we can help you, please get in touch