The Power of Silence for Agile Leaders

The Power of Silence for Agile Leaders
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Defer to the Group

It is typical for any work group to look for leadership – for someone to lean on and tell them what to do. However, the Scrum Master, leading from expertise but not from authority, defers to the group and allows them to break the silence on issues, rather than attempt to provide the answer.

The objective in an agile context of using the power of silence is to empower the team. And in agile, in a Scrum Master role, the idea is to help the team move forward without actually being part of the team. For example, an agile leader will often be in a facilitator role in earlier stages of agile team development but needs to loosen up and gradually make a break from being a facilitator.

One of the key tenants of agile is empowerment. Ultimately, that means that every individual and every group needs to be empowered in their jobs. It’s the person or group that is closest to the action that should make most decisions regarding that action. For example, in programming, programmers are given the context and the requirements…and then they need to be empowered to make it happen within that scope. And that that includes parameters for measuring quality and success.

How Empowerment Relates to the Power of Silence

It’s all in understanding what your role is as an agile leader at any given time. For example, in agile the concept of Shu Ha Ri highlights the importance of the stage of development of a team. Derived from a Japanese martial arts concept called Shuhari, which roughly translates to “to keep, to fall, to break away”, it is important for the agile leader to participate on the team as they are learning, with the ultimate objective to separate as the team is fully empowered and has total mastery.

When you use the power of silence – in answering questions or in pulling back from facilitating and being part of the team – you are empowering the team to demonstrate mastery as a self-managing team.

How and when might you use the power of silence with your teams?

This post is part of the series: Agile Power Techniques

This is the first part of a series of four articles on ‘Agile Power Techniques’ – ways that Scrum Masters and other agile leaders can help teams be more productive, relevant and fun.

  1. Agile Power Techniques: Silence
  2. Agile Power Techniques: Over-the-Top Resourcefulness
  3. Agile Power Techniques: Enabling Creativity
  4. Agile Power Techniques: Keeping Meetings Fresh