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Individuals and Interactions: An Agile Guide

Most people’s communication skills could use significant improvement. Adopting just a few of the tips from this chapter may help you significantly enhance the interactions you engage in on your project.
This chapter is from the book

After focusing on team dynamics, the team was behaving a little bit more like an agile team. They were self-managing and respectful of one another's behavioral styles. Lydia noticed, however, that some of the individuals were better at communicating than others. For example, she noticed that whenever a new idea was brought to Sean, he always initially responded with the words, "Yes, but..." This promoted a negative atmosphere. So Lydia decided to take a step back and discuss some general communication protocols with the team to foster a more productive environment.

Imagine a world without communication. On a typical day, consider how much communication is involved. In just the first few hours of a typical day, think about how many times you either send or receive some form of communication. Did you say "Good morning!" to the people you live with? Did you turn on the TV, open junk mail, read the newspaper, or send an email? We participate in most forms of communication without conscious awareness that we are communicating.

Figure 4.1 depicts Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. According to Maslow, when core physiological needs in the base level are met (food, water, sleep, and so on), most of the remaining needs are fulfilled through some interaction with other people. In other words, communication is a seminal human need. Recall in the fictional movie Castaway, Tom Hank's character used a volleyball to create an artificial companion to fulfill his insatiable need to communicate.

Figure 4.1

Figure 4.1 Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Because communication is a core need of healthy people, you'd expect most people to work hard at becoming skillful communicators. In actuality, most people's communication skills could use significant improvement.

While reading this chapter, keep a conscious eye on your own communication skills and seek out areas for improvement. Adopting just a few of the tips here may help you significantly enhance the interactions you engage in on your project.


When speaking or writing, you have many choices regarding language. Consider the following variations of the same statement:

  • I want to talk to you about your business requirements.
  • I need to talk to you about your business requirements.
  • I'd like to talk to you about your business requirements.
  • Let's talk about your business requirements.
  • Let's talk about the business requirements.
  • Can I talk to you about your business requirements?
  • May I talk to you about your business requirements?
  • We need to talk about your business requirements.
  • You need to tell me about your business requirements.

Each of these nine statements seeks the same thing, but notice how each makes you feel as you read it. As you read them, imagine yourself as the speaker and then as the listener. Consider which of these puts you more at ease from both sides of the conversation.

As the old adage goes, "It's not necessarily what you say, but how you say it." Refined communication skills are the best tools you can have in your tool chest. There are many, many resources on effective communication skills. Most probably offer useful advice, and this book won't attempt to cover all the best practices of effective communication. Instead, we cover a collection of heavy hitters—those communication practices that tend to be redundantly emphasized in the pop psychology texts.

Whenever an adjective is clunked in front of the word communication, such as good, effective, high impact, and so on, the descriptor is always subjective. The polished presentation by the Cutko knife salesperson to a married couple may dazzle one member of the couple, yet annoy the other.

Therefore, when trying out the communication tips offered in this chapter, try experiencing them from both sides of the table. For example, as with the variations on a theme on the previous page, imagine yourself as the sender and as the receiver of each statement.

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