How to Demonstrate Trustworthiness: A Key Success Factor for Distributed Agile Teams

Mark Kilby is an agile mentor playing many roles on the software and product lifecycle stage. Currently, Mark serves as an agile coach with Sonatype, a completely distributed agile software development company, focusing on automation of software supply chains. Previously, Mark has led agile transformations from startups to Fortune 50 companies.

Some of the best agile software teams I ever worked with communicated well, would push hard to meet deadlines, supported each other when struggling with issues, and went above and beyond to maintain quality. But why?

The key element was trustworthiness. In this article, I’ll provide a self-assessment tool that will allow you and your team members to assess and demonstrate trustworthiness over time.

Building Connection Was Not Enough
When first learning agile over 15 years ago, many experts emphasized “values” to strengthen agile teams. Yet, not many approaches were provided to help a team adopt values like courage, communication and respect (especially if this was not part of the organization’s values). I strongly desired these for my teams, but they still seemed out of reach to me as a new agile coach. An even greater challenge: almost all of my teams were distributed.

I looked for what could work. First, I focused on "connection" with my distributed agile teams. I built this connection by improving my facilitation and one-to-one coaching skills. I also developed distributed retrospectives that would help teams get to the heart of their connection issues. My teams started to improve and became more effective. But there was more.

A 2013 TED talk by Onora O’Neill helped clarify what…

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I have made good judgements in the past. I have made good judgements in the future.

- Dan Quayle

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