I wrote a post about the term “honestly” about six months ago. I was motivated to address the constant mis-use of the term. Evidently, my post had little to no impact. Almost every conversation I am engaged in has some one try to get their point across by using “Honestly…..” Once in a while, I might catch a break with someone using. “Truthfully….”. My psych major junior at IU tells me what follow is a lie. So what is the intent of someone who uses “honestly”?
This wasn’t the first misuse of a word that has bothered me. As teenagers, my lovely children would use the term “freaking”. As a father, I always felt I knew what their intent was. They had substituted “freaking” for a far worse word. While “freaking” was acceptable by society, I felt the intent was what was important. I would correct the kids when I heard it.
I keep going back to this topic because it is about intent. As a Scrum coach, I have the opportunity to observe how others communicate within their teams. I have noticed that some managers and Scrum Masters seem to have intent that goes against Scrum. Words such as “subordinate”, “my developers”, “my employees”, “QA”, “Development” and “resources” seem to send a message that the old ways and thoughts are still present even though an organization is using Scrum. Does it represent our intent of “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”? Are we viewing our teammates as a resource in the same vein as coal, cardboard, or plastic? Do we view them as teammates or our minions that we control? Do we throw them away when we are done with them?
Our teammates listen to our word and non-verbal clues to develop a perception of what our intent is. Once those perceptions are developed, they are almost impossible to change. Our teammates can tell when we are just checking the box that a task is complete. They can see through the Scrum vail that the intent is to get the next promotion or the chance to go work on something more interesting. Soon, they start checking the boxes too. Teams quit collaborating. Next thing we know, Scrum is labeled as failing. Did Scrum fail? No, Scrum brought the intent to the surface.
I have been accused of nit picking when I point out the word choices. I know I hate it when my wife points out my poor word choices, though she is usually right. If the relationships are worth having, then we should pay attention to our choice of words. Whether it is with our teammates, our Product Owner, or our children. Scrum works not because the manager is smarter than everyone else, but because the collective Scrum team is smarter than the manager. Utilizing servant leadership, Managers and CSMs are resources for the team.
Remember: The words we choose show intent. Make sure they count.
Thanks for coming in today.