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Trust vs. Control in Agile Leadership


I Listened to Spotify enterprise coach and Agile thought leader Henrik Knieberg's keynote and loved his analogy on Trust vs. Control. He uses the concept of traffic regulation, specifically a traffic circle vs. an intersection controlled by a stop light.

The concept here is that the stop light gives the impression of control but actually results in a system where there are far more potential Trustpoints of conflict. Whereas the traffic circle seems chaotic but reduces the number of conflict points. This is a great analogy because a traffic circle is essentially a complex adaptive system; just a few rules to follow while letting the drivers adapt to the traffic flow. Scrum is also a complex adaptive system. Just a few rules to follow (3-5-3) while letting the team inspect and adapt.

Command and control may give the semblance of control but doesn't actually result in control. The lesson here is that trust leads to control. However, it doesn't work the other way, controlling behavior results in a lack of trust and trust is the essence of Agile leadership.

-- Joel Riddle, CSP