Fair Process and Agile – going further than the Scrum Team

A client I worked with about 2 years ago mentioned that in senior management training, his organization was emphasizing Fair Process as a key tool for enhancing decision quality and team commitment.

It sounded interesting, but I didn’t have a chance to dive too deep into the concept.

Over time, it made more and more sense. What is Fair Process? well quoting http://meatballwiki.org/wiki/FairProcess:

FairProcess, or procedural justice, universally requires adherance to three principles:

Engagement. Involve individuals in the decisions that involve them. Get their input, allow them to actively PeerReview the ideas on the table. Respect individuals for their ideas.

Explanation. Everyone involved and affected must understand the reason why the decisions were made. Demonstrating the rationale behind decisions shows people that you have considered their opinions thoughtfully and impartially. Not only will this make people trust the decision maker but it will help them learn.

Expectation clarity. Once a decision is made, clearly specify the expectations for the people involved, what responsibilities they have. Even if the expectations are demanding, people want to know by what standards they will be judged and what penalties there will be for failure. Understanding what to do reduces useless political manouevering and it allows people to focus on the task at hand.

When I look at the managers I had a chance to work with as well as my management style, I find that I was much more committed and engaged when my manager employed Fair Process (whether he knew he was using it or not). And also I felt my team was more committed and engaged as well as devised better plans when my style was oriented towards what I now can name “Fair Process”.

Getting to the Agile world, I think its quite clear that Scrum advocates an extreme version of Fair Process in the Scrum Team, and other Lean/Agile approaches take a similar stance as well.

But don’t stop there. If you want your organization to be Lean/Agile, think about how your team can enjoy a bit of Fair Process, even if its a management team, a steering team, etc.

Some examples of decision-making processes that can benefit from Fair Process:

  • Roadmap/Release Backlog Prioritization among a Product Management team (btw this is related to Perpetual Multi-Voting but don’t forget to add in a conversation…)
  • How is our Agile process going to look?
  • How do we want to allocate our capacity between the various investment themes?
  • Which defects do we want to fix, which do we waive?
  • Do we release, or do we do more stabilization?

Exercise for the reader – Think about decisions your team made in the last month. What was the process for making that decision? What are your thoughts on the quality of that decision, and how engaged the team members were to it?

Another reference for Fair Process is http://wwwling.arts.kuleuven.be/fll/grammars/fairprocess.pdf

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