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Try AND instead of OR
July 20th, 2011 by Joca

I recently read the post “And” Leadership written by Jim Highsmith that caught my attention on using AND instead of OR:

One of the traits I think is very important [for an agile leader or manager] is that of “And” rather than “Or” leadership. The most pressing issues to face leaders are usually paradoxical; they appear to have contradictory solutions. Take for example the paradox of needing predictable delivery with that of needing to be flexible and adapt over the life of a project.

It’s easy to be an “or” leader. Pick a side and state your case loudly, over and over until the opposition gives up. It’s much more difficult to be an “and” leader, balancing between seemingly opposite strategies. However, in our ever-changing and turbulent world, slavishly following the “one right answer” is a recipe for disaster.

It’s interesting that in many situations in agile development we face situations where we initially think it’s an OR situation but when we analyze it, we realize it’s actually an AND situation where we need to balance apparently opposing concepts:

  • freedom and responsibility
  • cross-functionality and specialization
  • continuous learning and iteration pressure

It’s interesting that this applies not only to agile development but to many aspects of our life. Should I be more concerned about my family or my job? Should I give more attention to my kids or my companion? Experiment changing or by and. 🙂

Lessons learned

Next time you face a situation with opposing concepts, instead of choosing the easy path of taking sides and being an OR person, try to figure out a way to be an AND person. It will be much more difficult to ben an AND person. Sometimes it won’t even be possible to use AND in certain situations, but just trying to figure out if it is possible will be a good exercise with interesting outcomes.

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