Rediscovering the Obvious

…stumbling in the footsteps of greatness

Three things

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  1. Trust
  2. Value
  3. Integrity

These three things are what I find to be the three critical aspects of all of the professional (and personal) relationships I share.

Trust, for me, is continually completing the things I say I will do. Trust is easily built by committing to a small item, then successfully providing that small item. On the other hand, trust cannot be achieved by being told what to do and then doing it. I’ll keep Kanban mostly out of this post, but this an aspect of why pull works. Trust can be lost, but it can also be regained, and even very low-trust relationships can be successfully transformed through the relentless pursuit of improvement.

Value is key, in business. Every relationship and communication carries transaction costs and coordination costs. Within the context of the responsibility your trust has permitted you, each individual must strive to provide maximal value to those around them. In exchange, that value will be returned, possibly multiplied. Perceived value is the down-payment on a relationship, delivered value is the rent. Words can create a relationship, but only actions can sustain it. Otherwise, casual (low cost) relationships will slowly wither, one-sided relationships will wither quickly with one person being frustrated, and painful (high-cost) relationships will be terminated. Often, the processes of gaining trust and delivering value are tightly related. However, value is very time-sensitive (here comes real options), while trust suffers only from the slow effects of entropy. This is how long-term partnerships are built across many short engagements.

Integrity is the cornerstone of all of these. Integrity is ethics, morals, and much more. Of these three topics, integrity is the only one that starts full, and it’s the hardest to refill when it’s been lost. Integrity can be lost, and it can be made visible to others. Occasionally, in exceptional circumstances, it can be regained. Integrity means that you stand up for what you believe, for the rights of others, and for just the "right thing". It means you admit your failures, and acknowledge the need to rebuild trust and value in the face of difficulties. It means you acknowledge and respect the trust and value offered by others, abstaining from activities that knowingly hurt others. Oh, and the other thing, integrity doesn’t count when it’s easy, you only get points for it when it’s hard. Integrity is advising a competitor of a potential leak or security risk, rather than unethically using those errors. Integrity is accepting the fault for the entire project failing, and then doing something about it. Integrity is refusing to let the general apathy rule the day.

These three things are critical to myself, and to any enterprise with which I am associated. As my personal and professional networks expand I am also recognizing that each of these things has a network effect as well. The more people with whom I have engendered trust, the more default trust I seem to have from their trusted peers. This was especially visible at Agile2008. It was my first entry into the Agile world directly, but the trust and value exchanges with people at the APLN Summit two weeks before somehow gave me direct access into the speaker circle, and as a result I spent much of the conference learning (and hopefully helping others learn) with the most respected individuals there. What’s more interesting, is that I can trace the chain of connections back to a single lunch I shared in Chicago during 2005. That chain could have been broken at any time by a failure on any of the three items above.

Written by erwilleke

October 4th, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response to 'Three things'

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  1. Eric,

    I agree that these are the basics, especially integrity, because it’s basically the first two, but through time. If you have integrity, you will have to have a good sense of value and trust in yourself.

    More significantly, a lack of integrity on its own is something that even a small kid will sense. These aren’t necessarily complex concepts. Hipocracy can be smelled easily. Even if no one in a group has the guts to confront hypocrites, they are usually very aware of it. As a result, I just find it easier being true to what I say, so that I don’t need to think about other peoples’ opinions. It tends to be rewarding for its own sake anyway.


    3 Apr 12 at 5:26 am

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