Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Agile, Wiki and Trust

Is there any relation between Wiki and Trust ? I know it is difficult to believe, and it is true that there is !! Many organizations and teams use Wiki just as knowledge management tool Or a collaboration tool to share information across different teams spread across geographical regions. But this tool is much powerful than just a knowledge sharing tool.

The information that is shared in this tool shows the trust, the PMs have with their development team, the trust, the customers have with the software services vendor, and the top management has with their employees.

Consider that, you are an employee of a company in sales/marketing division. Can you put the day to day activities of the prospective customers you met that day, the discussions what you are having with the various customers, status of various accounts, etc in Wiki. Why not ??

If you are not doing this, it is mainly because you want to protect your customer information from getting into your neighbor who is another sales/marketing guy. You might be worried that somebody might steal all this information. You might be worried that your information would expose some of your weaknesses in handling the customers.

Consider that you are a developer in a software services firm, and can you put all the problems(as in roadblocks, to achieve goals) you are facing in your project on official wiki ? Why not ?

If you are not doing this, it is mainly because you are worried about exposing the problems of the project to public, customers and to the management and, the finally the consequences of getting thrown out of the project.

In each of the above cases, one of the main problems is the lack of trust within the team and across teams.

As we are aware, Agile methods would succeed only in an environment where people work together with no fear or favor and with trust. Now, coming back to wiki, the amount and type of information you put on wiki without fear or favor decides how much trust is present in your team and as a whole in the organization.

I have seen many organizations having a wiki with access control. It is not bad, especially in a software services firm, while working with multiple customers, NDA would force the organization to mask information from each other. But restricting access to public domain information shows the lack of trust.

If you have read Maverick , you would understand that Ricardo Semler even goes ahead and exposes the company financial information to all employees. Initially the senior management gets worked up and starts worrying about the possible leak of financial data to competitors by employees. During that time, Ricardo asks something like,
if you don't trust your own employees, why did you hire them at the first place ?

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