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Opinion: Soft skills Leverage Value on Agile Projects

By April 15, 2019April 20th, 20222 Comments2 min read

“Potential is all of the resources you have in front of you. Efficiency is putting those resources to use effectively.” — Garrett Gunderson

I hear all the time that we live in interesting times (meaning challenging, regressive/progressive – depending on how you view the world) – but I believe every time is an interesting time.  In software development, the above quote seems especially apt for our times considering that the pace of technology (Moore’s law) continues to accelerate, AI is beckoning at our door with self-driving cars and robotics, and the race to be first in anything and everything (a US stronghold) appears to dominate our workplaces.

In our pursuit of good/better/best solutions, I believe that the technical teams often overlook the gains that could be gained from clear communication and cross-cultural team collaboration. In other words, the value of soft skills (meaning acceptance, emotional intelligence, honesty, embracing differences) are often overlooked in favor of technological advances.

One of the biggest elephants in the room (in my humble opinion) is the fact that technical professionals (programmers, systems analysts, scrum masters) are much more well versed in the hard, technical skills than they are in the soft, people skills.  The barrier or crevasse between different types of people (for example marketing and IT professionals) remains one of the biggest, unspoken gaps in software development.

I already anticipate the responses – Agile HAS increased overall collaboration and cross team/discipline understanding, but the basic human diversity remains an issue.

To check your soft skills or collaboration level with your team (all members of your co-located or geographically dispersed team) – take a look at this checklist.  If you cannot answer at least 2 of these questions for each team member, then the communication and true collaboration could use some work:

  • Do you know what order your team members would prioritize the following values: Honesty, directness, kindness, punctuality, teamwork?
  • What is one activity that each team member looks forward to doing on the weekend?
  • What kind of pets do your team members have?
  • What is the favorite food of your team members?
  • Where did your team members go for vacation in the past 18 months?

You might say that these things are invasive, personal details that don’t belong in workplace conversation. And, depending on your company, the culture might allow or prevent such disclosures.

I present these as a few questions to consider – and food for thought for advancing collaboration.  What do you think?

Are soft skills overlooked on your team?

2 Comments

  • Manfred says:

    Soft skills are often the critical success factor.
    Technical skills can be learned – soft skills are much harder to change.

    • Thanks for reading Manfred! I agree – soft skills are often difficult… especially when people don’t realize (or appreciate) their value. #wedontknowwhatwedontknow