Win - Win

Win – Win

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey Reread

Habit Four:  Think Win/Win

The fourth habit, Think Win/Win, shifts the focus from an internal point of view to habits that effect how we interact with the world around us. This shift is critical as we attempt to exert influence. Leadership reflects a move from independence (an internal point of view) to interdependence (an external point of view).  Effective interpersonal leadership requires communication, interaction and cooperation, i.e. thinking win/win. As organizations embrace and become Agile communication, interaction and cooperation become critical success criteria for projects and programs to effectively deliver value.  Competition, on the other hand, both within and between teams elicits behaviors that are designed to accentuate one person or group over another.

Covey suggests that interactions can be classified into basic 6 paradigms:

  • Win/Win – This paradigm seeks mutual benefit.  I think of this as the basic paradigm required for all Agile teams. All parties need to invest and work together to deliver value.
  • Win/Lose – One party or team wins and the other loses.  This is the classic sports paradigm, for one team to win another must lose.
  • Lose/Win – This paradigm is the alter ego of Win/Lose. The Lose/Win might be employed to keep the peace, however if it continues it can lead to passive-aggressive behaviors based on suppressed needs.
  • Lose/Lose – Simply put, if no one wins everyone loses.  The classic example of this behavior is when a child playing football gets mad and walks out of the game and takes their ball with them.
  • Win – Individuals leveraging this paradigms of interaction focus exclusively on winning, and everything else is irrelevant.
  • Win/Win or no Deal – If all parties can’t find a beneficial solution they walk away.

IT Projects are perfectly suited for the Win/Win paradigm of interaction.  Unfortunately many organizational structures make win/win difficult.  For example, organizations that embrace decimation (cutting those who are perceived to be the lowest 10%) will elicit competitive rather than cooperative behaviors. This management style generates a mentality of scarcity focused on jobs, making a win/win mentality for team members economically irrational. This is the antithesis of the behavior we would expect in an Agile team.  I recently observed the interaction between a development team incented on time-to-market and a testing group incented on the number of defects found and reported during testing.  The conflicting goals set up a win/lose confrontation between the two groups.  If the focus of both teams had been on customer satisfaction, both teams could have developed a win/win relationship.

Developing a culture of win/win is not as easy as waving a magic wand.  Embracing win/win requires integrity, maturity and a belief in abundance.  Developing a win/win paradigm often means reviewing how we manage and incent.  Like embracing Agile, embracing win/win means organization change. However if you are interested in becoming Agile, you are interested in win/win.