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Lack of trust

"Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done."

— The 5th Principle, Principles behind the Agile Manifesto.

Theory X and Theory Y are two contrasting management styles developed by Douglas McGregor, a management theorist in the 1960s:

  • Theory X is a management style that assumes employees dislike work, are lazy, and must be closely supervised and controlled. This theory assumes that employees do not desire responsibility and will avoid it whenever possible. Managers who follow this theory believe that employees require constant direction and must be motivated through rewards or punishment.

  • Theory Y is a management style that assumes employees are self-motivated, responsible, and can work independently with little supervision. This theory assumes that employees seek challenging work and take ownership of their roles. Managers who follow this theory believe that employees want to be involved in decision-making and have the desire to take on responsibility.

Sustainable high-performance teams can only exist within the Theory Y management style. Theory X can achieve temporary high performance and success using estimates and deadlines to increase pressure and hold the team accountable. In the long run, it only leads to decreased quality, stress, anxiety, burnout and failure.

The problem with Theory X is that accountability is not sustainable. On the other hand, ownership is sustainable. Trust leads to autonomy and ownership; autonomy and ownership lead to productivity; productivity leads to success and motivation, ultimately leading to further trust.

Trust is the flame that sparks the virtuous cycle of success. When the leadership provide the product team with the level of trust it deserves. The product team's response to this ownership.

Trust is a fundamental element of The Agile Manifesto and a key component of high-performance teams. The following list contains some common manifestations of a lack of trust:

Estimation and planning are valued over discovery

The leadership team declare a commitment to making the organization more Agile. Still, the reality is that they can't let go of their old Waterfall ways. Theory X managers value planning and estimates over discovery because they don't trust the team. Theory Y managers trust that the team will do the right thing and empowers them to make decisions.

Outputs are valued over outcomes

Outputs are a performance metric in Theory X. Outcomes are a performance metric in Theory Y.

Lack of flexible work arrangement

Demanding all employees to be from nine to five at the office indicates Theory X management. Flexible and remote work are indicators of Theory Y management.