Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Do You Turn a Vicious Cycle of Distrust Into a Virtuous Cycle of Trust?

Very often, I see this cycle occurring in studios:

I call this the "Vicious Cycle of Distrust".  Having been on both sides of this cycle, I'm quite familiar with the damage it does to a culture.

I've also seen the reverse of this cycle, I call a "Virtuous Cycle of Trust":

I've changed the term "management" to "leadership" because a significant purpose of leadership is to drive this cycle, to create safety and purpose.  I've also called out "teams and individuals" rather than "developers" because the two act differently and teams are ideally more capable than just the sum of individuals.

I've also left some question marks at the interfaces as a question to you.  What are the interactions and values that need to occur to drive a virtuous cycle of trust?  To me these include:

The Scrum Values

  • Focus. Because we focus on only a few things at a time, we work well together and produce excellent work. We deliver valuable items sooner.
  • Courage. Because we are not alone, we feel supported and have more resources at our disposal. This gives us the courage to undertake greater challenges.
  • Openness. As we work together, we practice expressing how we're doing, and what's in our way. We learn that it is good to express concerns, so that they can be addressed.
  • Commitment. Because we have great control over our own destiny, we become more committed to success.
  • Respect. As we work together, sharing successes and failures, we come to respect each other, and to help each other become worthy of respect.
What else have you seen that drives a virtuous cycle?


Unknown said...

Four concepts used by John Boyd (noted for the OODA loop) via Chet Richards ((from his book Certain to Win) and me (from the book Developing Winners) are:

Einheit: Mutual trust, unity, and cohesion

Auftragstaktik: Mission, generally considered as a contract between superior and subordinate

Schwerpunkt: Any concept that provides focus and direction to the operation. It provides actionable guidance in situations where there is no formal directions. It contributes to an outward focus. It reinforces mutual trust. It has to provide actionable guidance in situations where there is no formal direction (explicit instruction). This is what distinguishes schwerpunkt from vision.

Fingerspitzengef├╝hl (literal translation: finger feel) to describe the intuitive skill or knowledge to deal with complex and potentially chaotic situations in a way that seems ‘automatic.’ Someone that has Fingerspitzengef├╝hl for a specific context can:
• Accurately assess emerging situations
• Visualize multiple versions of the future
• Resolve issues that a novice may perceive as problematic
• Proceed with flexibility when the situation changes
• Maintain advantages

Clinton Keith said...


Thanks for this! I consider Boyd an under appreciated genius.


Dean B said...


This is an excellent site with great resources. Very in-depth and well thought out. Found the site through

What are your thoughts about Agile (SCRUM, Kanban, Lean, etc.) project management software? Do you see specific solutions in the industry that are more popular than others? Can software solutions affect productivity, workplace and product quality?

Project management software solutions that I’m aware of:
PivotalTracker, TargetProcess, CollabNet, Team Foundation Server, Yodiz, Gemini, Jira, OnTime



Dean B said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Clinton Keith said...

Hi Dean,

Thanks for the kind words.

There are some really great "agile tools" out there for helping teams to organize. The main issue I see is how they are used. I've seen them used to track individuals, manage huge unwieldy product backlogs or even task assignments that go out months in advance. This is not being agile at all, regardless of what it's called.

But for game development, tracking asset creation in production, tracking TCR/TRC checklists, even containing and manipulating a product backlog, tools can be useful.

The most common tools being used today are Jira and Hansoft.

Hope that helps!