Freedom and Responsibility

Now I want to start talking explicitly about freedom and responsibility — the twins.

For most normal people, freedom and responsibility come together. That is, we are only free when we accept responsibility. This may seem like a paradox, like saying, “We are only free when we become a slave,” but it is not.

If we are free, we must take responsibility to decide and act. In the team, for example.

We must take responsibility to explain this to managers. “Leave us alone until the end of the Sprint,” is a phrase we must be adult enough to repeat often. (And be forgiving enough to be willing to repeat again and again.)

Now, contrary to what you were typically taught, God gave managers freedom and you have no right to abrogate it.

In a relationship, no decent person wishes to be loved by a slave. One wishes the love, each day, to be truly given, not required.

In a roughly similar way, the magic of the team operates at a higher level when they are free to give what they want, to give what magically comes to their heads in the team.

This is not foolishness. If the team goes for a while and comes up with not much, a manger might need to add something to the soup. But, the manager is looking to add a simple constraint or idea that will juice the team to freer creativity — not to put a box around them and make them work harder.

So, let me repeat a few key ideas:

  1. Workers are, by and large, worthy of freedom and responsibility.
  2. Managers should be ashamed to assume, tacitly or explicitly, that workers have, even for one moment, given up any freedom.
  3. Both managers and workers are human and make mistakes.
  4. Neither managers nor workers, in general, are evil. (Yes, there are managers who have been poorly taught the art of managing. Yes, there are a few evil managers, but all managers do not deserve to be blamed because of the faults of a few.)

Very good people sometimes misunderstand these ideas when they try to put them into action. We saw this in what is now called the Place de la Concorde, with the guillotine. It is for us to forgive them, forgive ourselves and remind.

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