The Sounds of Silence

I was never a huge Simon and Garfunkel fan but there are a few songs of theirs that really stood out for me as I was growing up.

One of them is The Sounds of Silence.

It’s a haunting vision of the future.

And it swirled in my head as I read an article by Chris Murman. Chris is a friend and colleague that I find incredibly thoughtful about his (and others) agile journeys. But the article I found was published in September 2017, so nearly a year ago. And unfortunately, I missed it.

The article is entitled – What Can You Do About Organizational Silence?

And it focuses on a common corporate cultural phenomenon where the following occurs:

  • Leaders drive most of the “thinking”
  • Alternate ideas are not brought up
  • Discussion and debate are not realized
  • Disagreement with the status quo is discouraged
  • Creative ideas aren’t even suggested

And where silence, connoting tacit agreement, is the norm.

Chris wraps up the article talking about ways to combat this. Perhaps not at an organizational (global) level, but more so at an individual (team or group) level. Using agile principles, he alludes to:

  • Transparency
  • Speaking up more
  • Making our work more visible
  • Making our challenges more visible

A mechanism for removing the organizational silence. Increasing the healthy noise if you will. And if the teams are doing it, and showing it, then they might lead the organization into the noise by example.

I like that. And even if they don’t, the teams will be creating a more congruent space for themselves.

Piling on

I wanted to add a few other ideas for combatting the silence.

  • Increasing the safety and trust within the team by modeling and showing  
  • Leaders asking questions and then listening, considering, supporting ideas
  • Saying truth as often as possible by practicing your crucial conversations
  • Saying what’s on our mind with empathy, courage, and conviction
  • Not only challenging but appreciating as well. So, saying the “good” along with the “bad”
  • Testing agreement with facilitative techniques like the Fist-of-Five
  • Leaders model the behavior that welcomes non-silent reactions

Are other ways to increase our healthy noise level organizationally.

Wrapping Up

I want to thank Chris for highlighting something that I think we need to be aware of and push on in our organizations.

As the song says – “Silence like a cancer grows…”

Which we certainly don’t want or need that in today’s organizations. Instead, we need EVERYONE’s voice to be heard!

Chris is one of those voices in the agile community that makes me think. And think more deeply than I usually do. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that gift from him.

I’d encourage you to put Chris’ blog on your radar and deeply listen (in silence) when he speaks.


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