Creating an Environment of Safety


Hello Uprising! I reach out today seeking the advice of the community. I was lucky enough to grow up in a company with a culture built on empowerment, accountability, safety, and feedback. This foundation made our Agile transition (2008), dare I say… kind of easy.

Fast forward 7 years and 6 Agile transformations later, I have yet to see a transition run so smoothly. I was so spoiled, but at the same time blessed. I have realized that safety, trust, and transparency, are prerequisites in the journey to become Agile. Safety, complimented with tight feedback loops is a lethal weapon for change agents and can help you accelerate organizational change.

Safety, transparency, and trust or, lack thereof, are all products of culture. As Agilists, we know there is no stronger force than culture so lets not muddy the waters. For sake of this thread, lets say you are a coach, that is completely empowered by leadership, to help drive healthy change and Agile adoption. What are some mechanisms you would/have used to create safety, trust, and transparency as a first step?


I have found staring with team-level retrospectives creates a nice foundation.

Giving the team members of venue to express what is and what is not working for them.

Retro notes are published in Confluence. Anyone can see them. (A leap of faith…)

We divided the change candidates from the team-level retro into two groups: what does the team have direct control over and what do they not.

For the former, I make sure the team has the necessary resources (time, money) etc to experiment with making changes. And that their experiments are safe to fail. And that learning is celebrated. (Celebration Grid -

For the later, change candidates outside of the teams fence, I first try to see if we can move the fence. I.e., empower the team to gain direct control of what they want to change (delegation matrix Where “moving the fence” is not quick or just not possible, I make the issues, impediments, opportunity costs, visible to those who have direct control - another team, management, etc. And I facilitate discussions with representatives of both teams so that there is a shared understanding of intent. And a plan for change. And that change happens.


Agree with @andycleff - these are all good things that help. Ultimately, people will believe that psychological safety exists once they start seeing evidence of it. So for me, it is about leading by example and leadership coaching and reflection so that people start noticing a change in culture and in a way how people respond in difficult/stressful situations.


I think it’s super important to get middle management onboard with what being Agile is all about…and understanding how their role as a manager fits in. Without that…an environment of trust and empowerment will be slow coming…or not at all.