Relationships as a Lean Agile Lens

Nov 19 / Jim Benson
Relationships are the realization of understanding into appropriate action.

When we work together, which we all do, everything involves interpersonal relationships.

  • People request work from other people… that is a relationship.
  • People take jobs that involve bosses and structure … those are relationships.
  • People form teams to get specific types of work done … again, relationships.

And it goes on from there.
No one works alone. Everyone works together.

No exceptions.

This is part 2 of a series of 5 posts, see 5 Lean Agile Lenses: Introducing the System of Humane Management for more.

Lens 2  - Relationships 

Even with the most standard of standard work, everything we do is the embodiment of interpersonal relationships. Every work order we receive, every plate of food we hand to a diner, every creative idea your business partner has, launches one or many relationships. There can be no isolationism in a successful business. If our interpersonal relationships at work are not intentional and maintained, we will endure the costs of drama, frustration, and re-alignment. If they are intentional and maintained, work flows more smoothly, products are of higher quality, and everyone involved is professionally satisfied.

When we look at our process through this lens, we must confront the fact that the process itself is simply how we understand our interpersonal relationships at work.

  • Who does what and when? 
  • What information will be available where?
  • How do I know what you want?
  • How do we figure out what is possible?
  • How is a quality delivery defined?
  • How will you meet or exceed my expectations?
  • How will I meet or exceed yours?
  • How do we make sure we are there to help each other?
  • How do we make it possible for people to have psychological safety?
  • When do we collaborate?
  • When do we individually focus?

So many questions in this lens, and this doesn’t even scratch the surface.


When Agile and Lean started, before there was any set canon, both focused heavily on how people relate to each other. As time went on, focus was more and more on how to do things and not how to work together. The relationship lens specifically dials that conversation back.

We want to constantly monitor how the professional human beings on our team are interacting. We want to monitor and improve the culture (the social soup of our interactions) because our culture directly and invariably impacts the quality, timeliness, and appropriateness of our work. Bad culture creates increasingly bad product.

We’d like to avoid misalignment, attrition, back-stabbing, gaslighting, and lack of direction. 

Intentional relationships between professionals create stronger professionals. Collaboration, communication, and consideration are components of interpersonal relationships at work and intrinsic to their success. We’d like to promote them.

These are entirely achieved by making sure we maintain relationships. Our process, therefore, must intentionally include elements that improve our interpersonal relationships at work. Processes that spot areas of misalignment or misunderstanding. Processes that seek to solve problems quickly. Processes that don’t consider improvement extra work, but understand that improvement is why we are at work in the first place.

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If these ideas are interesting, you should check out our Lean Agile Visual Management (LAVM) Program.

Our primary goal is to help people work together in more visual, aligned, and supportive ways. Take a look or chat with us.

The world seriously needs people who can do this.