Touch

Humans love to touch and to be touched.

Parents hold their children to comfort them. We hug people who are in pain.

In prison, one of the greatest punishment that can be meted out is to place a prisoner in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement does not involve any direct physical deprivation. The prisoner receives the same amount of food, sleep, and exercise. But he does not have human contact for almost the entire day. Studies show that this loss of touch has debilitating psychological effects which, in approximately one third of all cases, persist well after solitary confinement has ended and the prisoner has rejoined the general population.

In typical corporate environments, touch is verboten. My sense is that some of the unproductive behavior that people exhibit at work is due to being in solitary confinement for the entire workday.

In this five minute video I expand slightly on the above and show raw footage (!) of a ten minute touch exercise that I did with the Boston Chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis on November 12, 2009.

Prior to working through the touch exercise, I ask the participants to take a mental snapshot of their emotional state. After going through the ten minute exercise, approximately 80% of the participants report an increase in happiness, energy, and well being. I know of no non- touch exercise which has similar effects. Professor Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley discusses the biology of touch in this two minute video.

What does a high touch Scrum team do? A high touch Scrum team does many things to incorporate touch into its daily practice. High touch Scrum teams:
1. Hold hands during the Daily Scrum.
2. Give each other standing backrubs at the start of the Sprint
planning meeting.
3. Hug each other at the end of the retrospective.

As agilists one of our goals is to create environments in which trust, respect, communication, care, and love are in abundance. Touch is one of the most powerful ways to create such environments.

Michael de la Maza

I am an agile coach and an angel investor. As an agile coach, I have consulted and trained at dozens of companies. Major agile coaching engagements have been with Paypal, State Street, edX, Carbonite, and Symantec. I typically begin with culture first and then proceed to process improvement and business results. I believe in a non-confrontational, non-coercive approach to change in which people are invited to be and act in a new way. This takes the pain out of agile transformations.

With Rob Rubin, an online education pioneer and the Founding VP of Engineering at edX, I recently created DemingWay.com, an online agile education portal that we plan to grow until it has the best agile content and the best learning platform.