March 15, 2022

How Anzeneering Aligns with TextNow Values

Written by philip


The English translation of the Japanese word anzen is "safety." As Joshua Kerievsky, CEO of Industrial Logic, observes, Anzeneering, then, would be the practice of applying safety to everything that we do. As he further explains on the Industrial Logic blog:

“[Anzen] frees people to take risks and unlocks their potential...Anzeneers protect people by establishing anzen in everything from relationships to workspaces, codebases to processes, products to services.”

What Anzeneering Looks Like in Practice
Let's pause for a moment and consider what applying Anzeneering might look like in practice. If we start from the viewpoint of an Agile practitioner (e.g., TPM, Scrum Master, Agile Coach), we often think of ourselves as wearing many hats, including facilitator, mentor, coach, and trainer. Continuing with the hats metaphor, we strive to always wear the Anzeneer hat, because helping ensure that there is psychological safety on a team is one of the most important things that we do, and it applies in any team context.

Anzeeneering and Psychological Safety

Harvard Professor Amy Edmundson has been speaking and writing about psychological safety for quite some time. As she observes, in its simplest form, psychological safety comes down to a shared feeling among a group or a team that they can speak openly with each other about what's on their mind.  It's a key attribute of teams who perform at a consistently high level. Some years back, Google launched an internal study to delve into what high-performing teams at Google have in common, and described the results on their re:Work website, where they too observe that psychological safety is a key component.

More Examples of Anzeneering

Let's consider some additional examples of what Anzeneering looks like in practice, which Josh mentions in the blog post referenced above. He observes that Anzeneers protect:

  • Software users from programs that hurt their ability to perform their job well, waste their time, annoy them, lose or threaten their data or harm their reputation.

  • Software makers from poor working conditions, including hostile relationships, death marches, burnout, hazardous software (poorly designed, highly complex, deeply defective code, lacking even basic safety nets like automated builds or automated tests), insufficient testing infrastructure, poor lighting, uncomfortable seating, excessive work hours and insufficient exercise.

  • Software managers from the stress and consequences of not delivering, insufficient insight into progress, poor planning and sudden surprises.

  • Software purchasers from software that damages their reputation because it doesn’t meet expectations or isn’t used.

  • Software stakeholders from losing large investments and marketplace credibility because of doomed software efforts.

Also, Anzen is a common denominator behind every Lean and Agile practice, where:

  • Lean Startups protect our time and money via minimum viable products/features, validated learning, and innovation accounting.

  • Extreme Programming’s technical practices protect us from complexity, stress and defects via simple design, automated testing, continuous builds, test-driven development, refactoring and pair-programming.

  • Kanban protects us from bottlenecks and decreased flow via visualized work, limited work-in-process and classes of service.

  • Lean UX protects us from poor user experiences via interaction design and usability evaluations.

  • Retrospectives protect us from repeating the same mistakes.

  • Sustainable pace protects us from burnout, poor health and isolation.

  • Continuous deployment protects us from stressful, error-prone releases while enabling safe, high-speed production improvements.

How Anzeneering Aligns with TextNow Values

Let's next consider how Anzeneering aligns with each of the TextNow values:

  • People First  
    Empathy  (for each other, and for our customers) is central to what we do. Anzeneers place a high premium on creating and sustaining an environment where everyone can be their authentic selves and encourages those around them to do the same.

  • No Brilliant Jerks.  
    As Anzeneers, we value being able to speak openly - AND we recognize that how we say things matters. Sometimes it's helpful to pause for a moment before speaking, so that we consider whether what we're about to say is going to convey our intended message, while also being heard by others in the manner in which we intended.

  • Give a Damn!
    Dan Pink writes and speaks about the importance of autonomy, mastery, and purpose in his book Drive and in his related TED Talk, later rendered as a short RSA Animation. As Anzeeners, we recognize how awesome it is to care deeply about what we do, while also recognizing that what we do can have a real impact on peoples' lives, all in the pursuit of a really compelling organizational mission.

  • Challenge Accepted.  
    Anzeneers recognize that it can be motivating to set ambitious goals, AND that it's important to be mindful of how we interact and communicate with each other, such that we recognize that mistakes do happen, and that we're in a safe-to-fail environment.

Some other stray observations with regards to Anzeneering:

  • Action Set Go! It's great to proactively take action, to find solutions to problems. When working in a team context, it's even better to do so in a way that is transparent to the rest of the team, and to partner with one or more other people to solve the problem, when it's a practical option to do so.

  • Go Boldly Forth. A key aspect of being an Anzeneer is creating an environment where it is safe to fail. If we run an experiment and the results are not quite the same as what we expected, it's an opportunity to take a step back, recognize the hard work that went into the effort, and consider what modifications we can potentially make to the experiment to produce a different outcome.

  • Be honest but not brutally so. It's certainly true that feedback is a gift. When giving feedback, it's important for us to consider how our implicit bias could be informing what we are saying, and the extent to which our relative lack of understanding of another person's culture, values, or beliefs might differ from ours. And when receiving feedback, we may gain a better understanding of the message that is being conveyed when we ask clarifying questions.

  • Get scrappy. Anzeneers value the learning that comes with taking risks, we also recognize that the axiom "build the simplest thing that works,"  - one of many important principles in the Agile Manifesto – is important so we can provide value early and often to our customers.

Let’s leave off with a particularly germane quote from that manifesto:

Simplicity - the art of maximizing the amount of work not done - is essential.

[Editor’s note: If you’d like to find out more about TextNow, and our values, philosophy and team, take a look at our TextNow careers site. You could be just the Anzeneer we’re looking for!]