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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Mar 25, 2022

This week, Dan Neumann is diving deep into the topic of psychological safety, inspired by a couple of articles that got his special attention (references below). Dan is sharing in today’s episode the definition of psychological safety, its link to diversity in Teams and innovation, as well as some specific ways to foster psychological safety as the number one prerequisite for a successful Team.


Key Takeaways

  • What is psychological safety?
    • Psychological safety is a shared belief that the members of a team won’t be rejected or embarrassed for speaking up with their ideas, questions, or concerns.
  • Bresman and Edmondson present research that supports that diversity on a team is linked to a better outcome.
    • This research explores the bond between diversity and psychological safety, implying that more diverse teams are going to have better ideas and outcomes than teams that are less diverse.
    • From the research, they found that diverse teams tend to be a little lower on performance than more homogeneous teams.
    • They also differentiated from highly diverse teams that had high psychological safety and those that did not have it. This first group outperformed by a meaningful degree both the diverse teams that didn’t have psychological safety and also low diversity to homogeneous teams.
    • Meeting with the purpose of finding root causes can feel a lot like blame, and blame is one of the behaviors that destroy psychological safety. Transform meetings into opportunities to share information.
    • Seek information! Don’t assume you know. Choose open versus closed-ended questions.
  • In his article, Timothy Clark uses the term dialogic process to explore how Teams harness intellectual friction and navigate their interdepending work.
    • If there is a lack of psychological safety, individuals are going to censor each other or result in self-censoring behavior which prevents a highly collaborative atmosphere in a Team.
    • High psychological safety promotes innovation as a goal while a lack of it produces fear as a response and survival as the goal.
    • Clark frames Agile as a culture implementation, bringing the Agile values into practice.
    • Small and seemingly insignificant acts of disrespect, indifference, and rudeness can push a Team back into withdrawal and personal risk management.
    • Clark also shares four steps to work in a Scrum Team to continue to foster psychological safety.
  • Ways to promote psychological safety at work:
    • Google has identified five dynamics in successful Teams and the number one prerequisite is psychological safety. The second is dependability, in third place are structure and clarity, fourth is the meaning of the work, and lastly, the members of the Team have to fundamentally believe that the work they do matters.


Mentioned in this Episode:

“Exploring Psychological Safety and Danger with Ola Tunde”

“Agile Doesn’t Work Without Psychological Safety,” by Timothy R. Clark

“Research: To Excel, Diverse Teams Need Psychological Safety,” Henrik Bresman and Amy C. Edmondson

“The five keys to a successful Google team,” by Julia Rozovsky

“8 ways to create psychological safety in the workplace,” by Greg Barnett, Ph.D.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip Heath

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, by Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and Kerry Patterson

Multiple Explanation: A Consider-an-Alternative Strategy for Debiasing Judgments, Edward R. Hirt and Keith D. Markman


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