The Unparalleled Value of Emotional Intelligence – Business Agility Value Stream – Part Two

If you’ve read the first post in my blog series, you may have been inspired to think about how the emotional intelligence competencies manifest in every step of the business agility value stream. From identifying and sensing the opportunity to learning and adapting to ultimately delivering on the business opportunity. So, if we can measure emotional intelligence competencies, my hypothesis is that they, directly and indirectly, impact flow and outcomes as well.

Let’s go step by step in the business agility value stream and see how applying emotional intelligence directly impacts flow and outcomes.

business agility

Sensing the opportunity involves market research, data analysis, customer feedback, and directly observing customers in the marketplace. Applying your own self-regulation, empathy, and social skills can help you have more productive empathy interviews, obtain less-biased, face-to-face research, and control how you react to customer feedback. 

This key step in the organizational agility competency involves not only leaders applying ‘go see’, but offering the same ‘go see’ opportunities to other key roles in the development value stream so that they can better understand and reason about the problem to solve. This expands the social networks so that they can apply and evolve their emotional intelligence competencies to effectively communicate, pitch, reason, and articulate effective hypothesis statements that inspire and engage innovation.

Funding the minimum viable product (MVP) requires the motivation and social skills to help drive change, innovate, and communicate intent at scale. We all know this isn’t easy. It requires you to craft the “why” and use your social skills of influence and conflict management to negotiate and secure the funds. Some of the recommendations from the Lean Portfolio Management competency where we can leverage these social skills include:

  • Engage in participatory budgeting
  • Establish flow and stakeholder engagement through the portfolio Kanban system
  • Roadmap the portfolio
  • Integrate enterprise architecture and SMEs
  • Realize epics
  • Establish Lean budgets and guardrails 

Organizing around value requires even more of the social skills around communication, building new bonds, and fostering the information coherence necessary to build some of the world’s most complex systems. As well as the ability to connect to the customer so that our people embrace and understand what value they’re trying to deliver.

Team and technical agility and organizational agility not only aid in building these bonds but can leverage and grow all of the emotional intelligence competencies of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. This can be amplified with the coveted help from our scrum masters and RTEs. 

Connect to the customer leverages our Agile product delivery and enterprise solution competencies and their design thinking skills to listen, reflect, empathize, and connect with the people for whom we’re designing solutions. 

This requires going deep into the empathy competency of emotional intelligence by leveraging our service-orientation mindset so that we can foresee, recognize, and meet customer needs. Diversity is also important for the ongoing development of opportunities and awareness in all societies and social circles. If we can evolve the empathy competency in all aspects of product and solution delivery, we have the opportunity to excel beyond our competitors in delivering value. 

Delivering that MVP calls upon our product and solution delivery folks to lead, and our social networks to collaborate, iterate, communicate, and deliver using their motivation and social skills. It also pulls highly on our social networks to have courage, collaborate and cooperate, take risks, and instrument rapid change so that we can learn and adapt to our ever-changing market landscapes.

Pivot or persevere pulls on the need for empathy when things don’t turn out as desired and the time comes to pivot or persevere. Our Lean portfolio management fiduciaries reason about the data, facts, and outcomes of the MVP and could quite possibly pivot to a direction of a higher cost of delay at any moment. This means we need to abandon our emotional attachment to what we created and turn to the next-highest value delivery. Self-regulation and empathy both play strongly in this step of the business agility value stream. Having the emotional awareness of why our folks are for or against any change in this step can help mitigate any delays in fostering rapid change and learning. 

Deliver value continuously imposes that our product and solution delivery people and ARTs always work together to share knowledge, build out that continuous delivery pipeline, and innovate. The continuous delivery pipeline and our DevOps mindset enable that fast-feedback loop to foster our continuous learning culture. Our iterative and incremental heartbeat also facilitates that continuous value delivery and learning cycle. All require using our social skills to grow and enable knowledge transfer and information coherence so that the social network can continue to thrive and innovate.

Our learn and adapt cycle is integral to the process, Measuring our emotional intelligence competencies will help us learn and grow our own selves alongside the SAFe core competencies. After all, if we don’t learn about ourselves, how can we show up with our truest authenticity to grow and foster that continuous learning culture?

Lean-Agile leadership enables the business agility value stream, as does the evolution of everyone’s emotional intelligence. Leaders model and leverage all of the emotional intelligence competencies so that our development value streams can evolve both their business agility competencies and their emotional competencies. If we don’t consider human emotion, we can inhibit flow, people shut down and lose their motivation, and thus jeopardize providing value to our customers.

business agility

Now, if the business agility value stream is a perspective across operational and development value streams, then the benefits, interactions, and human impacts that the emotional intelligence of the development value stream network provides to the operational value stream will propagate and evolve. The interactions and modeling of emotional intelligence will have a bi-directional impact that will engage and accelerate the operational value stream in delivering value. 

I hope I’ve provided a perspective that it’s not just mastering the SAFe business agility process competencies that enable business agility. The evolution of human emotional intelligence impacts the flow and outcomes of the business agility value stream every step of the way. As I mentioned in part 1 of this blog series, Goleman’s personal competencies of self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation fuel our human agency and our ability to manage our own emotions. The social competencies of empathy and social skills fuel how we handle relationships. Together, the evolution of emotional intelligence within our organization increases our ability to deliver value to our customers, as well as value to our individual people. What enterprise doesn’t want that?

At this point, you may be asking, “Well, how can I bring these into my SAFe transformation and journey toward business agility?” 

Here are a few techniques to get you started on your emotional intelligence journey:

  • Start with you. Allow time for self-reflection, self-work, and to recharge yourself. Leverage your retrospectives, your own personal plan-do-check-adjust cycles, and the teaming activities to evolve your emotional intelligence competencies. Integrate some emotional intelligence workshops with your leaders and teams to help evolve and experience the competencies, starting with self-awareness and self-regulation. This will help build trust so you can continue to unfold into the deeper and perhaps more sensitive competencies of empathy and social skills. 
  • Grow your own internal and external coaching network. In the same way that sports teams need coaches, our operational and development value streams and the individuals within them need coaches too. They help with all aspects of emotional intelligence, wherever folks may need or want assistance. They can provide the tools and techniques to become more self-aware, provide exercises for self-regulation and motivation, and practice empathy. Not to mention offer assistance to help people evolve their social skills. And even more powerful, coaches model the behaviors so that our social networks can lean into what they see and learn.
  • Create a community of practice around the competencies and practices. In the latest Leading by Example module that Scaled Agile released, one of the beautiful outcomes was a cohort that trusted each other and was willing to share their deepest challenges with authenticity. This type of network provides the power of a safe space that people can always come back to, to practice, share ideas and concerns, and grow without judgement or fear.
  • Help evolve assessments around Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence Competency Framework. And measure the evolution within your people and the enterprise. You’ll start to see some correlations between the SAFe measurements of flow, competencies, and outcomes.
  • Share with our community. We’d love to hear how evolving your enterprise intelligence will help your employees achieve their aspirations and help customers receive better products and solutions.

And, reach out to me. I’d love to hear how it’s going so I can learn and grow with you! I may not have been born with emotional intelligence but I’m passionate about learning and evolving with you. Find me on LinkedIn.

About Jennifer Fawcett

Jennifer is a retired, empathetic Lean and Agile leader, practitioner,

Jennifer is a retired, empathetic Lean and Agile leader, practitioner, coach, speaker, and consultant. A SAFe® Fellow, she has contributed to and helped develop SAFe content and courseware. Her passion and focus have been in delivering value in the workplace and by creating communities and culture through effective product management, product ownership, executive portfolio coaching, and leadership. She has provided dedicated service in these areas to technology companies for over 35 years. Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn.


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The Unparalleled Value of Emotional Intelligence, Part One

Not everyone is born with emotional intelligence. Most people associate intelligence with IQ (intelligence quotient), a number that represents a person’s reasoning ability, measured using problem-solving tests. Emotional intelligence is a series of learned human behaviors that can also be measured.

And some of the science behind it confirms that emotional intelligence is a better indicator of how well a person will succeed in their career. It can also be a measurement of value that can determine whether or not a company is progressing toward business agility.

This blog post is based on Daniel Goleman’s work; he has about 16 books written on the topic. The one that I gravitated to was Working with Emotional Intelligence because it has a framework around the competencies that we can grow. That framework goes deep into self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. I’ve worked with all of those competencies to help evolve SAFe transformations. Why? Because evolving one’s emotional intelligence is germane to the critical roles, events, and activities that occur. Emotional intelligence competencies affect the human aspect of change, the natural resistance to change, and the ability to inspire everyone around shifts in direction, visions, and ultimately, value. 

I personally find the topic fascinating. In the title of Goleman’s book, “Working” is the key word. Emotional intelligence isn’t something we’re born with, and honestly, not everyone chooses to “work” with this type of awareness and the elements that support their growth.

emotional intelligence

Goleman categorizes five dimensions of emotional intelligence:





Social skills

And those five dimensions fall into two buckets: personal competence, and social competence. He cites each competency that supports them as independent (each makes a unique contribution to your job or life performance), interdependent (each draws to a certain extent upon others, with some strong interactions), and hierarchical (the emotional intelligence competencies build upon each other). Goleman goes on to say that they are all necessary, but not sufficient. In other words, having emotional intelligence does not guarantee that you’ll develop or display competencies such as collaboration or leadership, which are crucial in any SAFe transformation. Other factors such as your organization’s climate or culture or your personal interest in your job, will highly influence how the competencies manifest.

And finally, the dimensions are generic. They all apply to most jobs, yet some jobs will require differing competence demands. For example, you’ll leverage some of them for different career paths within or outside SAFe transformations. 

  • Product managers, product owners, and architects will mostly likely lean on their motivation and empathy capabilities to share and inspire others through their vision, backlogs, and value to customers.
  • Release train engineers will lean on empathy and their social skills to foster healthy, thriving, innovative teams.
  • Operations folks will leverage their personal motivation and social skills to reach out to developers and teams to see how they can help and evolve the CALMR side of our DevOps practices.
  • And our c-suite of leaders and business owners will absolutely lean on most, if not all, of the competencies. Either way, in respect to those we serve, these competencies all have a long-lasting impact on organizations and humanity as a whole.

Hard Skills, Not Soft Skills

Now, you may not think you care about what some refer to as “soft skills.” The reality is that emotional intelligence represents hard skills and they have a long-lasting impact on how the people around you will ultimately behave and perform. These skills are probably the most difficult to embody because you have to work on yourself, make yourself vulnerable, and be emotionally transparent and available. And you have to show up for those major events with perhaps your highest level of awareness and the associated intelligence on how you handle your emotions. Holding successful events such as PI planning, participatory budgeting, value stream identification workshops, visioning, inspect and adapt, are just some of the critical activities within SAFe that absolutely depend on you working with your emotional intelligence competencies.

Here’s a summary of Goleman’s emotional competencies, and some advice on how you can apply them in your world.

Personal competence

We use self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation to manage ourselves. And to recognize and understand our moods, emotions, and drives, as well as the effect they have on others. When we’re building our development value streams and designing our ARTs, this is critical. 

Self-awareness is knowing yourself, your internal states, your preferences and impulses, your cognitive resources, and your intuitions. Having self-awareness allows us to show up with humility and vulnerability around who we are and how we behave. This competency directly impacts our culture and how we learn together. 

Self-regulation builds upon self-awareness. It teaches you how to regulate and manage your internal states and your impulses. Being able to self-regulate enables you to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods—and to suspend judgment so that you think before you act. Self-regulation requires you, as a leader, to take time for yourself, recharge your batteries, reflect, and learn how you can improve. Self-regulation impacts SAFe implementations in many ways. Imagine you’re in that meeting where the in-house “un-self-aware” leader shows up with their own agenda and aggressively promotes their views—without listening, self-regulating, or empathizing with others. The result? Attendees shut down, feel disengaged, unheard, and even worse, not valued as humans. Now, imagine you’re in the same meeting where your most evolved, self-aware, and self-regulated leader shows up. This leader listens, empathizes, self-regulates their opinions, and engages the views inclusive of the entire group. People feel heard, appreciated, and excited to be a part of something. Which meeting do you think will have better outcomes?

Motivation includes the emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate us in reaching our goals. Motivation embodies a passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status. This is our inner drive to pursue goals with energy and persistence. What motivates us to pursue a hobby or to give back? And how do we show up, lead, and inspire with motivation? Motivation directly impacts how we get behind a vision and mission, and invest our passions and emotions into delivering value to our customers.

Social competence

I mentioned that personal competence, the first area of emotional intelligence, is a foundation or prerequisite for social competence. That’s because self-awareness is critical to be empathetic and grow the social skills required to scale. Why is that?

In order to work with emotional intelligence and grow our personal competence, we need to know ourselves intimately and be self-aware of our own behaviors. Once we develop that human agency, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation within ourselves, we open up our personal aperture to model this behavior. And to help others and our organization authentically fuel and support that second operating system. That second operating system encompasses our social networks, our development value streams, and our Agile Release Trains (ARTs). Our development value streams are our people, aligned to a common goal or mission of delivering value to our customers.

Knowing yourself fuels the social competence dimensions of empathy and social skills.

These determine how we handle relationships. And in our SAFe enterprises, our social networks and social competence, and the development value streams in which they live, are critical for delivering value and the economics that fuel our enterprise mission. These competencies foster communication, knowledge transfer, and information coherence, which attempts to describe how much information in the current state of communication will remain after the state goes through the channel. The channel includes your teams, your ARTs, your developers, and ultimately, your business partners and customers. All are critical to delivering value to customers.

The first element within the social competence dimension is empathy. This is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s the awareness of others’ needs, concerns, pains, and what it is they want to gain. 

From a scaling Agile and business agility perspective, social skills competencies are probably most important because they shape proficiency in inducing desirable responses in others.

They are deep and include adeptness in influence, communication, conflict management, leadership, initiating or managing change, building bonds, and collaboration. They also create group synergy in our teams’ capabilities. Think about it. Aren’t these all learned behaviors that we encounter every day in our SAFe transformations?

The premise of this blog post is that emotional intelligence has an unparalleled value that can be measured. But how? Emotional intelligence seems like a personal journey. But if we know this is important personally, then it has to have an impact at scale. And when we look at SAFe measurements of flow, outcomes, and competencies, they seem logical to measure from an emotional competence perspective as well. After all, we measure all the other competencies, why not emotional intelligence?

Learn More

If you attended the Global SAFe Summit but didn’t catch my talk about emotional intelligence, watch it on-demand here. Read Daniel Goleman’s book Working with Emotional Intelligence to evolve your emotional intelligence journey.

In the next post in my blog series, I’ll discuss how the emotional intelligence competencies, directly and indirectly, impact SAFe’s Business Agility Value Stream. And how you can leverage them for better results from a flow and outcomes perspective.

About Jennifer Fawcett

Jennifer is a retired, empathetic Lean and Agile leader,

Jennifer is a retired, empathetic Lean and Agile leader, practitioner, coach, speaker, and consultant. A SAFe Fellow, she has contributed to and helped develop SAFe content and courseware. Her passion and focus have been in delivering value in the workplace and by creating communities and culture through effective product management, product ownership, executive portfolio coaching, and leadership. She has provided dedicated service in these areas to technology companies for over 35 years. Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn.


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Next: Aligning Global Teams Through Agile Program Management: A Case Study