The Lost Art of Management
Daniel James Gullo
When I ask most people why they wanted to become a manager, the answer is almost invariably “More money.”
This is consistent with my own motivations as I think back many years ago in my own career path.
I would also say that it was a necessary stepping stone within some organizations in order to move higher up in the organization.
Organizations that are more progressive and forward thinking may still use the word “management” but in reality, they focus on “leadership” skills and cultivating an environment of collaboration, inclusion, ownership, teamwork.
Most of the education I have had over the years has been focused on Leadership. I have read many great books that I like to recommend to people: Radical Management – Steve Denning, Moments of Truth – Jan Carlzon, Leading At The Edge – Dennis Perkins, Leadership Agility – Bill Joiner, and now Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink. There are SO many others.
In helping organizations become more innovative and focused on customer delight, I find that the activities of management don’t really go away.
There is a transference.
People are expected to act with maturity and accountability at ALL levels of the organization. There is trust. Organizations pay people a fair amount and don’t resort to stick and carrot tactics to entice people or compel people to do what they want them to do.
Our goal is to help people regain their sense of intrinsic motivation that has been lost through years and years of systematic abuse in toxic command and control corporate environments.
Much has been written on the topic of motivation by Daniel Pink in his book Drive and Alfie Kohn in his books, including Punished By Rewards.
Threats do not work.
As a knowledge worker, if I am being threatened or working in a toxic environment, I won’t tolerate that for very long. I am smart enough to realize that I have other options available to me. I can see the massive volume of job postings and opportunities out there. My inbox is continually flooded with Emails from recruiters. If someone is mistreating me, I will be gone when I find the first opportunity to leave. Or, better yet, I will just go start my own business!!
Bonuses do not work.
If my base pay is 80% of my total compensation package with a 20% bonus, it’s not like I with-hold 20% of my brain power until I receive the bonus. As a knowledge worker, I am putting in 100% of my effort all the time. The only thing a bonus can buy is more of my time. However, that is problematic. We know that when people work more than about 8 hours / day, their performance and quality of work degrades. So, if I am working 12-16 hours per day, yes, the company is getting MORE of my time, but what I am producing is essentially crap.
What does work?
Figuring out what is acceptable as a guaranteed salary. It takes money off the table and allows both the organization and the employee to focus on producing value instead of playing games to earn the bonus or worrying about whether the bonus will be paid.
Managers are not necessary.
Managers are a product of Taylor era factory work, not knowledge work. Taylor’s research, while revolutionary and meaningful for its time, is now outdated. Yet, our model of organizations has not changed much in the last 100+ years.
For highly predictable work, it makes sense to have less variance in production. However, for the type of work that we do in software – innovative, constantly changing, complex work – more thought and variance is needed. Collaboration, discussion, deviation from the norm, and experimentation is necessary.
Many lose sight of the fact that Scrum is empirical rather than predictive process control.
Often times, I hear of “resource constraints” for skills such as DBA, UX/UI design, and so on. Yet, there is no shortage of managers. It reminds me of this classic picture from a Dr. Seuss book that I augmented and tweeted out several years ago:
Basically, we need more people DOING and less people telling people “DO!”
Managers are probably freaking out at this point…
You are smart people. Accomplished. Driven.
There is hope.
You can refocus your efforts on coaching, mentoring, helping, serving, consulting, and so on. Build communities of practice and then shepherd those. Advocate for training dollars to help people become cross-functional. Drop back down to the team level and become a contributor again. Become more involved in strategic thinking. Move over to the business side and learn the key concerns related to sales and marketing so that you can represent the customer more effectively; e.g. as a Product Owner.
Step away from the problems and issues and allow the team to step into that gap. Empowerment doesn’t happen by waving a magic empowerment wand or making proclamations. Rather, it happens when someone who has always made the decisions stops making them and trusts others to make the decision instead.
It’s a very unnerving feeling, not being in control anymore.
There are many feelings we go through, many fears. However, in time, you will find that people still value your guidance and will actually seek your input more if you are open and approachable.
There is no “manager” per se in Agile. There is unlimited potential for “leadership” however. Focus on growing those skills and characteristics and be less concerned with a specific role or title. You will be amazed at where that path leads.
Daniel has been a well-known and highly regarded servant of the Agile community for many years. His tireless dedication and effort has earned him the distinction of The Most Valuable Agile Professional award for 2015.
As founder and principal of Apple Brook Consulting®, he has first hand experience about what it takes to make business work. A lifelong entrepreneur, Daniel’s portfolio of clients is long and distinguished: ING Direct (CapitalOne), NAVTEQ, IRS, PayPal, ADP, US Postal Service, GM, US Treasury Department, T. Rowe Price, GE, and many other high-profile organizations.
He is the founder of and chief advisor to Agile Delaware and a frequent reviewer, volunteer, and speaker for the Scrum Alliance, Agile Alliance, PMI and other organizations. His experience includes delivering keynote addresses for conferences such as Scrum Gathering – India; Scrum Gathering – Rio; Scrum Gathering – China; et al.