Manager as Work System Designer: 14 Essential Questions

August 13th, 2010
Questions matter.  The questions we ask open one avenue of inquiry, but close others.  If we want to change the way we manage, we need to change our questions.  And so, here are my slides from my talk at Agile 2010:

14 Essential Questions aimed at refocusing management attention on creating work systems that work–creating products the customers want, returns that are acceptable to stakeholders, and providing satisfying work for employees.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Agile Carnival, Kane Mar. Kane Mar said: RT @estherderby – Manager as Work System Designer: 14 Essential Questions: Questions matter.  .. […]

  2. Great questions, good food for thought.

    There’s one question that I didn’t quite understand: “What is the capacity of the team?”. What is this question aimed at?

    I fear that it might lead people to think along the lines: “Oh no, we don’t know our capacity, we need performance metrics!”

    • Esther says:

      Hi, Sami –

      I suppose some people will go down the performance metric path. Or measure the appearance of work by counting lines of code, number of documents produced, time at the office. All benighted and easy to game.

      Velocity isn’t perfect, but it does help with planning. It is more useful than estimated effort hours/number of people, for example.

      My intent with the question is to prompt manager to think about what the team has demonstrated they can do. Then they can plan based on data, rather than wishful thinking.


      • Ok, now I’m with you. Thanks for the clarification.

        • Esther says:

          Thanks for stating your concern. If the original questions raised doubts in your mind, it probably did for others as well. When I give this talk, I do talk about velocity. So now I know I have to add an addition precaution about misleading measurements of performance or productivity.


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