Building Effective Teams: Miss the Start, Miss the End

(This article originally appeared on Gantthead.com) “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” Plato, Greek philosopher and writer, 429–347 B.C.E. I’ve written several articles about a manager’s relationship with a team that has already formed. A manager’s relationship with a team as they work is essential for cultivating a self-organizing team and…

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Rethinking Manager’s Relationship with Agile Teams

This article originally appeared on gantthead.com  In the early days of agile, some pundits (and developers) cried, “We don’t need no stinking managers.” By now, most people realize that organizations still need management (and people in management roles) after they adopt agile methods. However, if those organizations want all the benefits of agile, managers must…

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Yes. No. Negotiate.

Many people are conditioned to say Yes to every request that comes their way. I met a CIO like that. He told me his policy was to never say No to the business. So he always said Yes, and the business was always angry because things he agreed to didn’t get done, or got done…

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The Agile Blindside

(this article originally appeared on gantthead.com) Agile project management depends on transparency and feedback. Visibility into the product and process is built in with iteration reviews and retrospectives. Task walls and Kanban boards make progress (or lack of it) and bottlenecks obvious. Stand-up meetings seek to raise impediments to management attention. But are managers ready…

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Fixing the Quick Fix

Here in the United States, our business culture tends to be action-oriented. We value the ability to think fast and act decisively. These qualities can be strengths. However, like most strengths, they can also be a weakness. Taking action when you don’t know the facts can lead to irreparable harm. Deciding too quickly before you’ve…

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Still No Silver Bullets

Not so very long ago, I made my living writing code. My colleagues and I did our best to understand what our customers needed, and to write code that was easy for other programmers to understand, solid, defect free.  When our managers asked us how long it would take to create a new feature or…

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Real leaders make space for others to shine

I’ve seen a renewed cry for leaders in organizations lately. Too often in these discussions, the definition of “leadership” boils down to a role where one individual creates a vision for others to follow. That’s not enough. We need more leadership, not just more anointed or appointed leaders. “Leadership” is most potent when it’s a verb,…

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Should a manager know a language? Yes. One that enables communication with people.

When I talk to people about making the transition from technical work into a management role, one of the recurring questions is whether managers need to know a language. There are strong opinions on both side of the argument: On one side, people say: “You must know a language if you are to understand the…

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Are you part of the team if you are on the team part-time?

“Part-timers just don’t seem to fit in with the team,” a manager complained recently. “I do everything I can to impress on them the importance of teamwork and team spirit, but they just don’t gel with the team. What can I do to motivate these people to fit in?” “These people just aren’t accountable,” another…

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Bully Boss

A recent phone call reminded me of this article that I wrote in 2004. The story is real, the names are not. It’s a story that is all too common. *** Not too long ago, I had lunch with my friend Sarah. I hadn’t seen her in a while, so I was surprised when she…

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