Alternatives to bureaucratic hierarchy

I don’t doubt that its possible to have an organization with out traditional managers. I’ve read about Semco and Morningstar Farms. I’ve talked to people who work at Gore. My husband works for a less well know firm that doesn’t have traditional managers. But those companies didn’t get there by happenstance. They got there by…

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What do middle managers do?

Last week, someone tweeted that the C-suite “gets agile,” but middle managers “resist” it. I also saw a tweet that the C-suite doesn’t get agile, but middle management does. I don’t doubt the observations of either of these tweeters. I have observed situations where both senior and middle managers saw the value in moving towards…

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Command & Control: Let’s talk about power

Command and control isn’t just a mindset and a style of management (though it is both those things). What we don’t often talk about is the power that rests with people in management roles. Traditional managers have power, and that power comes from different sources. Part of what rankles people in traditional organizations is the…

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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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Empowering Leadership II

Every team needs leadership, even self-organizing teams. When I make this statement, some people assume I mean that every team needs a designated leader.  I can’t blame them, most people are accustomed to thinking of leadership residing in a role or a charismatic individual—a “born” leader. On self-organizing teams, there isn’t one leader.  Agile teams…

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Empowering Leadership

Some pundits proclaim that leadership rests on charisma, the ability to create a vision, or “presence.” Teams do need a vision and a compelling goal.  But do teams need one charismatic leader? No.Teams need leaders of a different sort. Teams need leaders who don’t need to be out in front, who are able to work…

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Yours, Mine, Ours: Clarifying Decision Boundaries

I recently talked to a group that’s forming a new “change leadership” team.  Part of the work of the team is improving the organization, and part is capacity building. Four of the people on the team are folks with technical backgrounds who are viewed as having potential to be future leaders in the organization. The…

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Fill in the blanks

I’ve been noticing what’s missing lately. In some ways, its harder to see what’s not there than what is. But there’s lost of useful information in what isn’t said, as well as what is. For example: A manager, talking about one of the people who reported to him said: “He’s difficult to manage.” What’s missing?…

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Changing to Agile, in an Agile Manner

A while back I was contacted by a potential client who wanted to “go agile.”  But they wanted to do it in a deterministic manner.  They wanted a plan, complete with milestones and dates–mostly indicating that other people had changed their behavior as dictated by management. Sigh. One could make a plan for mass training…

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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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