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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Agile Teams at Scale: Beyond Scrum of Scrums

Agile methods depend on effective cross-functional teams. We’ve heard many Agile success stories…at the team level. But what happens when a product can’t be delivered by one team?  What do you do when the “team” that’s needed to work on a particular product is 20 people?  Or 20 teams? There are no simple answers. But…

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New Roles for Managers: Interview with Lean Magazine

I recently did an interview with the nice folks at Softhouse.se for their Lean Magazine. The interview was a lot of fun, and made me think (which is fun). The full interview will be in their special anniversary edition, schedule to be out by Christmas.  (Information on obtaining the magazine here.)  In the meanwhile, some…

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Can a team have 100 (or more) members?

I recently set aside my analog wrist watch and started wearing a runners watch. It’s accurate to the second on the face, and to a 100th of a second on the split timer. I’ve noticed that when I have a precise measure, sometimes I use it, even when precision isn’t necessary.  For example, when someone…

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Team Trap #1: Messing with the membership

One summer, long ago and far away, I was on a softball team.  It would be an exaggeration to say I played softball, but I did participate in practices, showed up for games and imbibed of the general post-game joie de vivre (beer).  There were a lot of team members like me. It didn’t matter…

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The 0th Trap of Teams

“If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? Five? No, calling a tail a leg don’t make it a leg.” Abraham Lincoln The zeroeth trap of teams is calling any old group of people a team and then expecting teamwork and collaboration.  A team is a social organization, a group…

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Eleven things to remember about people in middle management roles.

It’s easy to be critical of managers.  A few things to remember. 0. Most people in management roles want to do a good job, but may not know what to do or how to do it. 1. People in management roles are dealing with incomplete and ambiguous knowledge.  It’s a fantasy that they have all…

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The fundamental attribution error and accountability

A while back I was talking to a manager who complained that “no one” in his organization was “accountable.”  Of course, he exempted himself form that category. This manager, (I’ll call him Tom) feels like he’s accountable— he knows that if they people creating software products don’t get their work done, he’ll hear from his…

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Musings on Management: Moving away from Command & Control

When companies decide they want the benefit of the team effect, or adopt agile methods, they (sometimes) realize that they need to update their management style as well.  And too often, they enter an 4-step dance of oscillation. Managers feel overburdened and overwhelmed. Teams are disengaged.  They want teams to take more responsibility, and show…

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Another Cautionary Tale: Creating a mess by “eliminating waste”

I’ve seen lots of managers struggle to help teams.  Often, they are driven by deadlines and goals set by their managers.  They do what they think will help, acting out of their current view of  how things work. Sometimes they look for new ideas on how to manage.  One of the ideas that’s been popular…

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