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 more engagement.  The managers stop telling teams what to do, and wait for teams to step up, take responsibility, and morale to flip into the positive zone. So the managers step back, and the 4-step starts, and usually ends up back where it started–overburdened managers, disengaged teams, and an uptick in cynicism.

If you are in this pattern, you are not alone.  It comes from trying to solve a problem, when what you have is a polarity.  There are upsides and downsides and you have to attend to both.

You don’t have to get stuck in the 4-step oscillation. If your organization wants to move from command and control management to something more like servant leadership, here’s some help for the journey.

Here are  things a managers can do to move, and manage the upside and downside of becoming servant leader to a team.

1) Redefine the decision boundaries

2) Calibrate your interventions

3) Increase the overlap between contextual and day-to-day knowledge

4) Shift focus off events and onto patterns and system structures

5) Change your questions

My slides from Much Ado About Agile, Vancouver, BC 2010

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