Work on the System

When I say “work on system,” I mean influencing factors that contribute to patterns of events and interactions in your organization. Making work work better.  So, how do you work on the system? Attend to creating an environment where great work is a...

Expectations for Remote Work

On the first day of widespread work from home brought about by the pandemic, I heard a workplace “expert” talking about the new reality of remote work. “Performance expectations and standards must remain the same as in the office,” he declared. There is so much wrong...

Give Yourself a Gift: Reflection Time

This time of year is associated with giving gifts to others. But I think it is also a good time to think about the gifts we can give ourselves. One that we can all afford is the gift of reflection time. Let me tell you a story. I have a friend, Jen, who is a pure...

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...

What Do Middle Manager Do?

I have seen situations where both senior level and middle level management saw the value in Agile. Moving towards a team-based organization and iterative incremental delivery brings benefits. In my experience, it’s a little more common for middle managers to...

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...

Three Ways to Foster Team Responsibility

How can managers support teams to truly support team responsibility? In the early days of Agile, some pundits (and developers) declared, “We don’t need no stinking managers.” They asserted that if teams were self-managed, management work was waste....

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 attempt to define the characteristics of a leader boils down to a role in which one individual creates a vision for others to follow. That’s not enough. We need more...

Motivation Misfires

Many managers ask me, “How can I motivate my team?” I’ve certainly seen many efforts to motivate teams.  Contests, prizes, pep talks, badges, points, canned thank you notes, and recognition events. Most of this comes down to using rewards to motivate people to...

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...

Resources don’t write software. People do.

Sometimes, when I hear people talking about “resources,” I ask if the speaker means people. When I do, the responses fall into three groups. Some people look a bit blank for a moment, as if coming out of a trance. They realize resources isn’t the...

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...

Musings on Management Work, I

In two recent posts, I offered cautionary tales for managers of self-organizing agile teams: Tale of a Yo-Yo Manager Tale of a Too Hands Off Manager. So what is it that managers should do to move from big boss to partnership?  It’s actually quite a long list, so...

But /My/ Team Needs a Leader

I talk with many managers–and some coaches–who complain that their teams can’t function without a leader. “Leader,” in these conversations, usually means someone who set standards, assigns work, tracks progress, tells people what to do.   That is not...

The Appreciation Gap

Authors note: A recent blog post on Bob Sutton’s Work Matters reminded me of this little piece I wrote a while ago. A simple thank you can make a difference; appreciation builds good will, and reminds people that they are valued as human beings, not just as CPUs...

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