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...

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...

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...

Messing with the Membership

Do you really have a team when someone keeps 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...

6 Enabling Conditions for Teams

A team is a social unit, a group of people who work collaboratively to accomplish some goal. Every team is a group of people, but not every group of people is a team. I hear the term applied loosely–describing anything from a collection of individual...

10 Obstacles Middle Managers Face

It’s easy to be critical of middle managers. Some people view middle management as little more than a way station between “real” work and the executive suite. However, I believe middle managers have an essential role in enabling people and enhancing...

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...

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...

Is Collaboration the Right Way to Work? It Depends.

As a manager, your job is to organize people and work for success. That includes work design–figuring out whether you have a group or a team and creating an environment where people can do their best work. I don’t know about you, but work design...

Improve Financial Results by Focusing on Value, Not Costs

When managers want to improve financial results, they turn first to trimming costs.  This is the logical first place to look if balance sheets are your primary view into how the organization functions. Many cost cutting measures do have an immediate effect on the...

Manager as Work System Designer: 14 Essential Questions

Questions matter.  The questions we ask open one avenue of inquiry, but close others.  If we want to change the way we manage, we need to change our questions.  And so, here are my slides from my talk at Agile 2010: 14 Essential Questions aimed at refocusing...

One-on-One Meetings with Self-organizing Teams

I’m a big believer in one-on-one meetings on manager-led teams. It’s a way to connect with people, stay in touch with progress, learn about problems early, coach, work on career goals, offer feedback, and more. But if you are the manager for a self-organizing team,...

Skills Are Only Half the Equation for Success

Hiring managers (and HR departments) expend enormous effort finding people with the right skills to fill open positions. But, skills are only half the equation for success. Many years ago, psychologist Kurt Lewin reduced the mysteries of human behavior to this simple...

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