In todays Agile world we often see the need of new approaches to management. Since the nineties Agile has changed software product development. Today the need to change management approaches is emerging. The last couple of years I have noticed Radical Management, Management 3.0, Tribal Leadership, Leadership Agility, Servant Leadership, Leadership and the New Science, Reinventing Organizations, Drive, Turn the Ship Around, Cynefin, etc.
A common theme is a stronger focus on teams and the individual as a team member. Another common theme is how the role of the leader is transforming to become the role of a visionary, a goal setter, a facilitator and a coach instead of a boss or a manager.
One big reason for a different management approach is that today we face complex situations and environments. The ”good old” command and control management culture just doesn’t fit well in a complex environment.
Command and control may work in a simple or obvious environment. In a complex environment it takes more than that to reach the goal and be able to deliver value.
In addition to the complex realities of today, we also face a high demand for early and fast delivery. Decisions made by managers have a large impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization. Today it is simply not enough to tell employees what to do. As a manager you need to focus on leadership and how to create the best circumstances for effective and efficient work to take place.
The Agile manager needs to be skilled in leadership as well as management issues. An Agile leader is able to create and communicate a vision, a direction. The Agile leader is able to set the boundaries for making the vision come true and an Agile leader is able to provide the right environment and circumstances for successful product development to take place.
The above may not be enough. The shift in paradigm is a shift to self organizing teams, to cross functional teams, to managers becoming servant leaders. As an Agile leader you need to be aware of the fact that most decisions about how to develop products are better carried out by the teams and the team members than by you. One part of the equation is to identify what I as an Agile leader need to decide and provide and what I can leave for the teams and team members to decide upon.
Dave Snowden, creator of the Cynefin Framework, and Jurgen Appelo, author of Management 3.0, are two of the many who have provided useful insights and thoughts in this area. Cynefin is a decision-making framework that recognizes the casual differences that exist between system types and proposes new approaches to decision-making in complex social environments. Management 3.0 is written to help and support development managers and team leaders to learn a different approach to leading and managing organizations.
In the article ”A Leaders Framework for Decision Making” of the November 2007 issue of HBR, Dave Snowden and Mary E. Boone describe tools for managing in a complex context. Among the tools mentioned and described are:
- Open up the discussion
- Set barriers
- Encourage dissent and diversity
- Manage starting conditions and monitor for emergence
These are all good tools to use as an Agile leader.
In his 2011 book “Management 3.0 – Leading Agile developers, Developing Agile Leaders”, Jurgen Appelo, writes about how to empower a team and what different authority levels he sees. Appelo writes “Empowerment is more than just delegation. It includes the support of risk taking, personal growth, and cultural change” and ”The real reason for empowerment is the manageability of the complex system itself”. He states that smart managers empower people to prevent the whole system from breaking down. When empowering teams and people, Jurgen distinguishes between seven levels of authority:
I’m mentioning the work of Snowden and Appelo to give an idea on how to possibly manage in complex environments and systems. These are examples and I encourage you to explore further.
Many managers and leaders understand what I’m writing about, others still need to discover these insights and practice to probe, sense and respond, which is how Dave Snowden tells us to behave in a complex domain. That is different from sense, categorize and respond, which is what we are used to do and what is suitable for a simple or obvious domain. This is the shift in paradigm I imagine many of us still need to make. In Agile words: inspect and adapt.
- How do you perceive it?
- Do we need a new management paradigm or is it already in place?