Running Agile

A Practitioner's View To Lean & Agile

Posts Tagged ‘Management’

Polite manager 1 – Police manager 0

Posted by Christophe on December 21, 2008


A recent study from the University of Southern California and the University of California, Santa Barbara presented students with an animated, talking robot to help them learn do a specific task.

With half of the students, the robot suggested solutions with supportive questions (“how about we do [this] ?”). With the other half, the robot demanded solutions “Do [this] now!”.

The study showed that the group of students instructed by the nicer robot learned as much as 57% more than the others taught by the bossy robot.

The study didn’t test with human instructors. Until then, be a nice manager.

Posted in Communication, Management, Research | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Death by appraisal

Posted by Christophe on May 11, 2008

Yearly appraisals, ratings and rankings are devised to kill your teams.

For most teams, each person’s achievement is all commingled with the other members of the team. Trying to pull out individual performance is futile. Emphasizing or rating individual performance undermines collaboration. Individual skills are only a small part of the performance equation anyway. The quality of management, the environment and organization culture are major factors in individual performance. And most rating and ranking schemes ignore those factors.

So appraisals, ratings and rankings engender unhealthy competition, not collaboration, not efficiency, not product success. Every company does it, but what good has this really done for you? Nothing! It’s really silly and makes no sense.

Oh wait, disabusing poor performers by letting them know they are at the bottom of the barrel will spur motivation and greater efforts, right? Most people believe they are above average performers so this accomplishes quite the opposite.

And when everyone does a great job on the team, what use is there telling someone they’re at the bottom?

The best time to really screw up is to provide people with a loose and uncanny review year end, or on their hiring date anniversary – how sentimental. Why waste a year, 6 months or even weeks and keep inadequate performance continue?

While appraisals do nothing at best, do let your people know how they are doing, in the present, as close to the event as feasible. Sweet and short. Direct and frequent.

Once in while, step back and look at your whole team. Manage your C players to another job, where they can be successful – within your company – or out. For everyone else, follow Esther Derby’s tips and engage them on these questions:

  • What were the major events of the year?
  • What have been the major accomplishments?
  • What new skills have you acquired?
  • What have been your struggles?
  • What contributed to those situations?
  • What insights do you have, looking back on the year?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • How does this inform us going into next year?
  • What do you want to do better?
  • Are there new areas you want to explore?
  • What skills or capabilities will you develop?
  • How can we build developing those capabilities into daily work?
  • How will we tell you’re making progress?

Do not discuss a letter or number rating or ranking. Just talk.
Have a separate conversation about salary increases.

For more depth on on one one management, read Esther Derby‘s book Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management.

And if your company insists on annual appraisals, establish a system that that carries more weight on the team than the individual. Avoid ranking or skill set scoring. Instead, focus on the scope of influence someone has. I already wrote on how to do reviews in agile teams with Jeff Sutherland’s review process. You should also consider teaching your teams how to rate themselves. Scary? most teams don’t inflate their own grades – unless the system drives that behavior.

Posted in Esther Derby, Leadership, Management, Team Performance | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Semco – an agile organization

Posted by Christophe on April 16, 2008

Some call it anarchic socialism, some cutting edge capitalism. At Brazilian manufacturer Semco, the workers have sacked the boss, and run the company themselves.

At the lavish reception, one of two receptionists meet and greet the great and mighty. But no-one really ever knows which one it will be at any given time. “‘We are not sure which one will be there, because they set their own schedule” explains IT worker boss Joao Neto. There are hammocks to help workers think in comfort, and departments can choose their own furniture. Even salaries are set by the employees themselves, and bosses are just as likely to tell you to ask for more money than less. But although it sounds like a workers dream, the rest of the department keeps an eagle eye on lazy employees: “There is peer pressure for bad behaviour. If you’re here just to profit from other people’s efforts, you’re not wanted”. The easy going atmosphere has paid dividends — annual profits at Semco are up to US$ 160m these days, from $ 4m when owner Ricardo Semler took over 25 years ago. Now he has turned his attention to teaching — without the teachers. Like Semco, pupils at Lumiar primary school in Sao Paulo dictate the rules. Vive La Revolucion?

Posted in Management, Videos | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Little and Spayd on Agile and Organizational Change

Posted by Christophe on February 19, 2008

Agile, once the territory of “early adopters” is coming into the mainstream and meeting resistance. Does this mean Agile can’t work in more traditional teams and organizations? Not necessarily, say coaches Michael Spayd and Joe Little, in this InfoQ interview taped at Agile2006. What’s needed is an awareness of the need to facilitate organizational change.

Watch the video here.

Posted in Agile2006, Change, Joseph Little, Leadership, Management, Michael Spayd, Videos | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Functional roles, managers and individual growth in Agile contexts

Posted by Christophe on February 19, 2008

I’ve been listed as a panelist for a submission made by Rachel Weston (from Rally): Functional roles, managers and individual growth in Agile contexts.

Other panelists:

  • Esther Derby
  • Michael Spayd


In this panel session, a group of industry experts will respond to questions relating to the challenges teams and organizations that are moving to Agile practices are experiencing related to functional roles and managers and individual growth and compensation.

Sample questions (final list is still being determined):

  • What factors have most impacted individual growth in your organization or organizations you have worked with since the introduction of Agile practices?
  • How has the adoption of Agile practices affected functional leadership within organizations?
  • How do managers’ behaviors change to support with Agile practices?
  • How do compensation models need to change to support Agile practices?

Posted in Agile2008, Esther Derby, Leadership, Management, Michael Spayd | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Quote of the day

Posted by Christophe on October 15, 2007

“Management is directing & controlling a process (ie having control); Leadership is influencing & trusting people (ie releasing control)”

Posted in Leadership, Management, Quotes | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Quote of the day

Posted by Christophe on October 14, 2007

“Management is getting people to do what needs to be done. Leadership is getting people to want to do what needs to be done”
-John Cotter

Posted in Leadership, Management, Quotes | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Quote of the day

Posted by Christophe on October 9, 2007

“Managers are people who do things right. Leaders are people who do the right things”
-Warren Bennis

Posted in Leadership, Management, Quotes | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Management lesson from 2 letters

Posted by Christophe on October 7, 2007

“One new leader of his country found on his desk two letters from his predecessor, numbered 1 and 2 and to be opened in the case of the first emergency and the second. Well, the first emergency happened. The new leader opened the first envelope and the letter said, “blame me.” He did; his people bought it. Life went on. A year later another emergency hit. He opened the second envelope and the letter said, “now sit down and write two letters.”

This wouldn’t be that funny if this wasn’t happening so frequently.

New manager comes in.
Changes things his way.
Team fails.
Blames predecessor.
Moves on.

So what does new manager ought to do? Maybe nothing — besides listening.

Posted in Jokes, Management | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »