Management, Humanity and Expectations

There’s a twitter discussion of what people “should” do in certain situations. One of the participants believes that people “should” want to learn on their own time and work more than 40 hours per week. I believe in learning. I don’t believe in expecting people to work more than 40 hours/week. My experience is that when you ask people to work more than 40 hours, they get stupid. See  Management Myth 15: I Need People to Work Overtime. If you want people to learn, read Management Myth #9: We Have No Time for Training. One participant also said that people should leave their emotional baggage (my word) at home. Work supposedly isn’t for emotions. Well, I don’t understand how we can have people who work without their emotions. Emotions are how we explain how we feel about things. I want people to advocate for what they feel is useful and good. I want to know when they feel something is bad and damaging. I want that, as a manager. See Management Myth #4: I Don’t Need One-on-Ones. People are emotional. Let’s assume they are adults and can harness their emotions. If not, we can provide feedback about the situation. But, ignoring their emotions? That never works. It’s incongruent and can make the situation worse. I have a problem with “shoulds” for other people. I cannot know what is going on in other people’s lives. Nor, do I want to know all the details as a manager. I need to know enough to use my judgement as a manager to help the people and teams proceed. When managers build trust...

Trust, Accountability, and Where Does the Time Go?

As more of my clients transition to agile, many of them have a fascinating question: How do I assess who is doing what on my team? When I ask why they want to know, they say it’s all related to reviews, rewards, and general compensation. They are still discussing individual compensation, not team compensation. When I ask why they want to reward individuals instead of the team, they say, “I am sure some people do more work than others. I want to reward them, and not the other people.” Interesting idea. And, wrong for agile teams. Also wrong for any innovation or learning that you want to happen as a team (regardless of whether you are agile or not). Agile is a team-based approach to work. Why would you want to reward some people more than others? If the team is not sure that they are working well together, they need to learn to provide each other feedback. If the team doesn’t know how to manage team membership, a manager can facilitate that membership discussion and problem-solving. Then, the managers can transition team membership issues to the team, with manager as backup/facilitator. What I see is that the managers want to control team membership. Instead, why not let the team control its membership? I often see that the managers want to control feedback: who provides it and who receives it. Instead, why not train everyone in how to provide and receive feedback? When managers want to reward some people more than others, they imply that some people are less capable than others—something agile is supposed to fix with teamwork....

Change the Indispensable Employee Mindset

Years ago, I was the expert for two specific products in a small development organization. When it came time for my manager to divide up the work, I always got those products to add features to, or maintain. That was fine for a while, until I got bored. I went to my boss with a request for different work. “Who will do the work if you don’t?” My boss was concerned. “Steve or Dave will. They’re good. They can take over for me.” I knew my colleagues. They could do the work. “But, they’ll have to learn what you do.” “I know. I can take a few days to explain, if you want. I don’t think it will take a few days to explain. They’re smart. I’m still available if they have questions.” “I don’t know. You’re indispensable where you are.” I faced my boss and stood up. “No one is indispensable. And, if I am, you should replace me on those systems anyway. What are you going to do if I leave?” My boss paled, and asked, “Are you planning to leave?” “I don’t know. I’m bored. I want new work. I told you that. I don’t see why I can’t have new work. You need developers on these projects.” I named three of them. “Why do I have to stay doing work on the old stuff when I want to do new things. I don’t see why I should. Just because I’ve been doing it for a year is no reason to pigeon-hole me. No. I want new work. I’m not indispensable. You can hire someone and I can train that...

New Year’s Tips Posted

I have posted my most recent Pragmatic Manager newsletter on my site. Read Johanna’s 2014 New Years Tips. I have a question for you. I send the newsletter to my subscribers the last week of the year. I call them “this-year” tips. Some people ask me if I mean “the next year”. I don’t because it’s this year. Is this confusing? Should I rename my end-of-the-year tips? Thanks for your...

Team Competition is Not Friendly

I once worked in an organization where the senior managers thought they should motivate us, the team members. They decided to have a team competition, complete with prizes. I was working on a difficult software problem with a colleague on another team. We both needed to jointly design our pieces of the product to make the entire product work. After management announced the competition, he didn’t want to work with me. Why? There was prize money, worth hundreds of dollars to each person. He had a mortgage and three kids. That money made a big difference to him. I was still single. I would have stuck that money into either my savings or retirement fund, after buying something nice for myself. Management motivated us, alright. But not to collaborate. They motivated us to stop working together. They motivated us to compete. Our progress stopped. My boss wanted to know what happened. I explained. I couldn’t fault my colleague. He wanted the money. It made a big difference for him. I would have appreciated the money, but not nearly as much as he would have. (Later, when I was paying for childcare, I understood how much of a difference that money made.) I then had this conversation with my boss, ranting and raving the entire time: “Look, do you want the best product or the best competition?” “What?” “You can’t have both. You can have a great product or you can have a great competition. Choose. Because once you put money on the table, where only one team gets the money, we won’t collaborate anymore.” My boss got that “aha”...

Who Removes Your Obstacles?

In self-organizing teams, teams remove their own obstacles. It’s a good idea. It can be difficult in practice. In Scrum, the Scrum Master is supposed to facilitate removing the team’s obstacles that the team can’t remove. It’s a good idea. It can be difficult in practice. And, what if you aren’t doing Scrum, or you’re transitioning to agile and you don’t yet have a self-organizing team? Maybe you have an agile project manager. Maybe you have a team facilitator. Not every team needs a titled manager-type, you know. (Even I don’t think that, and I come from project management.) Maybe the team bumps up against an obstacle they can’t remove, even if they try. Why? Because the obstacles the team can’t remove tend to fall in these categories: Cross-functional problems across several teams or across the organization Problems up the hierarchy in the organization Problems that occur both places, as in over there in another department and higher up in the hierarchy Oh boy. Someone who either used to be technical or used to be a first-line manager is supposed to talk to a VP of Support or Sales or the CIO or the CTO or “the Founder of the Company” and ask for help removing an impediment. Unless the entire organization is already agile, can you see that this is a problem or a potential problem? Chances are good that during an organization’s transition to agile, the team’s facilitator (regardless of the title) will need help from a more senior manager to remove obstacles. Not for the team. For the rest of the organization. Now, I would love...