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...

Management Feedback: Are You Abrasive or Assertive?

Let me guess. If you are a successful woman, in the past, you’ve been told you’re too abrasive, too direct, maybe even too assertive. Too much. See The One Word Men Never See In Their Performance Reviews. Here’s the problem. You might be. I was. But never in the “examples” my bosses provided. The “examples” they provided were the ones when I advocated for my staff. The ones where I made my managers uncomfortable. The examples, where, if I had different anatomy, they would have relaxed afterwards, and we’d gone out for a beer. But we didn’t. Because my bosses could never get over the fact that I was a woman, and “women didn’t act this way.” Now, this was more than 20 years ago. (I’ve been a consultant for 20 years.) But, based on the Fast Company article, it doesn’t seem like enough culture has changed. Middle and senior managers, here’s the deal: At work, you want your managers to advocate for their people. You want this. This is a form of problem-solving. Your first-line and middle managers see a problem. If they don’t have the entire context, explain the context to them. Now, does that change anything? If it does, you, senior or middle manager, have been derelict in your management responsibility. Your first-line manager might have been able to solve the problem with his/her staff without being abrasive if you had explained the context earlier. Maybe you need to have more one-on-ones. Maybe all your first-line managers could have solved this problem in your staff meeting, as a cross-functional team. Are you canceling one-on-ones or canceling...

Workshop: Creating an Agile Leadership Team

Workshop Objective: You may have started with technical component teams long ago. You were all responsible for your own teams, as technical leaders. It made sense then. Now, you need to work together, in an agile or lean organization. This workshop will help you learn how to be technical problem-solving leaders, as a team, in your organization. Workshop Overview: If you are on your agile journey, you understand the problems of learning how to work in features, delivering value, and iterating on the product.  If the technical leadership of the organization doesn’t change, how can you help the technical people learn how to deliver? It’s a problem. You need to create your own leadership team. You may be organized as component managers, because it made sense at one time. You may be organized as functional managers because it made sense at one time. You may have some other organization that made sense at one time. But the organization is not what prevents you from changing the organization to agile. You need to lead the organization’s approach to agile. You, the leadership team can do it. In this experiential workshop, you will learn how to become a leadership team. You will learn how communication works and can go awry, what your organization’s charter could be, and how to be an empowering technical leader–with the emphasis on leadership. You will build your next quarter’s roadmap/project portfolio so you have a start. You will identify problems and either solve them or identify potential solutions for when you return to work. You will learn by doing in this experiential workshop. You will gain...

Do You Encourage People to Bring You Problems?

One of the familiar tensions in management is how you encourage or discourage people from bringing you problems. One of my clients had a favorite saying, “Don’t bring me problems. Bring me solutions.” I could see the problems that saying caused in the organization. He prevented people from bringing him problems until the problems were enormous. He didn’t realize that his belief that he was helping people solve their own problems was the cause of these huge problems. How could I help? I’d only been a consultant for a couple of years. I’d been a manager for several years, and a program manager and project manager for several years before that. I could see the system. This senior manager wasn’t really my client. I was consulting to a project manager, who reported to him, but not him. His belief system was the root cause of many of the problems. What could I do? I tried coaching my project manager, about what to say to his boss. That had some effect, but didn’t work well. My client, the project manager, was so dejected going into the conversation that the conversation was dead before it started. I needed to talk to the manager myself. I thought about this first. I figured I would only get one shot before I was out on my ear. I wasn’t worried about finding more consulting—but I really wanted to help this client. Everyone was suffering. I asked for a one-on-one with the senior manager. I explained that I wanted to discuss the project, and that the project manager was fine with this meeting. I had...