Management Myth 24: People Don’t Need External Credit

“Robert, do you have a minute?” Cheryl, the development manager, stood at her director’s door. “Sure, let me save this.” Robert stopped what he was doing. “You look worried. Come on over and let’s sit at the visitors table. This looks serious.” “Well, it is. I’m not sure how to say it, so I’ll just spit it out.” Robert nodded. Cheryl took a deep breath. “You remember the big push to finish the release last month? We’re agile, but our transition is shaky. We actually pulled some overtime, which we’re not supposed to do. We didn’t extend our timebox, but not everyone worked just forty hours a week. Some people worked close to sixty hours the entire timebox. It was a very tough two-week iteration. “You came around to our demo, which was great. The team appreciated your thanks. You even wrote individual thank-you email notes. It looked like you really understood what the team did. “But you took credit for what the team did at the Ops meeting. At least, that’s what it seemed like to me and to everyone on the team. Maybe you can tell me what really happened. I’m upset, and I didn’t even realize it had happened. Someone on the team read the public minutes, so now the team is upset. Please tell me what happened.” Robert shook his head. “Oh, boy, that’s not what I intended at all. But I can understand that’s how it came across. “At the Ops meeting, all the directors explain how their projects and programs are proceeding. You know that, right?” Cheryl nodded. “Well, they were in a...

Management Myth 23: You Can Manage Any Number of People as a Manager

“Cindy, I need to add three more people to your team.” Patrick, the CTO, leaned in the doorway. He turned, about to walk away. “Wait a sec. We need to discuss this. You don’t get to drop that bombshell and leave. Why do you want me to hire more people?” Cindy looked concerned. “No, I don’t want you to hire anyone,” Patrick said. “I’m moving them over from Tranh’s team. He’s not coaching them well. You coach your team well. He’s not. I want you to manage them.” “If you give me three more people, I won’t be able to coach them properly. I won’t have time,” Cindy replied. “You don’t want me to make team leads, which I don’t understand. I’ll have twelve people, which is too many. No. I don’t want them. Give them to someone else or let me manage my team the way I want.” Patrick walked in and sat down. ‘What do you mean, ‘manage the way you want’? I don’t interfere with you.” Cindy snorted. “Sure you do. You have all kinds of rules. I can’t have team leads. I must have a minimum of three people to manage. I must write code, no matter how many people I manage or what else I’m doing for you. “None of your rules makes sense in an agile organization. None of these helps me manage the project portfolio or provide coaching or career development or the kind of feedback that makes sense. They don’t help me help the product owners or the program managers. They don’t help me work on the architectural decisions for where...

Management Myth 22: If You’re Not Typing, You’re Not Working

“James, I need to talk to you about Bill.” Susanne shut the door and sat down in the visitor chair. “OK, what’s up?” James stopped typing at his computer. He walked to his visitor table and sat down. “I just walked by Bill’s office. He’s leaning back in his chair. I could swear he’s snoring!” Susanne yanked at her sleeves, her brow furrowed. “He’s not working. If he’s not typing, how could he be working?” “Susanne, what did you do before you were the CIO?” James decided to lead her to the answer instead of answering directly. “What do you mean? I was a manager of technology.” “OK, and before that?” “I was a project manager. And a darn good one.” “I bet you were. How long has it been since you did technical work? Fifteen years? Twenty years? I’m not asking your age. I know, never ask a lady her age. I wouldn’t ask if you were a gentleman, either. I’m making a point about different personalities and technical work. “Some people need to think about their work. Sometimes, they take a walk. Sometimes, they lean back in their chairs and they close their eyes. Sometimes, when Bill does that, he actually does nap. It’s OK; it won’t be for more than fifteen minutes. When he wakes up and opens his eyes, he’s going to have a terrific idea—or, more likely, three terrific ideas—that he will share with the team. “Some people need to discuss their work to generate ideas. If Bill were having a meeting with people, would you object?” “No, of course not!” “Right. And if...

Management Myth 21: It’s Always Cheaper to Hire People Where the Wages Are Less Expensive

“George is on his offshoring rampage again,” Cindy said as she slumped down in Ted’s visitor chair. Ted saved his document and turned around. “Oh? Want to tell me about it?” “I need more testers for the feature teams we’re starting, right? I told him. I showed him the project portfolio and the projects we can’t start. I showed him my unstaffed work. He told me, ‘Hire people in India. They’re cheaper.’ Well, they are cheaper, but the cost of doing business makes things so much slower, it’s not worth it. They’re smart, really smart, but by the time we get them trained, and with the time delay, it’s just not worth it. “Now, if we were talking Brazil, maybe. But even then, we’re in Denver, so we still have a time delay. Mexico City, maybe. But why can’t I just hire testers here? Are you getting the pushback on developers?” “Yes,” Ted agreed. “I’m being told to hire testers in Ukraine.” “Well, that’s just crazy. We should hire feature teams somewhere. And make them employees. Doesn’t George realize that?” “He’s still thinking waterfall. You know—first you need developers, then you need testers. We have to help him see we need everyone all the time. We need to explain to him the cost of asking a question and the cost of delay. Maybe we should show him the value stream.” “Can he even spell value stream?” Cindy rolled her eyes. Ted glared at her. “Oh, fine. I’m being juvenile,” Cindy said. “But he’s being ridiculous. He wants all the advantages of agile without understanding the first thing about it....

Management Myth 20: I Can Compare Teams (and It’s Valuable to Do So)

Barry bustled into Sam’s office. “Hey Sam, I need to see how these teams are doing— compared to each other. How do you compare teams?” “I don’t compare teams,” said Sam. “Why are you trying to compare teams?” “So I can tell who’s being more productive and who’s slacking off,” Barry replied. “But I thought for sure you did this. You always seem to have really productive teams. How do you measure them?” “I don’t measure them.” “What do you mean you don’t measure them? You must do something. How else will you know if the teams are any good? How about the people on the teams? You must measure them. Come on, what’s your secret?” “Barry, I don’t measure a thing about the people. I don’t measure what the teams have as output. I ask them to measure their throughput and to ask me for help if they are unhappy with it. “My job is to help create the environment that will allow our team members to work in a reasonable way. I make sure they know which project is number one. I arrange for training for people when my managers tell me people need training. I make sure everyone knows our mission. But I don’t bother with that comparison nonsense. Is someone asking you to compare teams?” “Well, no, but I have no idea how to know who is doing great work and who’s not doing so well,” said Barry. “I have engineering teams here in California and some in Colorado. I have some teams in France and some in Israel and Bangalore. How do I compare...