In this issue:
A senior manager asked me, “How do I get more productivity out of my people? We have cross-functional teams. Each team has their expertise. I just feel as if the teams could do more.”
I asked, “What kind of expertise? Is it expertise as a team or are people experts in their own area?”
The manager replied, “Each team has a lead developer with specific expertise. That developer leads the team. Sometimes, we have to swap the testers, but that's okay. The developers lead. Isn't this right?”
“So the testers are in-and-out. I have not seen teams work to their potential when they do that. If the lead manages all the work and is the expert, I suspect that the leads have too much work to do. Do they feel as if they are on the critical path for everything, and they don't have enough time to finish their work? I also wonder if the non-leads and the testers are frustrated by their inability to work to their potential.” I wanted to make sure I understood the facts.
“Yes,” he answered. “Several leads complained to me that they were too busy. Some of the non-lead developers and some of the testers told me they were frustrated. But, don't we need experts to lead the teams? I want everyone fully utilized–how else will I know if people are productive? If a tester isn't busy right now, shouldn't I move that person to a team that needs a tester?”
This manager was stuck in resource efficiency thinking. When managers think of people as resources, the managers optimize at the lowest possible level, the person, not the highest possible level, the team or even the organization.
People are innovative adaptable problem solvers. People can lead themselves, assuming they understand the context.
Measuring utilization is measuring effort. Your customers don't buy your efforts. They buy your products/features/releases. They buy the results of your efforts.
If you want more productivity, think in flow efficiency. Use management to set the context and create an environment in which people can solve most of their problems. Measure the projects or features you finish, not the ones you start.
What would you have to do to:
- Encourage people to solve problems as teams, not as technical lead and followers.
- Measure deliverables, not effort.
- Make sure that experts never work by themselves, but work with at least one other person so everyone can acquire more expertise.
Those are the productivity problems to solve.
Next year, I'm leading the Influential Agile Leader workshop again with Gil Broza. We are taking registrations now.
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© 2015 Johanna Rothman
Tags: flow efficiency, leadership, management, project management, servant leadership, teams, value