(spoiler – everyone’s a leader… )
Most Agile training and consulting is aimed at teams. Classes focus on helping teams learn the mechanics of Agile – they teach the roles, tools, and ceremonies associated with various Agile approaches. By and large, Agile has been pretty successful at the team level.
But what happens when you take Agile teams, and ask them to operate inside a traditional hierarchical organization using traditional management approaches? I’ve had a lot of frustrated students who are struggling with this problem. The teams are Agile… but the business is not.
Management 3.0 is a fresh approach to leadership in a world of self-directed teams. But just like Agile – it’s a mindset, not a framework. It holds everyone responsible for contributing to success. It addresses common concerns such as:
- How can we motivate our workers?
- How can we change the organization’s culture?
- How can we change the mindset of managers?
- How can we get teams to take responsibility?
- How can we improve teamwork and collaboration?
- How can we get managers to trust their teams?
- How can we make the business more Agile?
The Six Core Principles of Management 3.0
I’ve recently completed my certification as a Management 3.0 Facilitator and as someone who has spent many years in management roles, I have to say that Management 3.0 is a breath of fresh air. It reaffirms many beliefs I had as a manager and provides practical tools for addressing many of the challenges that leaders face. Some key takeaways I’ve gained on my journey to certification:
Everyone’s a Leader!
Traditional management frameworks – Management 1.0, if you will — feature upfront design, top-down planning and command-and-control structures and processes. This works well with predictable, repeatable tasks… but not with tasks that require creativity, innovation, and problem-solving by humans.
As we evolved to more knowledge-intense work, we recognized that people are valuable assets and not interchangeable parts. But even in the next evolution of management frameworks – what we call Management 2.0 – the hierarchy of leadership persisted.
Now? To truly be Agile as an organization, we have to promote and support leadership at all levels. But you can’t just flip a switch and tell everyone that they’re a leader. Teams need tools to help them learn to be leaders. This includes exploring the limits of their responsibility and authority, developing competence as leaders, and motivating people. It also means figuring out how to get existing leaders to let go a little, and how to get individual contributors to step up.
There is No One-Size-Fits-All Management Solution
Prior to coming to B2T (now Netmind), I worked as a Sr. Director at a software company. I managed several teams, including a global team of pre-sales engineers. The engineers were broken up into geographical teams and worked closely with the sales staff in their geography. Within those geographies my engineering teams evolved different structures. In some geographies, the engineers were all generalists and could help with any sales effort. In other geographies, the engineers specialized, and they would support sales efforts in their area of specialization. Frankly, I didn’t care how they organized as long as their sales team was happy and they were meeting their sales goals.
Unfortunately, my non-standardized approach to team structure seemed to trigger the corporate immune system. Upper management decreed that I needed to decide on a single team structure and implement it globally. Pick your best team, they said, and emulate that everywhere else. If it works in one place, it’s bound to work in the others.
That brings to mind a quote I love:
“For every problem there is a solution which is simple, clean and wrong.”
– H.L. Mencken, Journalist & Literary Critic
It would be so nice if all management problems had a simple solution. You’ve got a pre-sales engineering team? Here – structure them like this, and you’ll succeed! Guaranteed! Except…not. It doesn’t work that way. In Management 3.0 we strive to accept that complex problems almost never have simple solutions…and also, very importantly, that many of the best solutions come from the team and not its formal management structure.
It’s OK to Fail!
Recently I’ve been part of an agile transformation initiatives at one of our large global customers. My Kanban and Scrum classes often contain a mix of individual contributors and managers. I’ve encountered a number of managers who are very resistant to the idea of self-directed teams. When I dig a little deeper into the reason for their concern, one issue that frequently surfaces is failure. They’re afraid their team will fail, and that they will be held accountable.
Guess what? Your team will fail. And it’s important to view that as a good thing. Really!!
I was very fortunate early in my career to have a manager who told me, “Kathy, if you’re not occasionally failing, then you’re probably not trying.” And it’s true. The only way to avoid failure is to play things safe. Never take a chance, never do an experiment, never let anybody move your cheese. By doing so, you can minimize your risk of failure. But simultaneously, you minimize your opportunity to be successful, and to learn from that failure.
I’m not saying you should turn teams loose with no guidelines at all. There are certain levels of risk we can accept, and many that we can’t. Management 3.0 tells us that we should “Align Constraints” – in other words, set goals and boundaries for the teams. Let them operate inside those boundaries, even if there will be some failures involved. And have their back when those failures occur. You’ll be (happily) surprised at some of the outcomes.
I’m very excited to add Management 3.0: Agile Management and Leadership to our catalog of training offerings. It aligns very closely to my own personal management philosophy and I think it puts a missing piece into many organizations’ agile transformation efforts. We’ve got great Agile teams…now let’s make our management Agile, too!