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Posts tagged ‘Leadership’

Agile managers do not act like cowboys

Image by anyjazz65

Managers are expected to get their teams to deliver on the objectives that are established. Managers are also expected to keep their people happy and motivated. How can one accomplish these two seemingly incompatible expectations?

Let’s first distinguish management from leadership.

Management books often make a distinction between managers and leaders, depicting leadership as if it is more about heroics than management. [...] Managers are then advised to transform themselves to leaders, turning employees into willing followers, instead of herding them like sheep. [...] Separating leadership from management is like comparing women to humans. It doesn’t make sense. [...] Comparing women to men seems more logical to me. - Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders

I agree with Jurgen that leadership is one of the ways to accomplish a manager’s role.

Along the same lines, I hear from time to time conversations within Agile circles and read Agile related blog posts promoting soft leadership, leading without authority and laissez-faire [The latter is sometime mistakenly perceived to be self-organization. Self-organization is something else and requires clear boundaries, but that's for another post] as the answer to the management conundrum. Is that really the silver-bullet?

In almost all organizations, the manager’s role is fairly similar.

Management in all business and organizational activities is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively. Management comprises planning, organizing, staffing, leading or directing, and controlling an organization (a group of one or more people or entities) or effort for the purpose of accomplishing a goal. [...] Since organizations can be viewed as systems, management can also be defined as human action, including design, to facilitate the production of useful outcomes from a system. This view opens the opportunity to ‘manage’ oneself, a pre-requisite to attempting to manage others. - wikipedia

For a large number of individuals in management responsibility, authority is perceived to be the most effective tool to ensure compliance and to get people to do with is expected. Please bear with me, the analogy isn’t perfect but the image is powerful. For me, authority is similar to carrying a gun [or whatever your preferred weapon happens to be].

It is easy to obtain compliance and get people to do what we tell them to do when we – the managers – are the only people carrying a weapon. It is especially true if the weapon is constantly out of the holster and pointing directly at the team [figuratively speaking, of course]. So authority gets us compliance (for most part) and may allow us to meet our objectives (some of the time) but authority doesn’t bring the best out of people. Authority certainly doesn’t make people happy and motivated.

On the other hand, if we aim to keep people happy and motivated first, we are more likely to adopt a laissez-faire approach.

Lewin often characterized organizational management styles and cultures in terms of leadership climates defined by (1) authoritarian, (2) democratic and (3) laissez-faire work environments. Authoritarian environments are characterized where the leader determines policy with techniques and steps for work tasks dictated by the leader in the division of labor. The leader is not necessarily hostile but is aloof from participation in work and commonly offers personal praise and criticism for the work done. Democratic climates are characterized where policy is determined through collective processes with decisions assisted by the leader. Before accomplishing tasks, perspectives are gained from group discussion and technical advice from a leader. Members are given choices and collectively decide the division of labor. Praise and criticism in such an environment are objective, fact minded and given by a group member without necessarily having participated extensively in the actual work. Laissez-faire Environments give freedom to the group for policy determination without any participation from the leader. The leader remains uninvolved in work decisions unless asked, does not participate in the division of labor, and very infrequently gives praise. - wikipedia

When nobody carries a weapon, such as in the case of laissez-faire leadership style, people are freer to select goals that appeal to them and are more likely to be successful at reaching their objectives. Unfortunately, managing people (as in the wikipedia definition “getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives”) becomes extremely difficult and maybe impossible in a business context (trust me, we have tried that unsuccessfully).

To be an agile manager doesn’t mean to avoid using authority and to strictly rely on our influencing capabilities. It doesn’t mean to let people determine the business orientation that the organization will be taking either. As in many fruitless debates, taking an “either or” perspective doesn’t lead to the best answer. Agile managers need to be able to use authority, but not as their primary tool.

Let me explain.

Agile managers need to take the time to explain the objectives they aim to achieve and get people to follow them (leadership) into attempting to reach the objectives. Just like good diplomats, agile managers should begin with good listening skills, influence, and negotiation when they are faced with people resistance and challenges. Only in extreme cases should we turn to authority to get people to do what we need them to do. Like many things in life, using authority comes at a cost (diminished commitment from the team, reduced motivation) and as such, should be used wisely.

This leads me to my last point. In addition to management skills, people’s tolerance to stress needs to determine if they should be entitled to manage a team. As most psychometric tests can tell, we – humans – tend to operate differently when we are within our comfort zone (low stress) or outside our comfort zone (high stress). While in our comfort zone, we usually take advantage of many of our built-in or acquired skills which doesn’t increase one’s anxiety level. By contrast, stepping too much outside our comfort zone leads to decreased performance and substantially increased anxiety levels. People for who management is within their comfort zone or people who have better abilities to deal with stress are less likely to use authority as their primary tool. As such, agile managers are more likely to wait until the situation is critical before they even think of going “Clint Eastwood” on people.

So next time you are thinking of promoting someone in a management position, do not simply look for their skills. Assess their ability to manage their stress level.

Tribal Leadership – What level of leadership are you at?

There are many perspectives about what leadership is and how it should be done. Contrary to many recipe books on this topic, Tribal Leadership is a useful tool to assess the stage of your personal leadership style and evaluate the impact and the consequences of each stage. Although the backdrop of the book is that a higher leadership stage is better, the real value for me was as a tool to understand the culture and more importantly the people we deal with as part of Agile transitions.

While the majority of leaders in the work place are at stages 2 and 3, Tribal Leadership shares tools and insights to help individuals and organizations break through to the next evolutionary stages – which are usually much easier for a transition.

To help you get a gist of where you may stand as a leader and possibly help you determine at what level people you work with are, the authors provided on their web site a quick map (below).

As Agile coaches, we must often work with teams and their leaders. Understanding the behaviours of the leaders and their motivation is extremely useful. As such, the book presents a model allowing the transformation of Level 1 leaders to higher levels – granted most people start at level 2 or 3.

The book provides rich insights into human behaviour, group dynamics and individual motivation. Overall, it provides a good framework to understand people’s behaviors and with some clear thinking, can lead into actionable strategies to help support an agile transition.

Tribal Leadership is available in audio book [285 Mb zipped file] and in a traditional book format (Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization).

See Dave Logan’s presentation at TED.

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Martin Proulx (Analytical-Mind) to celebrate International Coaching Week with free leadership coaching

In celebration of International Coaching Week, February 6–12, 2011, I am pleased to offer as I did last year, 10 hours of leadership coaching.

See what Louis had to say about his coaching experience:

I contacted Martin to help me transitioning to a senior role in the banking industry. He always used appropriate questions to bring my reflection to the right point, allowing me to accelerate thoughts I could possibly have but on a much longer period of time. Martin is smart, clear and articulate and efficiently interfere with a minimum number of words to help in the evolution of the reflection. Our coaching sessions helped me to improve my management skills, and I would definitively recommend him!

Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaches work with clients in many areas, including business, career, finance, health and relationships.

Image by seier+seierIf you ever wondered if a coach can help you achieve better results faster, I invite you to send me an email (martin[at]analytical-mind[dot]com) with the following information:

  • Description of the professional objective you are hoping to achieve.
  • Why you think a leadership coach could help you achieve your objective?
  • Why YOU should be selected?

I am donating 10 x 1-hour sessions to one leader who wishes to achieve a specific goal. The sessions will take place over the phone (skype) at the rate of 1 session per week. You have until Wednesday, February 16th to submit your profile and I will select the coachee on February 19th. I am confident you will enjoy the experience.

International Coaching Week (ICW) is a weeklong global celebration of the coaching profession held each February since 1999. ICW is a designated time for coaches and clients to educate the general public about the value of working with a professional coach and to acknowledge the results and progress made through the coaching process. During this extended commemoration, coaches around the world offer a variety of activities and pro bono services in their local communities to share what coaching has the ability to do. For more information about ICW, visit www.coachingweek.org.

The International Coach Federation is the leading global organization for coaches, with more than 16,000 members in more than 90 countries, dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high ethical standards, providing independent certification, and building a worldwide network of credentialed coaches. The ICF is the only organization that awards a global credential which is currently held by over 5,700 coaches worldwide. For more information about the ICF, please visit our Web site at www.coachfederation.org.

Non-conventional salary review process

Picture by bookgrlAs within most organizations, the salary review process is an important one at Pyxis. The process is important for the employee-shareholders so they know there is a process, they understand it and deem it to be fair. It is also important for the organization as a whole to retain the talented employee-shareholders and provide a compensation that compares favorably to the market.

Most traditional organizations would agree that the process is very important but there is a distinction on how the process is handled within Pyxis. At most traditional organizations I worked for (and with), the salary review process is tied to the performance appraisal process and to the budget allocated by Human Resources. At the end of each year, the employee receives a performance rating which determines the percentage of salary increase – people receive an average increase for an average rating and an above-average increase for an above-average performance. The guidelines are clear and applied to everyone the same way. The salary review process takes place between an employee and his/her manager.

We like to do things differently. I have already described that Pyxis is organized in communities.

In a business context, communities are similar to functional departments with some fundamental distinctions. In traditional setting, members of a functional department or of a project team work together to achieve a goal. With some exceptions, team members share nothing but their common goal and a common boss. By comparison, in addition to sharing a common goal members within a community also share common values and culture and they operate within agreed upon self-defined norms. Analytical-Mind.

The employee-shareholders are offered a few options when it comes to their salary review:

  • They can use the process put in place within their community (in this case, my only responsibility is to ensure fairness across communities).
  • They can suggest an alternate approach that respects fairness (in this case, my only responsibility is to ensure the fairness of the proposed process).
  • They can follow the approach recently used by Tremeur Balbous and Jean-François Proulx for their salary review.

The “Tremeur and Jean-François” approach

  • The employee-shareholder must complete and document a self-evaluation (a 360-degree feedback similar to this one is often used). He must evaluate its contribution to Pyxis for the year ending and propose a new salary for the coming year.
  • The employee-shareholder must then submit his self-evaluation to at least 3 other employee-shareholders with whom he worked during the year that ended in order to obtain their feedback and determine if the salary requested is appropriate and fair.
  • If the employee-shareholders consulted do not belong to the same community as that to which the applicant belongs, the requester needs to validate his requested salary with at least 2 members of the community of belonging.
  • Ideally, the community leader should be involved in the process since he is responsible for the financial framework of his community.
  • At the end of this process, the applicant holds a meeting with me to discuss his findings and request salary.

Factors having a positive impact on salary determination

  • Performance in his role;
  • Contribution to the success of his community;
  • Contribution to the success of Pyxis as a whole;
  • Revenues generated directly;
  • Income generated indirectly;
  • A marked increase in responsibilities – in the case where an employee justifies a pay increase by the marked increase in his responsibilities, the excess (beyond the base increase) is considered an additional increase. The additional increase will be removed in the event the employee ceases to assume the responsibilities for which he had obtained a further increase.

Does your organization use a non-conventional salary review process?

Are you an Agile Leader? – Nine questions for people managers

Picture by angus mcdiarmidOne of the frequent obstacle encountered by project teams when transitioning to Agile is the resistance of their manager. When an executive declares that the organization is moving to Agile, many team members look forward to working differently – that is until their manager gets involved.

As an organizational coach, I often use a simple questionnaire to assess the level of agility of the managers I deal with. Below are nine questions to help determine how Agile the manager I’m talking to actually is.

Go ahead – try the short test.

True or False?

  1. To get the best results, it is preferable to properly control the activities of the team members
  2. A process that is not well defined at the outset will always give sub-optimal results
  3. To reduce the loss of productivity, it is preferable to isolate team members in cubicles and use email as the preferred a mode of communication
  4. A team of experts with specialized knowledge is always more efficient than a multi-disciplinary team
  5. The best tools and processes are those selected by the organization and standardized for all groups
  6. It is generally preferable to thoroughly document what we people do even if it reduces their speed
  7. Money is the best way to keep individuals motivated
  8. It is more important to follow the plan than to adapt to changes
  9. A signed contract is better than an informal agreement to ensure cooperation between different departments

How did you do?

If you answered True:

  • 9 times (out of 9): As you enter an Agile transition, your current management paradigms are likely to be severely tested, but with the right mindset and the willingness to change you could be surprised. You may want to take this test again a few months after the beginning of the transition to see how much you have progressed.
  • Between 5 and 8 times (out of 9): You have some of the right reflexes but you haven’t fully grasped the concepts behind Agile. With some work and an open mind, you could modify your leadership style and eventually become an Agile manager.
  • Between 1 and 4 times (out of 9): You’re almost there. You are comfortable with most of the Agile concepts but still need to fine-tune some of your reflexes to make it to the top of the chart.
  • 0 time (out of 9): Congratulations! You seem to understand the Agile approach and the underlying concepts very well. If you behave the way you answered these questions, you are an exemplary Agile leader. Send me an email, I certainly would like to hear from you.

The 5 Dimensions of Leadership in an Agile Context

Following my posts on delivering results in an agile context, the 7 dimensions of an agile project team and their agile work environment, this fifth and final post on Agile Leadership presents the “Leadership” level of the model. I’m hoping to help managers, leaders, and stakeholders better understand which behaviors to modify in order to obtain better performance and improve employee satisfaction within their organization. I came up with five dimensions associated with Leadership in an Agile context.
Picture by pedrosimoes7

Before I begin, I want to make a distinction between management and leadership. Over the years, the terms “leadership” and “management” have often been used as synonyms. To distinguish the two words I would specify that leadership is “transformational” in nature while management is more “transactional”.

Leadership

Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” (wikipedia)

Servant Leadership

Servant-leaders achieve results for their organizations by giving priority attention to the needs of their colleagues and those they serve. Servant-leaders are often seen as humble stewards of their organization’s resources (wikipedia)

Management

Management in all business areas and human organization activity is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives. Management comprises planning, organizing, staffing, leading or directing, and controlling an organization (a group of one or more people or entities) or effort for the purpose of accomplishing a goal (wikipedia)

Goal Setting

Goal-setting ideally involves establishing specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-targeted objectives. Work on the goal-setting theory suggests that it can serve as an effective tool for making progress by ensuring that participants have a clear awareness of what they must do to achieve or help achieve an objective (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Goal Setting dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Are the team members objectives aligned with one another?
  • Are the suggestions coming from the retrospection of the team taken into consideration in the objective settings?

Performance Management

Performance management includes activities to ensure that goals are consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Performance Management dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Does the leader clearly define the objectives of his people?
  • Does the organization measure its progress toward its goals?
  • Is the performance measured at the team level in addition to the individual level?
  • Does the company evaluate both the individual’s work behaviours and outcomes against the defined objectives?
  • Do the team members receive timely and frequent feedback?

Remuneration

Remuneration is pay or salary, typically a monetary payment for services rendered, as in an employment (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Remuneration dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Do managers mostly rely on intrinsic (rather than extrinsic) motivation?
  • Does the remuneration model reflect the individual’s contribution to the team or is it based on seniority?
  • Is the compensation model clearly understood by all team members?
  • Is the leader rewarded for the development of his members?
  • Do team members participate in the definition of the compensation of their colleagues?
  • Is the compensation model strictly based on individual performance?

Coaching

Coaching refers to the activity of a coach in developing the abilities of coachees. Coaching tends to focus on the achievement by coachees of a goal or specific skill (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Coaching dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Does the leader support its members in their skills and competences development?
  • Does the leader take the time to teach his team members on how to increase their skills and better themselves?
  • Is the leader selected by the team members?
  • Is the leader evaluated by his team members?

Change Management

Change management is a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Change Management dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Does the leader work with the team members to establish a clear change management strategy?
  • Does the leader acknowledge that the pace of change is different for all team members?
  • Does the leader deal constructively for team members’ resistance to change?

Leader’s Qualities

Finally, in order to assess if the leader has the right qualities to be successful in an agile environment, I have selected a handful of qualities the leader should clearly demonstrate.

Does the Leader display the following qualities?

  • Making decision when necessary
  • Enthusiasm / Optimism
  • Humility
  • Respect
  • Trust
  • Integrity
  • Confidence

We need better management – we need agile management

As mentioned in my guest post on Management 3.0, times are changing and many organizations are finding ways to lead people to deliver better results.

Having spent most of my professional career in the software development industry, either as a consultant or as an employee of large corporations, it is obvious that many of my inspirations for leadership came for the technology side of things. I quickly realized two things:

  1. Working with technology opened my perspective to more innovations and allowed me to develop a willingness to continuously improve what was around me – not only the technology but the tools and the processes in order to derive better performance from people and later on to strive for a more balanced work-life,
  2. I noticed that many people in organizations who could change the way people were managed were caught in their old paradigms:
    • Senior managers who had power refused to change and were counting the days until retirements,
    • Middle managers who had an open mind, had no time to implement innovations or had no power to do so,
    • Support departments were more interested in maintaining status quo after years of implementing policies and procedures and weren’t so inclined to look for better methods.

Once in a while, an external consultant would present some promising avenue to help improve performance and morale but their attempt would vanish once they closed the doors behind them.

Then came Agile. Although the Agile Manifesto was published in 2001, I discovered the underlying principles years later and it became obvious to me that what was recommended for software development organizations would certainly work, outside the technology departments. For almost two years, I have been analyzing the principles, reading books, and working with colleagues and clients to derive an improved method of working. From my “Rebel Leadership” concept came the “Agile Leadership” approach.

What does “Delivering Results” mean in an Agile context?

A few days ago, I broke down the key dimensions associated with an Agile Project team in an attempt to explain Agile to managers but I purposely excluded the concept of RESULTS in order to remain focus on the key dimensions. As such, the main reasons why an organization would choose to go Agile haven’t been specifically addressed in my previous post.

Image from dullhunk

Working software over comprehensive documentation - Manifesto for Agile Software Development

Yes, working software is the goal of the project team but the ultimate goal of the organization remains to maximize return on investment (ROI). The next logical question should be “What does maximizing return on investment (ROI) mean in an Agile context?”

In my opinion, maximizing ROI in an agile context means:

  • Paying the right price for the developed software while getting the most business value – the right price means the cost associated with the labor without significant overhead costs;
  • Developing a competitive advantage by adapting to changes in the environment while quickly and incrementally developing the results in order to capture the market opportunities;
  • Increasing customer satisfaction by giving them the product they need, when they need it;
  • Allowing project team members to develop their skills while having fun.

Too many times, maximizing ROI simply means increasing throughput and/or decreasing cost – no matter what. Delivering results in an agile context should not limit its focus on the very short term but also take into consideration a longer term investment in the capabilities of the team members.

What is Agile Leadership?

Agile Leadership is the application of the Agile principles (as defined in the Agile Manifesto) to the leadership of software development endeavours.

In addition to encompassing the processes, tools and rules of Agile Scrum, Agile Leadership extrapolates them to change how teams and projects are managed within the context of the work environment and new leadership paradigms to deliver better results.

Agile Leadership Model

Where Agile Scrum mostly focuses on the organization of the project team, the roles and responsibilities of the team members, the artifacts, and the rules under which the project team operates, Agile Leadership includes the work environment as well as the specific leadership abilities expected from the managers and stakeholders.

Agile Leadership is a fundamental paradigm shift with the objective of making the project team successful and the people within the team happier in order to deliver better results. The shift mostly comes from the leadership (aka management style) and the rules used to govern the actions, the behaviours and the outcome of the team.

Getting managers to become more Agile requires changing behaviors and to use a more democratic approach to management. More specifically, Agile Leadership requires to:

  • Transfer certain powers to the team members themselves to let them determine how best to accomplish their tasks;
  • Empower the project team through self-organization and commitment to results;
  • Transfer decision-making to individuals who are closest to the activities;
  • Demonstrate a greater openness to ideas and innovations emerging teams;
  • Clearly define the desired vision and to adapt to the context of each team to ensure alignment with the overall objective of the project and to ensure cohesion between the team members;
  • Provide the necessary support and resources to the project team so they successfully accomplish the expected results;
  • Become a change agent within the organization by accepting and publicly endorsing the idea that the status quo is not acceptable and that the old methods are no longer adapted to the new reality;
  • Systematically involve business people in the definition and execution of solutions;
  • Adapt the style of management so as to use an inclusive and democratic approach.

In addition to bringing new concepts, Agile Leadership also revisits and adds to some of the concepts on which Agile Scrum relies. There is already much documentation (books, blogs, podcast, etc.) on the topic of Agile. In an upcoming blog post, I will add details to the areas of focus listed below and associate the underlying concepts with theories explained at length elsewhere in other areas of expertise such: as organizational behavior, organizational development, management science, and coaching.

Books I have read – January 2010

Another monthly update on the books I read during the past month. For a complete a list, you can visit my virtual bookshelf.


Coaching

As part of my coaching training, I have purchased this recommended book. The book is a great introduction to what it means to be a coach. It explains how to be an effective coach and provides an approach that can be used for various types of coaching.

Coaching for Performance

My Rating

A few words on the book: This is an introductory book to coaching. It provides enough material for people managers who wish to improve their management style by using a coaching approach without getting into too much details. Although the author frequently refers to sport, many of the examples provided and suggested approach do apply to a business context. The book is easy to read and pragmatic but it isn’t enough to completely change one’s management style.


Leadership

Pleased with Collins’ previous books (Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t), I decided to read the third book of the trilogy.

How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In

My Rating

A few words on the book: Contrary to the previous two books, “How the mighty fall” comes across as an hudge-pudge of simplistic conclusions derived out of the same series of data used for the previous books. Similar to his previous books, Collins introduces a 5 stages model to explain the failures. The problem I had with the book is that the conclusion do not seem to be based on lengthy analysis but on quick conclusions that are company specific – i.e. if a similar company applied the same actions, would they actually get to the same results? It seemed to me that the failures were related to many circumstances that were specific to the organizations – not at a macro level but within the organizations. In addition, the author put too much emphasis on the leader of the organizations and very little on the inner workings.


Meditation

A friend of mine had told me about Deepak Chopra a few years ago and one day I stumbled upon this book. It seemed interesting …

The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence

My Rating

A few words on the book: I must admit, I didn’t finish this book. The final chapters are exercises to help improve the SynchroDestiny and that was not what I was looking for. On the other hand, I enjoyed the “scientific” explanation behind SynchroDestiny. I realize that if you are – like many – a fan of Chopra, you will probably enjoy the book. For my part, I am still trying to figure out what was the “destiny” I was supposed to achieve by purchasing this book…


You can download the audio version of these books from

Audio Books at Audible.com

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