Posts Tagged ‘manager’

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Dysfunctional Delusions

November 28, 2016

If you want high performing teams, they have to be built first and foremost on a foundation of trust.  Patrick Lencioni cites the lack of trust as the first (of five) dysfunctions of a team.  The team members must feel that their other teammates will “have their back” when things get rough.  And as a manager or leader, that includes you too.  In fact, if you want to shift your organizational culture to a more empowered, trust-based culture, management must lead the way by demonstrating (not just talking about) the values and behavioral norms you want for the organization.

One key factor that trust is built on is consistency.  Are you consistent in your behavior?  Are you complimentary one moment and then arrogant or dismissive the next?  Are you puerile?  Vindictive?  People trust their leadership when the feel they know how you will react in various situations.  With trust they will feel they can bring issues to you for help when necessary without risking their positions.  If your behavior varies significantly, your teams realize they cannot understand what your reaction to any given problem will be.  They won’t feel safe to be honest with you.   In other words, they won’t trust you.

And if you think you can behave one way in front of your teams and another in private, you are deluding yourself.  When it comes to sensing duplicities, people seem to have x-ray vision.  They are very good at detecting such contrary behavior.  And when they do, trust may never develop.

To be a true leader you must build trust.  Otherwise your teams won’t progress and you’ll remain simply a taskmaster.

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The Agile Scorpion

August 16, 2013

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A frog approaches a stream and sees a scorpion by the bank.  The scorpion cannot cross the stream alone, so he asks the frog to carry him across the stream on its back.  The frog is wary of the scorpion and says “You might sting me and I will die.”  The scorpion assures the frog he wouldn’t do that because then they both would die.  The frog agrees.  Then halfway across the stream the scorpion stings the frog.  The frog begins to sink.  Before they both drown the frog asks “Why?”  The scorpion replies: “It’s my nature.”

This Aesop’s fable proclaims a warning for all of those who are on their agile journey.  Agile transformation is difficult enough.  You must also watch out for scorpions.  While change is hard for many people, the scorpions you may find, as in the story, have no intention of changing – but they won’t tell you that.  They could take the form of a team member, a manager, someone from another department that “supports” your team, an external business partner, and so forth.

It is truly unfortunate that the agile change “paralyzes” some people, but it does.  The level of change is significant.  So if you detect a scorpion among those on the agile journey with you, you can’t afford to tolerate their dangerous nature.  You will put your project and your agile transformation at significant risk.  Let them go be productive somewhere else.  You can’t afford to take the chance.

For more visit http://www.ProjectPragmatics.com

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Psyching Out Agile Teams

July 13, 2011

I recently read a study[1] on the psychological needs of agile teams. Various factors thought to affect software practitioners’ acceptance of agile orientation were studied. One of the interesting characteristics was the team’s perceived support of their supervisors and coworkers. The study findings show that if team members perceive a high level of support from their supervisors and coworkers, this will lead to a high level of agile orientation in the team, especially for junior team members.

But what about the inverse? What about a senior manager or member of the team who is overtly negative about the agile changes? The study does not discuss this, but I don’t think we need a study to understand what happens when someone, especially someone in a supervisory roll, disparages a change. In the agile teams I have coached, when a negative influence is injected, the team members often “freeze up”. They’ll still do their jobs, but enthusiastically participating, engaging with other members, and doing whatever it takes, fades. You can’t blame them. After all, if they don’t perceive any support, or perceive opposition, why would they work all out for the change? If senior management is not committed why should the team be? This is anathema for a team trying to go agile.

So what to do? I witnessed the solution on a team that had one strong negative voice. But her manager was always very positive on agile. When this negative person’s manager entered the room, as the study’s results would predict, her overall negative behavior stopped and her uncooperative, challenging behaviors disappeared. She became cordial, cooperative, understanding. In a word, professional. In his absence, her behavior relapsed. Over time, with enough exposures and project successes, her negative behaviors began to moderate.

So if you are in this situation (i.e. a negative person is dragging your team down) and you can’t replace this person and you have access to a senior person who is positive, try to get them involved supporting the team, to mitigate the negative behaviors.

This study is another indicator of how important team composition is. Have you encountered individuals whose presence strongly impacted (for good or bad) the behaviors of their team mates?

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1 – Agile Orientation and Psychological Needs, Self-Efficacy, and Perceived Support: A Two Job-Level Comparison; Seger, Hazzan, and Bar-Nahor

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