Sitting in the local Java Jerry's, Herman picked up his conversation with Maya. "Agile practices like iterative delivery sound okay, but I'm having a problem with the management style. I mean, 'egalitarian workplace' sounds like some liberal , socialist conspiracy ."
"Don't get me started on politics, Herman. What I heard him ask was why, if we think it's important for our government to operate as an egalitarian democracy, we'd accept an authoritarian hierarchy in our workplace? It's the old command-control versus collaboration argument."
"But projects aren't democracies. They're dictatorships. We don't vote on critical issues. If I don't make the decisions, they don't get made."
"Keep your team on their toes, huh?"
"You're inch-pebble tracking already? Are they completely incompetent?" Maya asked.
"No, they're pretty sharp, just undisciplined got to keep after them. My team seems to wait around for me to tell them what to do."
"Maybe you have to keep after them because you keep after them."
Maya almost bit her tongue when she saw the look of surprise on Herman's face. The guy was clearly a micro-manager, but if she wanted to continue this conversation, she'd better find a gentler way to make her points.
"If you don't mind me saying, they might seem undisciplined because you've trained them that way. I know I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to implement an inch-pebble approach. My team divvies up the work among themselves . Micro-managing isn't my thing."
"And people actually do what they should be doing, when they should be doing it, without you laying it out for them, and without hounding them?"
"95% of the time."
"Maybe, and one day pigs will fly. So, how does work get assigned?" asked Herman.
"Well, when the team is running smoothly, they assign work to themselves. But sometimes in the beginning I 'suggest' assignments. I try to mix people with different skill levels, but I also want to encourage the most experienced people to work on the most difficult problems, the good performers on other problems. I put the poorest performers, as long as they last, on compliance work."
"Don't they hate that?"
"Of course they do, but this actually accomplishes two goals. First, the poorer performers can't screw up the product. Second, while we are flexible, fundamental responsibilities come with that flexibility. Technical expertise, excellence, and team behavior matter."
"But," Herman muttered, "doesn't process help make up for lack of skill? That's what process proponents have been preaching for yearsinstall comprehensive processes and then utilize less skilled individuals."
"Well, that might work for unskilled labor or clerical-type jobs," said Maya. "But the idea that you can substitute process for skill is bull. A process helps us organize work, but if my team is designing an electronic sensor and they don't have any electrical engineering skill or experience, the chances of being successful are nil."
"Everyone on my team has reasonable skills. It's just judgment they lack."
"And that's why processes work. If you can trust them to make good decisions most of the time, then you can trust them to do the job. We look for raw talent leveraged by training and experience. We place those talented people in a loose process framework and let 'em rip," said Maya.
"Well, I need to get back and pack. May I call you after the conference?" Herman reached into his coat pocket and handed her his business card.
Maya picked up her PDA from the table. "We can sync, or you'll have to be patient while I dig around for a business card."
"I can wait. But I really would like to chat later."
Maya pulled the cards out from under the jumble of stuff in her briefcase and handed him one. "Feel free to call. I'm not sure that what works at Geo-Tech will work at " Maya glanced at his name tag again, "Great Mid-West Insurance, but I can share what has worked for us."
Herman put her card into his day planner, then packed up his briefcase. Extending his hand, he said, "Thanks, Maya. It's been fun, but this stuff will be a tough sell."
Watching him hurry from the coffee house, Maya looked forward to talking. She had a feeling that the conversations might be intense , but they'd also help her clarify her thinking about these concepts and keep her sharp.
The Agile Revolution
Guiding Principles: Customers and Products
Guiding Principles: Leadership-Collaboration Management
An Agile Project Management Model
The Envision Phase
The Speculate Phase
The Explore Phase
The Adapt and Close Phases
Building Large Adaptive Teams