Jan 13th, 2020

Managers are evil and Coaches are virtuous

Preeth Pandalay
Preeth Pandalay

An executive turned transformation consultant with 25+ years of learning, Preeth trains and coaches... Read more

This blog is my angst against the renewed and repackaged attack against the management folks in the name of agile and agility. How did the trusted lieutenants and man Fridays of organizations, the folks that the organizations depended on for making things happen to turn out to be the worst enemies of organizational transformation? I, many of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have aspired for a management role. To achieve this goal, they went to the best of the B-schools and toiled it out in the organization for years.

Now with the advent of agile, all managers are suddenly branded evil and everybody is up in arms to banish them.  I strongly believe that management per se isn’t going away even in agile. We still need to manage business & stakeholders, we still need to manage process & conflicts, we still need to manage risks & delivery and so many other things. However, we do not need people management at the team level because we are working with smaller teams that need to be inspired to deliver greater things. I agree we do not need people managers but rather leaders in this new way of working.In my experience, it is only the management teams who are in touch with the organizational reality which is usually very different from the perceptions of the Top management and the engineering teams. The middle management is the ones trying to bring some order in the transformation chaos that is created by the misrepresentation of the framework and irrational expectations, only to end up being the messengers who get shot.Many a time, what is viewed as a management team’s resistance to change, is a pushback from the managers who are still transitioning the responsibility of delivery of working software within the fixed constraints of Cost, Time and Scope to the newly identified roles and teams.

The pushback for they very well understand the ground reality and the current maturity of the roles, teams, and fear for their well-being.  Yes, the frameworks and their corresponding roles have been put in place, the grand transformation project has been kicked off. Are we giving the teams room for scope negotiation or are we expected to transform, keeping the past commitment to customers in terms of Cost, Scope and Time intact? When faced with the realization that the past commitments and the transformation don’t gel well, how does the organization react?  The positive intention behind the management pushback is to protect the interests of their teams as well as the customers during the transition. Yes, this is a generalization but then how many managers do you know who wake up thinking about various ways to jeopardize the transformation? There are exceptions everywhere and I feel Pareto principle is applicable here and let’s not brand the entire management evil.I think it’s time we stopped making the management guys the scapegoat for all the unsuccessful transformation.

  Give them their due respect and realize that they are the amazing talent pool in touch with organizational reality and also who can play the role of change agents.  Why do I say that? When it comes to an organizational transformation, Servant Leadership and Self Organizing teams are touted as the two key ingredients for a successful transformation. I strongly believe that the concepts of servant leadership and self-organizing teams cannot be looked at it in isolation for they are mutually inclusive – that is one cannot exist without the other. In the current context, let’s just look at the servant leadership concept.

Servant Leader – In the context of an organization that is run for profit, Servant Leader is a person of authority with a deliberate focus on other people’s highest priority needs being served. This person of authority shares his power with people to help them develop and perform as highly as possible is my take on this concept. These traits are already available in every management team even if you believe that the concept of management is archaic. So, it is the misconception of management that needs to be exorcised and not managers.

Preeth Pandalay

An executive turned transformation consultant with 25+ years of learning, Preeth trains and coaches organizations to be agile and more importantly to stay agile. Preeth’s pragmatism finds its root in his diverse experience at various leadership positions.

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