Scary management

Have you recently told someone on your team to do something? If so, there’s a good chance that some management training may be in your future. (Disclaimer: This blog post doesn’t just apply to software development.) We often hear that the command-and-control style of management is the “old way”, and removing roadblocks is the “agile way”. While this sounds like a good thing every time we hear it, there isn’t a quick and easy way to determine how to adjust. I often find that it’s difficult to take many of these self improvement suggestions and act on them, so I prefer internal triggers that can shape behavior in an ad hoc manner.

Trick or treat

In this case, the key trigger is simple asking/telling someone to do something. What?! Our internal voices may find this proclamation to be borderline-insane as this is method by which we get almost everything done. But wait, there is a better way that creates self-empowering teams and removes the management dependence. The alternative approach, simple and elegant, involves explaining the expected result and trusting the teams to accomplish the resulting tasks. In some cases, the difference is a subtle change in the wording and intentions, and in others, there may be political reasons why specific commands are given. In the later, this is a trigger in itself that the political issues (often elephants in the room) should be tackled head-on instead of being obfuscated.

It’s true that since childhood none of us have liked being told what to do, and each of us wants to feel that we had some say in the planning. Using the method above solves both of these common psychological dilemmas. The bottom line is that if you can’t trust people on a team to know the intended result, there could be a problem with having the right people on the team or managing the team.

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