Management Must Manage
Years ago, when I was starting out in my study of management methods, I came across ITT and its then president, Harold S. Geneen. Setting aside his connection with Phil Crosby and the ZeeDee (Zero Defects) quality movement, Geneen was famous for many things, including one quote which has stuck with me ever since I first heard it:
“Management must manage.”
What a soundbite!
Taken at face value, it’s a homily. Management must manage. Those with management responsibilities must execute those responsibilities (rather than dicking around with other things). “Well, of course. What else would they do?”
But there’s another meaning I choose to also find within. Management must manage: when we have people appointed to management positions, those people are the ones that must manage, not some others.
The whole Agile shambles, most often labelled AINO (Agile In Name Only), stems largely from ignoring this second interpretation of Geneen’s admonition.
Early Agilists, wanting to escape from the oversight of managers who had different opinions about how to manage software development, created Agile to wrest de-facto management responsibility from those managers. Thus grew the lame-assed version of self-organisation and self-managed teams so widespread today. I say lame-assed because almost no Agile team is self-managed. How could they be, when managers still have the authority and positional power to manage?
So we have instead a festering conflict of responsibilities, causing confusion and resentment all around, and dragging down engagement and productivity. Agile can “work” when the split of management responsibilities are made crystal clear for all concerned. And when that split has the blessing of management. This is almost never the case.
So, management must manage. Not developers. Not dev teams.
That sucks. Until we realise that it can be no other way. And even then, it still sucks, unless dev teams themselves have the responsibility and authority to manage. Where the dev teams are the management. Then we have the best of both worlds. A world of autonomy, mastery and purpose. A world of engaged people aligned to a common purpose and a common approach.