Unlocking Performance: The Overlooked Management Strategy That Works Wonders

Feb 22, 2024 | Uncategorized

The Agile Compass

by Matthias Orgler

Hello Reader,

in the last two weeks we looked at planning: assessing why we insist on finalizing the plan (and how to stop) and why you shouldn’t pick user stories in Sprint planning (and what to do instead).

This week we’ll talk about an overlooked management strategy that could unlock high performance for you.

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Unlocking Performance: The Overlooked Management Strategy That Works Wonders

Once upon a modern workplace, there lay a challenge so vast and intricate it could rival the complexity of a 1-million-piece puzzle scattered across the expansive green of a sports stadium. This isn’t just any puzzle; it’s the metaphorical Everest of collaborative efforts, a test of patience, strategy, and above all, management finesse. Enter the scene: a manager, akin to a modern-day Merlin, armed not with spells but with a revolutionary approach to leadership.

The Traditional Playbook: A Strategy Doomed for Mediocrity

In the traditional realm of management, our hypothetical manager might start by marshaling troops, dividing the thousand volunteers into brigades tasked with hunting down those elusive edge pieces or segregating the sea of chaos into manageable, color-coordinated sections. This approach, reminiscent of a bygone era, mirrors the micromanaging maestros of the workplace. They orchestrate from the sidelines, dictating every move, every strategy, convinced that order must be imposed for progress to ensue.

The Twist: A Glimpse into the Agile Arena

But wait, our manager, a maverick at heart, decides to toss the old playbook into the winds of change. Instead of segmenting, directing, and overseeing, they unveil the final image of the puzzle on the colossal video wall for all to see. A simple act, yet revolutionary. This manager understands something fundamental about the human spirit: intrinsic motivation is the potent fuel that drives us to surpass expectations, to innovate, and to collaborate organically.

Self-Management: The Agile Alchemy

The magic begins. The volunteers, now empowered with a clear vision, self-organize. They form dynamic teams, strategies emerge naturally, roles are assumed not assigned, and the puzzle starts to take shape. This isn’t chaos; it’s the beauty of intrinsic motivation in action. The manager, rather than pulling the strings, becomes a facilitator, providing tools, ensuring obstacles are removed, and offering guidance only when sought.

Debunking Myths: The Power of Intrinsic Motivation

Critics might argue that without tangible incentives, chaos would reign supreme. They fear a lack of coordination, a descent into inefficiency. Yet, this modern tale reveals a different truth. Given clarity of purpose and autonomy, individuals align like stars in a constellation, each contributing to a greater whole. The manager’s role evolves from director to coach, from overseer to enabler.

The Experiment: A Lesson in Leadership

Consider the simple, yet profound experiment of leaving a puzzle in a workshop with the final image displayed. No instructions, no incentives, just a clear goal. The outcome? A completed puzzle, a testament to the human capacity for collaboration and problem-solving, guided solely by intrinsic motivation.

I love to conduct this simple experiment in on-site workshops. It works every time. People are amazing. Go buy a puzzle and try it yourself next time.

Conclusion: A New Dawn for Management

This narrative isn’t just a fantasy; it’s a blueprint for the future of agile management. The essence lies in understanding that people don’t need to be managed; they need to be led. By setting a clear, overarching goal and empowering teams to self-organize, managers can unlock the true potential of their teams. This approach fosters creativity, boosts morale, and, ultimately, leads to higher performance and success.

In the grand stadium of work, the role of the manager is not to solve the puzzle but to illuminate the picture on the box, enabling each piece to find its place. In doing so, they create an environment where intrinsic motivation flourishes, teams self-manage, and the impossible becomes possible.

So, to the modern managers out there, remember: your job isn’t to direct every move but to light the way. Let your teams astonish you with how they solve the puzzle, piece by piece, creating a masterpiece of collaboration and innovation.

Thank you for reading The Agile Compass. I’m Matthias, here to help you help those around you become agile.

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